Rina and Hasan Subhani disembarked from their cruise on the Carnival Glory with a sinking feeling. Along with a litany of complaints, one rises above the rest: The couple feels they were cheated from a day of their vacation.
“We paid for a seven-night cruise,” says Rina Subhani. “We got only six nights.”
I thought this one aspect of their cruise was serious enough that it merited an intervention by yours truly. Little did I know that I would learn lesson about about the grievance process: that there are times when you should never give up the fight.
The Subhanis cause looked lost, even after I asked Carnival to review it. But then … well, I’ll get to that in a minute.
First, let’s hear from them. For all those following along, their cruise took place June 3 to 10, and yes, there are others with this problem. Here’s an interesting thread on Cruise Critic for anyone interested in the backstory.
“This was far from a relaxing good time,” Rina Subhani told me. “This was, honestly, a nightmare.”
The ship was scheduled to depart for its New England cruise at 3 p.m., but a combination of weather and speed restrictions caused the ship to arrive late in Boston. The ship didn’t leave until 12:30 p.m. the following day.
We booked through a travel agent so we received no communication from Carnival about delays, as they claim all of that went to the travel agent. We were treated as second class because we booked through an agent, and that is totally unfair.
We found out that they had rented a room at the Westin. We went there at 6 p.m. Sunday and were there until 1 a.m. We got on the ship at 2 a.m.
We were the last family on board, and the entire time we were told during check in and at the Westin that the buffet would remain open.
We have learned that people waiting at the pier were at least given sandwiches. We spent our evening at the Westin and were only fed tea, coffee and chips.
We are vegetarian. We made a special request on the first night for specific Indian food — naan bread instead of rice — and an employee came by and said that this was not possible.
We had to continuously ask for bland pasta with no meat every night. We’ve cruised Carnival before and special requests made on the first night were always accommodated.
So, a lot going on here. (And there’s more; I’ve edited their grievance to just hit the highlights.) Clearly, they were unhappy about their cruise, and Carnival’s compensation, which was a comped night in a hotel, a $50 dinner voucher and a polite, fairly detailed response from someone in the cruise line’s executive office.
I was curious to get Carnival’s side of the story. Here’s what it had to say after I asked:
Regrettably, the weather was poor during the ship’s repositioning to Boston. Additionally, we properly planned for and took into account the speed restrictions imposed on ships to protect migrating whales along the East Coast for our scheduled itinerary.
However, the speed zone was greatly expanded recently, making it impossible for us to maintain our original arrival time in Boston. Consequently, we informed guests of the delayed arrival on April 9th and again on June 1st.
On June 3rd, it became clear the ship’s itinerary would be impacted due to fog. That same day, we notified guests via email of the change in itinerary, revised check-in times of 8:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.,
boarding to begin around 10:00 p.m., with departure scheduled for Monday at 11:00 a.m. Additionally, text messages were sent to all guests who had subscribed.
Boarding commenced at 9:45 p.m. with a brief pause due to a computer glitch and then resumed at 10:15 p.m. Embarkation was completed at 1:45 a.m.
An all night buffet was not promised, however, the Lido Deck buffet remained open until 1:45 a.m. The dining rooms were closed. We sent an email on June 3rd stating we were providing $50 per person onboard credit so guests could enjoy dinner in town.
We feel the gesture extended was fair and equitable. Please be advised that this is our final determination.
That’s not just a “no” as an old coach at the Naval Academy used to say; that’s a “hell no.”
Carnival’s ticket contract leaves it just enough wiggle room to deny the Subhani’s request for a one-night refund. But just because it’s in the fine print doesn’t mean it’s fine. While other customers were also inconvenienced, I think these passengers could make a case for being among the most inconvenienced by the delay.
I circled back with the Subhanis, relaying the bad news. And then I moved this into the “case dismissed” file.
A few days later, they sent me another note.
“Just wanted to give you an update,” wrote Rina Subhani. “Carnival is refunding one day of the total price paid — which is what we were looking for as fair compensation. Not sure what changed their mind, but it’s a victory.”
I don’t know what changed Carnival’s mind, either. I’m reluctant to take the credit for this one. I suspect the collective pressure from Cruise Critic, and perhaps the threat of a lawsuit, made this one move forward.