Princess meets canceled passengers halfway — is that enough?

Missed the boat ... again.
Maybe Ronald and Katherine Taylor weren’t meant to take a cruise. After listening to their story, you might be forgiven for thinking so.

But did Princess do enough after the Taylors couldn’t make both of their departures? That’s the question I’m hoping to answer with your help.

Their first cruise, which departed from New York, was a bust when Hurricane Irene blew into town last year. They canceled their trip for obvious reasons. “We thought it was unsafe to fly into a hurricane,” says Katherine Taylor. Princess offered the couple a $1,398 cruise credit, and their insurance policy covered the rest.

The Taylors rebooked a cruise for March. But that wasn’t meant to be, either. Princess canceled that cruise for mechanical reasons after they had already arrived in San Juan. They decided to stay in Puerto Rico and make a vacation out of it instead of returning right away.

“We do not expect Princess to reimburse our expenses — though it feels appropriate that they should — but they are refusing to repay the cruise fare because we used cruise insurance we purchased for their Aug. 27 cruise out of New York,” says Taylor.

Since Princess canceled the second cruise, shouldn’t it refund their fare?

Taylor thinks so.

When we invested that cruise credit to book the March 2012 trip, that credit became currency. When Princess cancelled the trip, less than 48 hours before scheduled sailing, they left us in the lurch.

Princess will refund the booking fee to those who paid with new cash; we feel they are morally obligated to repay us with cash also.

I asked Princess to have a look at their case. A week later, I heard back from Taylor.

They are offering a little compensation for canceling our cruise and stranding us in San Juan. They’ll pay our pre-cruise hotel and half of our round trip airfare to Puerto Rico.

Why half? Because, they argue, we didn’t turn around and come right home, which would have cost up to $2,300 for a new ticket.

That’s better than the previous offer. But is it enough?

I think Princess should be responsible for repaying a customer the full value of their cruise if they cancel a sailing. If I use a voucher to pay for that cruise, then Princess should offer me a new cruise credit, at the very least.

Repaying half the airfare seemed a little wishy-washy. I can understand not covering the Taylor’s hotel bill for a week. But half the airfare? Why just half?

In the hours leading up to the publication of this post, Princess changed its mind again and agreed to repay the full airfare.

Taylor says that’s a “step in the right direction” but is still disappointed about the credit.

To simply reimburse us with cruise credit is set the clock back to December when we committed to the March cruise.

Princess is saying that absolutely nothing happened. It’s as if we never booked, never made hotel arrangements, never got ourselves from Colorado to the island, never stood below a big white ship and pondered what we should do next.

It seems so strange to us that they don’t see that cruise credit is poor compensation for their cancellation.

I’m happy that Princess could be persuaded to do more for these passengers. After it canceled their second cruise, it covered their airfare to San Juan, part of their hotel bill, and offered them a new cruise credit.

But is this the best it can do? More importantly, is it the best it should do?

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • foggybear

    So exactly what compensation are the Taylors receiving? After reading the article three times, I think you’re saying they’re getting a cruise credit equal to the price of one night in San Juan plus airfare, but no compensation for the cancelled cruise. Please clarify.

  • http://jpportz.livejournal.com/ Jeremy

     I think they’re getting their airfare refunded, and the whole value of the cruise in credit.  They are only getting a credit, not a cash refund, for the cruise portion since it was paid for in the start by a credit.  I voted yes because they still can take another vacation and use that cruise credit at some other point in the future; they got free airfare to P.R. out of the deal.  But I do agree it would have been nice to refund them in cash too.

  • TonyA_says

    The mistake is to assume that cruise credit is as good as money. Well it isn’t. Since they backed out of their cruise the first time around, then their money got coverted to credits. If they did not complain about getting credits back then, then they have no justification to complain about getting credits back in the future.

    Now that they got their airfare plus a night in Puerto Rico refunded then they are back to where they started when the second cruise got cancelled – holding credits for a later cruise. I can’t see why the cruise line needs to convert the credits back to cash.

  • Kathleen Proud Keyte

    I don’t know much about cruising and it’s a little hard to decide since we have no figures, just referencesa to paid cruises, etc. Were the costs of the two cruises the same? How much was their hotel bill in San Juan? After having such bad luck I can understand not wanting another cruise credit. Perhaps independent travel insurance would have refunded their money & not seen that they were offered ‘credits’ for further cruises. I would not personally take out insurance that reimbursed me for a lost trip with credit vouchers.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    I clarified in the story. As I mentioned, the compensation changed even after I wrote this post and closed the case in my files. It’s a slippery one.

  • absherlock

    First, a question – why was the cruise cancelled? Not that it makes a whole lot of difference, but if it was beyond Princess’ control (weather, government lockdown, etc.), I’d be more sympathetic to them.

    The only two things I think Princess needs to do are 1) reset the use-by date on the voucher to the date of the second missed cruise and 2) instead of offering a monetary credit, they should offer a blanket credit to use on a like cruise (same length, general destination, room type) within the time frame. If the cruise line is going to hold on to the travelers’ cash, the travelers shouldn’t be on the hook for price increases that occur while they’re otherwise obligated to use the Princess product.

  • emanon256

    I still don’t follow.  Is their cruise credit lost and they are only getting their airfare reimbursed?  Or are they getting a full cruise credit plus the airfare are being reimbursed?  If they are getting a full credit towards a future cruise plus their airfare back then I think they did pretty well.  If princess is saying the cruise credit is lost then I think this needs mediation, even though it was their second attempt, princess canceled and it’s not like a flight where they can just put them on another one a few hours later, they have to start all over from square one.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    Sorry. They still have a cruise credit after the canceled sailing. They wanted a cash refund.

  • sirwired

    They should have gotten the first refund entirely in cash from the insurance company.  That, after all, is what you are paying the insurance company for.

    If you pay for a cruise in cruise credit, it’s perfectly reasonable to receive that part of your cruise fare back in cruise credit, no matter how that cancellation comes about.

    As far as reimbursing the airfare goes… I don’t blame them for being hesitant to refund the whole thing.  They DID, after all, spend a vacation in Puerto Rico, even though they had the option to turn around and go home.  Half the airfare for your vacation seems reasonable compensation for having to make alternate arrangements at the last second, yet still having a good time.

  • john4868

    Sorry to those that think otherwise but I happen to think that Princess did the correct thing here. How many times have the commenters on this board been upset because a company compensates in a form other than how they paid (most often a credit instead of a refund)?  In this case, the OPs paid with a credit and had the credit returned which is exactly what most people have argued is correct.

    The more I read this the more I support Princess. They didn’t have to issue the credit in the first place. I don’t see where the cruise didn’t occur. The OPs opted not to sail and that was their choice. Princess, understanding the situation, issued them a credit, which they didn’t have to do, for the portion of the cruise that their insurance didn’t cover. Again, that is the right thing for Princess to do. When their cruise ship developed propulsion issues (http://cruisefever.net/0314-caribbean-princess-return-san-juan-propulsion/, http://travel.usatoday.com/cruises/post/2012/03/caribbean-princess-cruises-ship-cancel/649463/1)
    Princess proactively cancelled two future cruises to fix the problem (although the news reports suggest it was done with more than 48 hours’ notice). If they hadn’t, everyone on here would have been screaming when the OPs and 3000+ of their closest friends ended up adrift. Instead, Princess refunds the OPs airfare, their pre cruise hotel and reissues their credit.

    Personally, I think that Princess has gone out of their way for the OPs.  The OPs opt not to make the first cruise (notice they made a choice to not go. The cruise wasn’t cancelled and they didn’t argue
    that the weather prevented them from reaching the ship) but Princess understood and gave them a credit to make the OPs whole which they did not have to do. When their second ship has a mechanical issue, Princess makes the OPs whole by refunding their airfare plus pre cruise hotel and reissuing the credit. I’m not sure what else Princess should do.

  • john4868

    @sirwired:disqus without knowing their policy, I’d guess that they cancelled their first cruise under a “cancel for any reason” clause that didn’t cover them at 100%. Notice that they opted not to travel. They did not argue that they couldn’t travel (cancelled flights etc).

  • emanon256

    Thanks, sounds good then.  I hope the third times the charm with their cruise.  I think it’s good that they were reimbursed for the R/T airfare and 1 night in the hotel, they should have been in the first place in my opinion. They definitely deserved something for having to re-schedule.   It’s also good that they still made a vacation out of it.  PR is actually quite a great place!

  • emanon256

    I slightly disagree only because it could have been very hard for the OP to get that time off as vacation, and they probably can’t simply return to work and not use their vacation as they have made arrangements to be gone, so its lost vacation time either way, and they need to go through the whole process again to get vacation when they do go on the cruise, if they can even get vacation time again.  I don’t know the Ops employer policies, so I could be off on this, but this is based on my experience.  The OP will still need to pay for R/T airfare and 1 night in a hotel when they use the cruise credit, so I think the cruise line should refund that in full as it is a lost cost to the OP.  I am also pleased that the OP did make the best of it and not turn around and come home crying.

  • Raven_Altosk

    They paid with a credit, they should receive the refund as a credit.

    That said, I’m super curious why Cruise Take 2 was cancelled.

  • john4868

    @Raven_Altosk:disqus Propulsion issues caused two cancelled cruises… see articles below

  • lorcha

    Ordinarily, I’d agree with “credit for credit”, but in this instance, I’m very unimpressed that Princess gave these passengers the run-around about refunding the full airfare, only agreeing to do the right thing because they didn’t want the bad PR.

    Because they further inconvenienced the passengers by making them go to bat for what they were clearly entitled to, I think Princess should just refund them in cash and let them decide for themselves if they want to try for 3rd time’s the charm.

  • SoBeSparky

    I had to read every comment to discover what really went on here.  Too much fog and too few facts.

    Passengers cancelled first cruise out of hurricane fear.
    Cruise ship cancelled second (replacement) cruise for mechanical reasons.

    Passengers receive credit to take another cruise.  Seems completely fair.  So why is this being mediated?

  • IGoEverywhere

    Let their travel agent fight this out for them. Any good ASTA agent would get it resolved.

  • Charlie Funk

    “They should have gotten the first refund entirely in cash from the insurance company. That, after all, is what you are paying the insurance company for.”

    The OP made the decision not to fly for fear of a possible adverse event which is not a covered cancellation reason.  Had the airline cancelled the flight and the cruise line cancelled the cruise, they would indeed be entitled to a refund.

    Princess, in giving them a cruise credit, covering their airfare and paying part of their hotel cost compensated them more than adequately.

  • S E Tammela

    While it was right to re-issue the cruise credit, the airfare, independent of the cruise, is the responsibility of the traveller. They should have had appropriate insurance.

  • adventurebaby

    I absolutely agree. They paid for the cruise in credits and they got those credits back for a future cruise – plus the airfare and one night hotel stay. I think Princess has now done everything it should. Why are people never satisfied?

  • Katie Freeman

    Am I reading the article right? My understanding is that, as of the article’s publication, the couple is getting their airfare refunded, their cruise credit, and a night or two’s hotel accommodations reimbursed. 

    If that’s correct, then I think they got a decent deal out of it, despite the hassle and inconvenience. They still got a vacation out of it, if not the one they’d planned, and only had to pay for the hotel in the end. And they can still book a cruise with the credit (if it’s enough). I’d take this deal.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Totally off topic, but the Caribbean Princess, the ship in the photo, has got to be the ugliest vessel I’ve ever seen. The stern looks like somebody took an axe and cut the ship in half. It also gives it the look of being top heavy, like the first wave is going to push her over.

  • Jennifer Black

    I think the credit along with the reimbursements already offered is plenty, as long as the “use by” date on the credit was reset from the time of cancelled cruise # 2.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    I have to say, the Taylors impress me with their ability to roll with the punches on this one.  Their cruise is cancelled and they made lemonade by staying Puerto Rico for their vacation – I might have made that choice as well, rather than let a vacation become completely ruined.

    I find them amenable being willing to accept the credits after the first cancellation, realizing it was their choice to cancel and not the cruise line’s (but to be fair, I understand their reasoning and it WAS a good reason).

    I also get what they’re saying about the cruise credit – that it became a negotiable instrument once they used it to pay for their second cruise and now they want it reimbursed in cash.

    While I feel the cruise line did the right thing with regard to the air fare reimbursement, they didn’t go far enough in converting the credit (which was paid for with cash) into cash.  I feel even the cruise line would understand the Taylors deciding they don’t wish to court the fates with a third attempt at a cruise.

  • emanon256

    I could not agree more!

  • SooZeeeQ

    “and their insurance policy covered the rest.”

    Since I am always griping about if ANY insurance plans ever pay up – who was hers?

    An important omission.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LKHWSI5H6XYINENJT6DJ2UX7E4 Wrona

    You don’t like the shopping carts?

  • Joe Farrell

    Welllll, did they use the cruise line cancellation waiver?  That is not really trip insurance.  If they bought trip insurance  from a third party – and if the cruise refunds their fare – they have to pay back the insurance company.

    I am not sure what is going on here but it sure sounds like the OP wants their cake and to eat it too – meaning they want money back from their insurer and a refund.  Should not happen – they should get recompensed once. 

  • Raven_Altosk

    I agree with you now having learned the reason for the cancelation. When I first read the article, I thought the pax had cancelled, but no, it was the ship.

    Teaches me to try and comment without having a cup of coffee!

  • Cybrsk8r

    It DOES look like a shopping cart, doesn’t it?

  • Cybrsk8r

    Well, the story says that the second cuise was cancelled by the cruise line, for mechanical reasons.

  • Cybrsk8r

    Sorry, did not see your reply below.

  • john4868

    Why should the OPs get a better deal than everyone else scheduled to sail simply because they cancelled on Princess before.

    Princess offered refund of cruise to form of payment, refund of change fees for air tickets (unless booked with Princess then full refund), 25% off future cruise. The OPs got refund of their entire air ticket (eventhough they used it) and a refund in their form of payment.

    The OPs weren’t entitled to a refund after the first cruise and this unfortunately event doesn’t change that.

  • TonyA_says

    You hit the nail on its head. The real issue is why they did not immediately refund the ROUNDTRIP airfare?

    Addendum: After reading John Baker’s report, it seems the OP went on to PR despite the cruise being cancelled. In other words they USED the tickets they purchased.
    Princess would have paid for CANCELLED tickets. Since the OP did not cancel their airline tickets, then I assume Princess did not want to pay for them. Of course I am assuming that the OP was NOT in PR already when the cruise got cancelled. If they were already in PR then the refund of the R/T airfare should have been done immediately.

  • TonyA_says

    IMO they got a fantastic deal. I suppose most other passengers were contacted earlier and got refunds or credits for their cruise fares. Also Princess may have refunded their airfares BUT THEY ALSO DID NOT GET TO USE THE PLANE TICKET. However, the OP did use the plane ticket. So, I assume he got more, a free roundtrip flight plus a night at a hotel, than others. Now that the OP has had his almost free vacation, he wants to cancel his future cruise credit and get CASH back. Hmmm please go away, OP.

  • TonyA_says

    Thanks for the clarification. It is now clear to me that the OP got more than others.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HMW3OTJSBDWWRKIEKEKWWM7BEA bc

    I disagree, it doesn’t become a “negotiable instrument” once used for a purchase. Would you go into Wal-Mart with a gift card and purchase a product and return it expecting to get cash back? NO, retailers always reimburse in the form of payment presented.  Why should they expect to get cash back from the cruise line? This is essentially the same scenario. 

    Also, you can’t use the situation regarding the first cruise to justify getting a refund on the second cruise. They’re two unique and separate circumstances that should be looked at independently.  

  • MikeInCtown

    I see it differently. They made the flight booking because of the cruise, so having the cruise cancelled meant they wasted their money. I am glad the cruise line covered that expense. Where I am unclear howevere is that they had a credit left over from the original booking. if they added cash to that in order to cruise, then they should get that part back in cash, and cash only. The remainder of the credit should have a new expiration date, if there is one.

  • MikeInCtown

    These were two seperate events. The first one was because of a hurricane and they got 50% credit and cash from insurance they pruchased for the rest.

    the second was entirely at the fault of the cruise line “For mechanical reasons” and was the responsibility of the cruise line to pay out on.

  • MikeInCtown

    Joe, this was two seperate incidents. The only reason the insurance was mentioned was because they got a partial refund in credits and the remainder was cash compensation from the insurance. When they rebooked, if they paid any amount in cash, they should et that amount in return.

  • TonyA_says

    No Mike. Princess will reimburse pax for LOST money. So if you bought airline tickets and CANCELLED them because the cruise was cancelled, then Princess will pay for the change penalty fees for you to get your airline tickets reissued for the next cruise. If you are entitled to a cruise refund in CASH then Princess would also refund your CANCELLED AIRLINE tickets.

    The problem is the OP did not cancel their airline tickets. They USED them to continue their own vacation to PR.

    If the OP actually can prove that they only learned of the cancellation when they were ALREADY in PR the day before the cruise, then sure, Princess should have reimbursed their airline ticket because it was too late to cancel it. But John Baker’s post clarified the dates. It seems like the OP knew about the cruise cancellation earlier and did not have to go to PR.

  • TonyA_says

    I agree. If you pay with a voucher then you also get a voucher back if the trip is cancelled.

    That said, I wonder why Princess paid for an airline ticket that the OP got to use. Shouldn’t Princess only pay for a CANCELLED airline ticket?

  • MikeInCtown

    His post didn’t clarify anything. From the story “Princess canceled that cruise for mechanical reasons after they had already arrived in San Juan.” they had already arrived there before they learned of the cancellation. How were they supposed to have cancelled their tickets after they had already been used?

  • Michael__K

    The article clearly states:

    Princess canceled that cruise for mechanical reasons after they had already arrived in San Juan. 

  • Michael__K

    After reading John Baker’s report, it seems the OP went on to PR despite the cruise being cancelled. 

    How so?  The link he posted says that Princess would make a decision on “Thursday” (departure would have been Sunday).  We don’t know when the update at the top of the article appeared.

    Chris’ article flatly states the OP’s were already in PR.  (And many of us are quick to criticize passengers who don’t arrive a couple of nights beforehand to account for flight issues).

  • TonyA_says

    If that is the case, because they were already in PR, then (as I said) they are owed the roundtrip airfare in money. I did not catch the timing of their trip the first time I read the article.

    In fact, if they did not intend to stay in PR for the week, Princess should have helped them get home (change airline ticket for an earlier date).

    This makes me wonder, if one arrives early (48 hours as they said) before the cruise, does the cruise company think they do not have the responsibility to get you back. What is the cutoff of a reasonable advanced notice for cancellation?

    Added: pls see my answer to Mike. If the
    OP did not buy his airline ticket from Princess, then he really is SOL.

  • TonyA_says

    Mike, I am rethinking this further. The cruise states it starts in PR. So unless the pax bought his airline tickets FROM PRINCESS, then Princess is not responsible how and when the pax gets/got to PR. The pax takes the risk that the cruise from PR can get cancelled any time.

    That said, if the OP bought airfare from Princess, then Princess should be responsible for getting them back home.

    Do we know how/where the OP bought his airline tickets? I cannot assume he got it from Princess.

  • TonyA_says

    Princess is not responsible for his airline ticket unless he bought it from Princess.

    If I bought a cruise FROM Barcelona or Rome and I buy my own ticket to BCN or FCO, if the cruise gets cancelled, I’m SOL. That’s why you need to always have a Plan B just in case.

    John Baker essentially said the same thing. If the OP bought the tickets from Princess, then a refund was in order. Otherwise, they were offering some other discount.

    It looks like the OP bought their own tickets as they were there 48 hours earlier.

  • burl1

    I think Princess should pay the Taylor’s a  full cash refund for their cruise and be done with it.  In the beginning, the Taylors paid Princess for a cruise vacation.  Even though they cancelled their originial cruise because of a hurricane and they receive a cruise voucher, Princess has not  delivered the services the Taylor’s have paid for.