Here’s a real Morton’s Fork dilemma: You’re about to go on a cruise when you’re suddenly diagnosed with an infectious disease. But your cruise line won’t refund your fare if you cancel.
a) Stay home and take the loss.
b) Stay home but let your family go, even though some of them might also be infected.
c) Go, and try to conceal the infection from the cruise line.
Hard choices. But that’s exactly what the Kau family had to decide before their recent Princess cruise.
The Kaus made what I consider the responsible decision: they stayed home. All of them.
Benny Kau picks up the story.
My mom called the travel agency that they booked the cruise through, Four Seasons Travel, and told them about their situation. The travel agency gave Princess Cruises a call and relayed our news to them, asking if there was any way for us to get some type of refund back.
The answer from Princess Cruises was “no.”
So I started to look over the Princess Cruises Contract. It does have a brief section regarding cancellations and stated that they will be taking 100 percent of the total charges at this late of a notice. However, we did not anticipate something like the swine flu to happen to us. Our doctor told us that there should be some way for us to receive some money back due to our situation.
Do you think it’ll be possible to get some type of refund? What should we do now?
Well, unless Kau’s doctor is also an attorney specializing in maritime law, it’s doubtful he can make a determination about the refundability of his cruise fare. But he’s right about one thing: Princess ought to make some allowances for folks with infectious diseases. Otherwise, you could end up with a ship full of infected passengers.
I remember a similar case a few years ago during the SARS epidemic. Northwest Airlines refused a refund under similar circumstances as the Kaus.
I thought Princess might bend a rule for customers that decided to put other passengers first by canceling their cruise vacation. So I contacted the cruise line on their behalf. Here’s the response:
Unfortunately, this is a classic case of the need for travel protection. We can’t emphasize enough that travel protection is for the unexpected. No one expects to get the flu before vacation, but in the event they do, the passengers would be covered.
Travel protection costs are based on the cruise fare paid and, for example, it costs $99 to cover a cruise up to $1,500. In retrospect, I think most passengers would agree that the investment is well worth the peace of mind.
And you’re right, we would deny boarding to any passenger with flu-like symptoms so as not to risk any spread.
I’m sorry to confirm that our response to the Kau family remains the same.
I agree, travel insurance would have been a good investment for the Kaus. But I disagree that this is a “classic case” of the need for travel protection.
Only one of the Kaus was symptomatic. The other family members decided to cancel because they might also be infected, and didn’t want to risk sickening the other passengers.
The way I see it, they’re doing Princess a favor by staying home.
Princess is correct to deny their refund, but this is one case where it should waive its strict refund rules. Not for the sake of the Kaus, but for passengers on future cruises who might be infected by guests who decided to go on a cruise rather than lose everything.
(Photos: no1nose/Flickr Creative Commons)