Why won’t Princess refund my sick cruise to nowhere?

By | June 14th, 2012

Jim Sullivan’s family cruise vacation on the Crown Princess took a turn for the worse when the ship suffered a Norovirus outbreak in February. That’s hardly uncommon; we’ve had seven reported cases this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But Sullivan thinks this one was mishandled so badly by Princess that he’s entitled to a refund.

It was supposed to have been a special occasion for his family — perhaps the last real vacation with his father, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. They wanted a memorable cruise, but not this kind of memorable.

On Feb. 3, his travel agent phoned to say the Crown Princess was returning to port with “many sick passengers” and that there would be a delay in the ship’s departure from Fort Lauderdale because the ship needed to be sanitized. It cast off six hours later than expected.

The scene on the ship was unsettling: Employees wore surgical masks to prevent infection and served buffet meals with latex gloves. Biohazard bags were “strewn” throughout the ship. And the captain made numerous announcements requesting “diarrhea and vomit samples” from infected passengers.

Sullivan says the Crown Princess skipped the first port of call in the Bahamas because of its late departure, and on Feb. 7, the day they were supposed to arrive in Curacao, the captain announced the ship was “still infected” and that they were canceling the rest of the cruise. Princess refunded his cruise fare (but not his tips and incidents) and booked his family’s flights home. He considers that to be only a partial refund. (I updated this paragraph to clarify what he means by “partial refund.”)

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But not before his brother-in-law got sick.

“This cruise should never have left Fort Lauderdale,” he says. “If they had canceled the cruise before we departed, it would have been less stressful than what we experienced on this ship for 4 1/2 days with nothing to do — we didn’t reach one port of call. We would have gladly rebooked for another cruise.”

Requests for a full refund from Princess and a claim with his travel insurance company were rejected. The policy didn’t cover outbreaks as a trip interruption, which technically, this would have been. In a letter sent to Sullivan, a Princess representative said his situation had been “properly” addressed and that “no further refund or compensation will be forthcoming” from the company.

Princess is right. According to its passage contract, it could sail out into the middle of the ocean with a ship filled with Ebola patients, and it would still be fulfilling its contract. But that doesn’t mean it’s right.

On the other hand, Sullivan’s request for a full refund, including all incidentals and airfare, may be too rich. There must be some middle ground. But apparently we are not going to find it on this grievance.

I thought I would ask Princess to review this case one more time, to see if it would consider helping Sullivan recover part of the cost of his vacation. It didn’t respond to him or to me, and I now have no choice but to put this into the “case dismissed” file.



  • y_p_w

    I voted yes, but I’d be curious as to what the formula to determine what the “partial refund” was and how much was refunded.  I would hope the formula would include how many days the cruise was scheduled for and how many days were actually sailed.

  • Ditto. Sounds like a terrible experience in any event. Wonder had Princess offered to rebook ppl at Ft. Lauderdale, how many ppl would’ve taken them up on it. I’m guessing not many, since it would mean losing their flights…

  • technomage1

    I agree.

  • sirwired

    Some questions:

    – How much was the partial refund?

    – Nothing to do?  You are on a cruise ship.  If you can’t find anything you like to do, you took the wrong kind of vacation.  Correct, the ports were missed, but a cruise ship is hardly a Greyhound bus where you just sit and stare for hours on end while going from point A to point B.

    – How much sea time was originally scheduled?

    – What should they have done instead? 
      Continued the cruise anyway?  I think not. 
      Canceled before it left port?  Nope; how could they know the virus was still on-board?  It certainly looks like they worked hard at sanitizing before leaving.
      Offered a full refund to everybody?  You got to sail for several days, undoubtedly with the usual cruse ship piles of activities.  A partial refund seems to be fair to me.  (As a side note, passengers that do get sick also get a refund for days they were ill.)

    They offered a partial refund, and booked the passengers on flights home. (which, by the way, the contract doesn’t require.)  If I was Princess, I suppose I might have tossed in a couple hundred in Future Cruise Credit per passenger, but certainly not a full refund for everybody.

  • Elmo Clarity

    Personally, if I had gotten that call, I would have been asking my TA to get me a full refund and never have gotten on the ship to begin with.  An extra 6 hours to “sanitize” a ship of that size is not nearly enough time.  To me, it sounds like Princess cut corners in dealing with the outbreak and obviously did not do a good job since a second outbreak occurred.  This might be one to talk to the lawyers about as a case of negligence or something.

  • sdir

    I chose not to answer the question, because we don’t know how much of a refund was offered.  $100 credit towards a future cruise is a lot different than say a cash refund of their unused trip, refund of unused port taxes and fees, plus compensation for airfare change fees.  So what did they receive?

    The LW has every right to be upset about their cruise, though I agree with others that there was surely other things to do on board besides just sit there.  Demanding full refund plus airfare is a bit entitled, IMO.

  • john4868

    Honestly this is a tough one for me based on the small amount of information available. In addition to @sirwired:disqus ‘s questions, I’d be interested to know if any of the ship’s facilities were closed in order to slow the rate of infection. If the ship was basically fully open, I think a prorated refund is appropriate.

    Ultimately, I think that PCL made the correct call to cancel the cruise and come in early. In the long run if people push for a 100% refund any time a cruise line terminates a cruise early due to infection, a cruise line is going to be less likely to take that action. It simply becomes too expensive to cancel the cruise and will instead cruise to nowhere.

    Based on what I have read in the past, Norovirus is not normally caused by an act of negligence on the part of the cruise line.
    Like weather, I don’t see how you can hold them responsible if they are taking reasonable actions to control the infection.

  • absherlock

    I don’t think the airfare should have been refunded, but I do think a full refund on the cruise was warranted. It’s obvious that the ship should never have set sail. It was a gamble on the part of Princess and they lost. They should pay up.

  • DChamp56

    Define “Partial Refund”. $100, or $1000???

  • BillCCC

    I couldn’t answer the question since I have no idea what amount of compensation the family received.

    It appears that the ship should not have been cleared to leave port. Who makes that decision? Is it the cruise line or a health agency?

  • Raven_Altosk

    I’m with everyone else. What is a “partial” refund here?

    Side note: the OP is nuts if he thinks he deserves everything (including airfare and incidentals) for free. 

  • Cathy_Disqus

    That’s interesting, because I read about this cruise back in Feb and I recalled a very different announcement. If you google for Crown Princess February, you’ll find the story, which says “Princess states that it will offer full refunds to the over 3,000 cruise
    passengers on the current cruise.  It will also assist the passengers
    in arranging flights home from Ft. Lauderdale.  Princess is providing
    hotel accommodations for affected passengers, if needed, and will
    provide all passengers a 25% cruise credit toward a future cruise.”

  • emanon256

    I recall reading that too.

  • longtimetvlr

    If Cathy’s information is correct Chris you are baiting us, either by failiing to do this research before asking or by intentionally omitting critical information.

  • cjr001

    Agreed. Considering how often repeat outbreaks occur, I would never take the next cruise after a ship has had to be ‘sanitized’.

  • ChBot

    Read the same thing. Funny how PR and finances seems not to communicate to each other at those big corporations !…

  • SoBeSparky

    I vote yes because Chris points out in the first paragraph that norovirus is a known risk on cruises.  It is like saying you got wet from a high wave.  

    No one should be surprised by any of this.  It is common.  The cruise customers bear a responsibility for their choices.  

    It is right to catch norovirus?  No, hence the cruise was cancelled and a partial refund issued.  Everyone went home with no additional expense of travel change penalties.

    Next time, choose a nice resort vacation closer to home.  Minimize your risk of traveling.  Just because a travel product is offered does not mean it is as healthy or safe as staying home.  Travel involves known risks.  Bear responsibility for your choices and quit blaming known risks on others.  

    For those who think I am hard-hearted, consider three choices:  sky diving lessons and paragliding vacation, air travel and seacruise, drive to The Greenbrier or Callaway Gardens for a resort stay.  Pick one according to your comfort level of health and safety.  Or how much risk are you willing to accept for the level of varied and new experiences?

  • Mel65

    And up goes my “paranoia meter” for my upcoming Princess Sapphire cruise to Alaska… Mental note to add surgical masks, gloves and bulk hand sanitizer to my packing list….

  • MarkKelling

    But, which cruise was the “current cruise” at the time?  Was it the one that came into port that required the sanitizing, or was it the one our OP left out on after sanitizing?

    If the full refund offer was for the first cruise and the 25% offer was for the second cruise, I can understand why the OP is upset and wants more since it appears his cruise was anything but relaxing.

  • And food poisoning is a known risk of eating out, but I shouldn’t be expected to pay for my meal when I get served bad food.

  • I really am tired of people saying that this trip was ‘special’, or paid for with ‘hard earned money’ etc. I doubt anyone goes on a trip and doesn’t expect it to be special. After all, we go on vacation to have fun, unwind etc. No one books a vacation expecting to have a terrible time. Can we not muddle the facts with these extraneous details?

  • john4868

    @yahoo-OSW6Y735Q2LBC5CSZUZBVTTYEQ:disqus Yes but food poisoning almost always results from a failure within the restuarant (not holding food at the correct temp etc) and therefore, the establishment bares some responsibility. Norovirus is almost always brought on to a cruise ship by a guest and past from person to person. Completely different circumstance

  • Raven_Altosk

    AMEN.

    Those details bother me as well. “Once in a lifetime…” or “Seniors on a fixed income…” etc do nothing for the facts of the case, they just make the OP look more pathetic.

  • Rebecca

    I really think it’s important to know how much the partial refund was, as well as what percentage of the total cost of the cruise was. The provided the airfare, so that’s fair. But without knowing how much the partial refund was, I can’t really answer the question.

  • Rebecca

    To be fair to the OP, I can imagine that many “things to do” may have been shut down/unavailable (pool closed, shows cancelled, etc….)  if there was an outbreak. I would be curious about this before I decided if this was a fair criticism.

  • Rebecca

    I’m speculating here, but it may be clever wordplay. Perhaps the “full refund” is for the unused days. Technically, this is a full refund. Princess could be spinning it to their advantage.

    On the other hand, as several others have brought up, we don’t know how much the OP received for his “partial refund.” For all we know, he is looking for his incedentals and airfare to be reimbursed and actually received the cost of the cruise back already.

    Chris, can you please, please get the information about how much of a “partial refund” was received, the items represented in the refund  and the percentage of total cost that entailed?

  • Cathy_Disqus

     According to the people on CruiseCritic who were actually on the ship, what they got was:
    – 100% of the cruise fare they paid returned to their credit cards
    – 25% of the fare they paid on account with Princess for a future cruise to be booked by 12/31/13 (not the same as 25% off a future cruise)
    – reimbursement for additional costs getting home which they would not have incurred had they taken their original flights. E.g. people who had booked on Southwest and got moved to US Airways got their checked baggage fees reimbursed.
    – hotel room if they were staying in FL for some reason (one couple was booked on the same ship back-to-back, so they were offered a hotel in Orlando for the in-between days)

    What they didn’t get was:
    – costs associated with making their own air arrangements after declining the Princess air arrangements because they didn’t like them (one couple would have ended up at an airport 100 miles from their home and couldn’t figure out how to get home from there)
    – costs associated with making their own hotel arrangements after declining the ones Princess offered
    – reimbursement of the insurance premium (one person felt that he should get that refunded because Princess paid out of pocket instead of through their insurance carrier)

  • TonyA_says

    Like x 1000. Nobody is SPECIAL !!!
    Haven’t seen you here before Carolyn, but your post is SPECIAL !!!
    Come back more often and add some fresh air.

  • sirwired

     These Norovirus outbreaks happen periodically in cruise ships, hotels, land resorts, schools, etc.  Usually a sanitizing of a few hours of the ship does the trick.  Sometimes it doesn’t, and this was one of those cases.

    If they had canceled the cruise outright, we’d have a different set of passengers wanting Princess to refund their airline tickets, and compensate them for wasted vacation days from work…

  • TonyA_says

    What do you expect on a floating Petri dish with 3080 passengers sharing a couple of dining rooms ???

  • Extraneededmail

    If a ship should never have left the port, then ALL expenses, including airfare, should be funded to every single passenger on that ship. That goes even if the family had chosen not to attempt the cruise. The cruise line should NOT have put a single passenger on that boat until it was clean.

  • TonyA_says

    Yeah, stay away from buffet tables, salad bars, or cafeteria environments. Go to Italy or France or Spain and eat in small family run restaurants. Eat where the locals eat. Taste the local wines. Think small, and stay away from big places (i.e. humungous ships). Enjoy.

  • backprop

    I don’t believe:

    And the captain made numerous announcements requesting “diarrhea and vomit samples” from infected passengers.

    No way.  They may have announced that sick passengers should go to the doctor.  But I do not believe they made “numerous” announcements with the quoted phrase. 

    I think this was a rotten trip.  The passenger deserves some refund (and got it). But this hyperbolic nonsense has to stop.

  • DavidYoung2

    Respectfully disagree.  The primary obligation of Princess, transcending all other things, is for the health, safety and welfare of their customers.  Clearly if the staff was wearing surgical masks, the ship was not in condition to take on passengers and sail.  And the facts are that it was NOT in condition to sail if it had to return to port because it was ‘still infected.’ 

    Accordingly, because it should never have left port, the passengers are due a full refund as if Princess had made the proper choice in the beginning and canceled the cruise.  Bottom line: It should never have set sail and the passengers should be compensated accordingly.

  • SooZeeQ

    WOW!

    Huge “surprise” that the insurance they paid dearly for did not compensate them!

  • bodega3

    This could be due to the fact that the cruise line paid out the cost for the used part of the trip.  You can’t double dip!

  • Michael__K

    I’m tired of vendor marketing materials which contain lots of hype and establish expectations for uniquely special vacation experiences:

    Just unpack and let us handle the rest. That’s our goal as The Consummate Host® — to make you feel content and comfortable starting the minute you set foot onboard.

    Our primary goal is for you to escape completely®. That’s why you’ll find every detail — from the friendly stateroom steward who greets you by name to the comfortably elegant venues that range from lively to intimate — is designed with your relaxation in mind.

    Compared to a land vacation, a cruise with Princess provides a great value for your vacation dollars. Your fare not only includes the comfortable accommodations of your well-appointed stateroom, but also many of our fresh dining options, dazzling entertainment and access to our health and wellness facilities.

    we’re continually being honored by the industry for our carefully planned itineraries, our spectacular ships, and the way we make everyone, of every age, feel relaxed and happy when they’re with us

    http://www.princess.com/why_princess/

  • SooZeeQ

    I WILL NOT BE ABLE TO ACCESS TO THIS EMAIL ACCOUNT UNTIL JUNE 4th.

    **** PLEASE **** DO NOT SEND ANY – THANKS!!

    EVERYONE – THIS IS A GENERIC “AUTOMATIC REPLY”

    SEND JOKES, ETC. TO MY WORK EMAIL – PLEASE.

    THIS IS FOR COMMUNICATION.

    IF I CANNOT OPEN, I WILL FORWARD BACK HERE.

    THANKS!

  • bodega3

    http://www.travelagentcentral.com/ocean-cruises/crown-princess-shortens-cruise-norovirus-cleaning-33529

    If the TA was notified about this, as the OP stated, were they given the chance to cancel?  That would be the first question to ask the OP BEFORE going forward with this article.  It appears that they were properly compensated.

  • Michael__K

    If one of the passengers may be incapable of travelling again, it explains why any future vouchers / discounts (if that was part of the partial refund offer) might not be of much use to them.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    “Seniors on a fixed income” especially annoys me. Aren’t we ALL, no matter what age, on a fixed income?

    Such as: Raven, if you’re a little short one payday because your car broke down, can you go to your employers and get more money?  Nope.  Thus, you, too, are on a fixed income.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    And her post was grammatically corrected and punctuated as it should be.  As one who holds the totally useless degree in English, I LOVE that! 

  • bodega3

    So that ad with the sexy blond sitting in the passenger seat of the car you are interested in means she doesn’t come with the sale?

  • Michael__K

    I expect the printed words to mean something.

  • Alan Gore

    For all practical purposes, this was a cruise that didn’t happen. If Princess doesn’t make a full refund in this case, that line goes on my no-sail list.

  • Alan Gore

    I think the same standard as for food poisoning should apply. If you’re the only one who got sick after eating at Harry’s Hellhole last night, it’s your problem. If lots of other people got sick at the same time, it’s the restaurant’s problem.

  • john4868

    Chris … I realize that you are on the road but numerous web reports state that PCL agreed to refund the cruise in a press release at the time plus a 25% credit toward a future cruise. This is inconsistent with your story and his report. Can you verifiy what he didn’t get back? Hope you didn’t get burned on two consecutive cruise stories!

  • lorcha

    If someone is requesting special consideration, wouldn’t that necessitate his trying to demonstrate the uniqueness of his or her situation? 

    I’m not weighing in on whether or not LW is entitled to any special consideration. Just saying that’s probably why regular readers of this column see so many “unique snowflakes”.

  • bodega3

    They don’t promise but they do have goals that they hope to achieve.

  • IGoEverywhere

    Every passenger going anywhere should travel with trip cancellation / inteuption insurance. All would then be right financially.

  • Nigel Appleby

    And medical coverage. Have a cruise messed up and you are out say $10,000 but have a heart attack with no medical coverage and you could be out hundreds of thousands of dollers.

  • john4868

    Check the story. He had a policy that didn’t cover interruption due to Noro outbreak

  • Michael__K

    But we’re sick and tired of passengers who have the nerve to share in that hope (and expectation) that those goals are achieved.

  • twres

    I don’t actually think the OP is acting too entitled. A cruise is known to be a vacation experience. It is something you plan ahead for, and not a spur of the moment road trip. You take a week of vacation days off from work. You probably buy a new bathing suit and travel incidentals. You get excited about your ports of call (swimming with the dolphins! golfing on the beach!). Now imagine you set sail only to not make any of your destinations and spend just a few days on the ship before turning around. What a disappointment that is, not to mention a huge vacation disruption. Even if you had some enjoyable days on board the ship, you don’t get those vacation days back that you took off, and you don’t get the excitement of visiting the scheduled ports of call. This was not the vacation that you purchased and did not nearly live up to expectations.

    We don’t know how much the cruise line offered in compensation, but since they did not provide the vacation promised (through no fault of the passenger) they should compensate them well.

  • bodega3

    Nothing in life is guaranteed.  How you handle the bumps can often make or break your vacation.  What I want to know is if the OP was offered the chance to cancel when his TA was notified of the condition onboard the inbound sailing and if so, why didn’t he take it?  As I posted, he was given his money back, his air covered to get home and future cruise credit as the ‘goal’ wasn’t met.  Why does he think he needs Chris’ help?

  • SooZeeQ

    yikes – have no clue why my email response would how up here – sorry!

  • KarlaKatz

    Ditto!  The moment I’d received a call about an infection on the previous sailing, I’d have said “ciao, baby”, and called my agent, before heading to a nice hotel in Lauderdale (where the fun, sun, and beaches are delightful).

  • emanon256

     OMG Thank you for saying this!!!

  • bodega3

    Yes we do know the compensation, I posted a link to it.

    BTW, in the T&C’s no port of call is guaranteed on any cruise line. 

  • Michael__K

    My comment was in response to Carolyn’s gripe.
     
    I’m as confused as everyone else about the OP’s circumstances here.  Media reports say all passengers got 100% refunds and free flight changes; article suggests otherwise.

  • MarkKelling

    Every trip I take is a “once in a lifetime” trip, I am on a fixed income (can’t get a bigger paycheck just because), and every dollar I spend on anything is hard earned.

    People need to get over the fact that no one is more special than anyone else.

  • Kate Tyminski

    Makes me really leery of taking a cruise again if this is the way the passengers are treated. The ship should not have left port in that condition.
    I find it interesting that a “sick” is allowed to leave port and infect other passengers. There should be regulations against this practice.They wold never put these sick people affected by this flue in a room w other well people on shore so why is it allowed on ship. 

  • TonyA_says

    I’m befuddled.  If Chris Elliott says:

    Princess is right. According to its passage contract, it could sail out into the middle of the ocean with a ship filled with Ebola patients, and it would still be fulfilling its contract.

    Then why do many people still insist in cruising if the contract is supposed to be quite “onerous”?

    If you buy something knowing those terms and conditions, then you’re screwed if something goes wrong. Since you don’t have a LEGAL foot to stand on, you now invoke MORALITY to try get something back. You scream “But that doesn’t mean it’s right“, if things don’t go your way.

    How about a more simple approach. If you don’t like the terms and conditions of cruise lines, then DON’T CRUISE.

  • TonyA_says

    My Mama told me not to listen to and read ads before I even learned to read. Thanks Mom.

  • Charles B

    Hope you had your “cancel for any reason” trip insurance booked. Otherwise, you’ll have even less luck getting your refunds.

  • gritchie

    Harry’s Hellhole? Now that’s funny! I would HAVE to try a place called Harry’s Hellhole. Thanks for the smile. :-)

  • Lindabator

    Not necessarily – the sick are confined to quarters, and I’ve sailed when there was an outbreak, and although we did no about it, never saw anything on our end.  And still had time to swim, gamble, go to shows….

  • Lindabator

    Hardly – they are cleared or not by the CDC, so they do take all the proper steps – but it can at times STILL be a problem – Disney World closed for a day a couple years ago because THEY tried to sanitize several times, and new folks kept bringing it in (I know Raven will love that one!), and the Beaches Turks & Caicos has just had the same problem.

  • Lindabator

    At which point you would be SOL – full cancellation penalties at that time, and no recourse, even with insurance.

  • Lindabator

    They were cleared by the CDC – so they didn’t “gamble” – they just had a bigger problem then the 2nd sailing could handle – and when they realized it, they returned to do a more thorough job.  Good call on their part.

  • Lindabator

    CDC

  • Lindabator

    I had recalled that as well – wonder what the real story is here?

  • Lindabator

    Hate to throw a wet towel on you, but Disney World closed for a day a couple years ago due to the virus, and Beaches Turks & Caicos had a terrible time recently.  It happens EVERYWHERE – but under the Maritime Laws, cruise ships are required to give a head count of ALL sick on the ship before arriving into port – that’s why we hear about it – when you see it happen in Cancun, no one thinks twice about it.

  • Lindabator

    That’s why THEY serve – no “true” buffet service – gloves, and even masks as needed – plus sanitizing gel for EVERYONE when entering a dining area.  But some folks STILL go when they don’t feel well because they don’t want to lose the money they spend on their trip – so we all have to instead!  :)

  • Lindabator

    Not the time of year for these outbreaks, hon.  And hand gel is at the entrance to ALL dining areas, just an FYI.  (Norovirus season is fall-spring)

  • Lindabator

    Funny enough, I have my clients write up their complaints, give them to me, and I re-write their letters for them, and include my cover letter.  What I do is make a small note of their circumstances to lead, get to the 1-2 problems, and then ASK for what I think is fair, thereby giving them a do–able option .  Works like a charm!

  • Lindabator

    Once CDC clears it, they are good to go – if (and when) the CDC states otherwise, they go nowhere.  (And it has happened)

  • Lindabator

    Actually, since Princess was footing the bill for the return flights, AND refunding the non-used travel dates, his insurance was not going to pay him anything, as the client had ALREADY been reimbursed for the trip interruption – I think that is where the problem lies.  I think he wated a full refund from both!  HAHA 

  • Lindabator

    So they should GUARANTEE to stop at a port of call?  Nice choice in a hurricane!

  • Lindabator

    ???  If you don’t think people in Senior Centers, kids in school and FOLKS IN RESORTS are not affected, you don’t know too much about the virus.  Happens every year like clockwork.  But since only cruise ships need to regularly report on the number of ill patrons, we only hear about them.

  • no, we are not.  Our income, in real dollars, has the possibility of rising.  A senior on a fixed income doesn’t.

  • MarkKelling

    Social Security recipients got a larger percentage raise this year than I did.  So how “fixed” is their income?

    (True the actual dollars I got was more than the maximum SS recipient got, but my income is just as fixed as theirs.)

  • lorcha

    Yeah, I have to say, reading Chris has definitely improved my complaining skills when things go sour. 

    In my house, it’s usually Mrs. Lorcha who has the complaints, but for some reason, she’s never had a complaint weigh in at under 2 full pages! Needless to say, she doesn’t get good results, so I rewrite them before sending them off. 

  • Michael__K

    Even if Princess reimbursed nothing — if the brother-in-law wasn’t sick enough for a physician to advise him to return home — what policy has a Covered Reason that would apply to an interruption by the operator because of Norovirus?

  • Joe_D_Messina

    If crew had to wear masks, there were biohazard bags in plain site and announcements were being made for vomit samples, I’d say it was a gamble.  It’d be one thing if things had started out normal but it sounds like everything was a mess from the moment they boarded.

    I feel for these people because that’s really a no-win situation. They likely knew nothing about the masks and other stuff before boarding so they had nothing to go on other than Princess telling them things were going to be fine.  And had they skipped–which it turns out would have been a prudent move–they’d have lost any opportunity to get their money back.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    These would be incredibly boring letters if no details were included. Just one case after another of simple facts:  3 people took cruise, interrupted for some reason, what refund is fair…  Might as well send Chris on vacation and have a robot determine the answer.

    The details don’t necessarily impact what is owed, but it certainly makes a difference from a human interest perspective if they cruised a couple times a year and this was just another one, as opposed to its their only cruise ever and is probably the last chance for a nice vacation with a loved one.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Even if they were given a chance to cancel, I doubt they had enough info to make an informed decision.  Princess says they’ve cleaned the ship and they’re just leaving a few hours late, probably no info is shared regarding crew wearing masks, etc.  They have a loved one deteriorating and probably don’t want to try and reschedule unless they absolutely have to. They’e over a barrel with nothing to go on but Princess saying everything is going to be okay. I agree the compensation sounds pretty decent, but it was clearly a horrible experience and in the ideal world it sounds to me like they shouldn’t have sailed in the first place.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Have to agree with @Lindabator:disqus   I regularly visit a senior center on Sunday mornings to bring them Communion from church, so I pay attention to local Norovirus news.  Last winter, I read that 2 centers in the Omaha area ended up being quarantined to their rooms for 36 hours; no visits to/from the outside.  A couple of parochial schools got shut down right after that because of increasing absentee rates, so that the schools could be thoroughly disinfected.  Douglas County Health Department signed off on the clean up.  Then they had to do it all over again a week later.  Why?

    Even though they were all told about the signs of infection, about hand-washing, etc, etc, etc., the people in the senior living centers and the school kids kept re-infecting one another.  The places would clean up and then the sick someone who didn’t want to miss the paid-for meal or social activity or the child who was “well enough for school” would come, mingle and off they went again.

    Point?  You can clean up something all you want (ship, school, senior living center), but the Norovirus can quickly re-establish itself once a new vector comes along.  Personally, I’m amazed that a huge ship can be disinfected with an additional 6 hours’ dock time, but I don’t know what resources Princess had to accomplish the task.  CDC signed off on the clean-up.  What more should Princess have done?

  • Michael__K

    What % of the passengers understand how weak their legal rights are?

    If you think about it, we all expect and depend on morality (with no legal standing) in every small piece of our every day lives.  Whether we’re asking for directions or standing in line or using an elevator or ordering a sandwich — there are so many norms and expectations we take for granted that have no legal basis.

    And many successful businesses become that way by developing a brand that people associate with delivering far more than the legal minimum that is required of them.

  • twres

     Yes, if a port of call is on the cruise itinerary I believe they have an obligation to take passengers there.  That is what was advertised and what was purchased after all.  If they cannot deliver then the passengers should be compensated for not receiving what was expected.  A hurricane is special because you can see one coming a week away and can adjust your plans accordingly.  In this case the passengers had no warning that their vacation would be so disrupted.

  • bodega3

    They have zero obligation and if you pay for a cruise, you accept the T & C’s.  Now of course they want to get you to your ports of calls, but ports of calls won’t let them disembark passengers from a sick vessel.

  • bodega3

    And whose responsiblity is it is to inform you of your rights as a passenger?  The passenger.  Just like driving your car.  You are required to know the laws.  Ignorance is no excuse.  Need help?  Go to a professional.

  • jikinn

    After reading so many articles on Chris’s site about cruise lines being able to take your money and deliver anything they want without penalty to them, I don’t think I’ll ever take a cruise. It’s way too much of a gamble.

  • Lindabator

    Ridiculous!  In cases of last minute strikes, a criminal event, safety concerns due to weather, etc – they HAVE to be able to make changes as needed – I suppose you EXPECT your flight time to be exact as well, regardless of the weather conditions or state of the aircraft – that is why all common carriers have a carriage of contract releasing them from such guarantees – they make no sense – and some people think they HAVE to be guaranteed, which they could care less about the risks in a lot of cases, but I guarantee you the cruise line does take note.

  • TonyA_says

    Even school cafeterias are commonplace for this NOROVIRUS. It only takes one sick a**hole to cough at, sneeze at, or touch a common food service area and infect it and then the others spread it like wildfire.

    I don’t know how a cruise line can prevent an outbreak if there are thousands of possible (infection) vectors. The one to blame is the sick passenger who cruises (and the sick kid who goes to school). The cost of an outbreak must be tremendous. You throw away everything, quarantine the ship and disinfect it. No one makes money and pity the crew since they are relying on TIPS to send money to their families overseas.

    Maybe the TSA should inspect passengers for NOROVIRUS before boarding a ship :-)

  • Michael__K

    I suppose you won’t support Raven when he has to vacate that premium aisle seat he paid extra for in advance and he doesn’t get his money back?

    What’s funny is that travel professionals frequently emphasize that the vendor will in fact do things that aren’t legally mandatory.

  • Elmo Clarity

    I don’t think it is that big of a gamble.  If a cruise line developed a reputation of not going where they advertised, they would be out of business pretty quick.  They are going to try to make all scheduled ports if at all possible.

  • Elmo Clarity

    I agree that the cruise lines need the ability to make changes at the last minute.  However, those changes should be to reasons beyond their control.  But according to the T&C, they can skip one for any reason they want.  It is that ability that people feel shouldn’t be allowed.

  • Elmo Clarity

    Oh great.  Just want we need.  Another TSA protocol.  “Drop your pants, bend over, and say AHHHH”

    ;)

  • twres

     You suppose incorrectly.  But you are comparing apples to oranges.  I expect an airline to get me from point A to point B if that is what I paid for.  It is widely known though that flight delays happen for many reasons, but I will get to my destination whether sooner or later.  However, if I book a cruise to take me to say the Bahamas, I expect to be taken there – not floated out into the ocean then turned around after a few days having not gotten anywhere.  That does not fulfill the package I purchased, and this is where I think the passenger deserves compensation for not getting the vacation purchased.

    I guess I should reinforce that my comments only are directed at the story in this article, not any disaster that could possibly happen ever.

  • bodega3

    But that package you took, in the T&C states that they can change ports of call.  By making the payment on that cruise, you are accepting this possibility.  It doesn’t happen all the time, but it does happen where the ports of call get changed for various reasons.  They will not do this willy nilly as it does cost them in a variety of ways.

  • bodega3

    If my client pays for something they don’t get, you can bet your britches I go to bat for them.  I stand by what I sell and provide a service.  Always have. 

  • bodega3

    Exactly!

  • Mel65

     Awesome to know! …I can now go back to being focused on my irrational fear of falling overboard :)

  • TonyA_says

    So what are we gonna do? Find the culprit who brought the bug onboard and lynch him/her? Why is this the fault of the cruise line if a sick person went on board and infected everyone? They did not promise anyone paradise, did they? I read the article Bodega gave us a link to. IMO the cruise line went above and beyond (and that you are hearing from me – a very skeptical cruise critic).

  • MarkieA

    That is a lucid, intelligent, and well-thought out objection Mr. Young. Denied!

  • TonyA_says

    Guess what, the captain was correct. He had to collect stool and vomitus as specimen samples. Read the CDC instructions for specimen collection –
    http://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/lab-testing/collection.html

  • Michael__K

    Okay, so sometimes you feel entitled to more than what’s contractually obligated.

  • Michael__K

    I responded to your question, which was why would anyone cruise if:

    According to its passage contract, it could sail out into the middle of the ocean with a ship filled with Ebola patients, and it would still be fulfilling its contract.

    I’m dumbfounded by this particular case.  The media reports suggest that the cruise line indeed went above and beyond, offering full refunds and more, but yet the title of this article is “Why won’t Princess refund my sick cruise to nowhere?”

  • Lindabator

    HAHA – just sit back and relax – you’ll find Alaska to be an amazing place – probably one of my favorite cruises!

  • Lindabator

    Yep – you approach it like a business transaction, you get a lot farther.  :)

  • Lindabator

    Exactly – but because of people like this who feel they ARE guaranteed, they make it clear they NEVER are – its the only way they have the ability to be flexible when the circumstances call for it – been on over 50 cruises, most cruise lines, only had minor changes twice due to weather, and one due to illness.  C’est la vie!

  • Lindabator

    Amen – but don’t bother – he just likes to ruffle your feathers, hon.

  • judyserienagy

    What a disaster!  I thought Princess was considered an upscale cruise line.  I would expect this kind of situation on a el-cheapo cruise, maybe.   This story reads like a case history on how not to do things.  I hope the people making the decisions have been summarily fired and everyone else re-trained.  DavidYoung (below) has stated my opinion very eloquently.

  • tomz2001

    the same thing happened to us. on holland american.we finally got sick on the last 2 days.it was so bad during the cruise…the captain would not shake hands..you could however touch is sleeve!! how nice of him!!in retrospect..a 6 hour clean up …screams of disaster…if i had it to do again.i would have..called a cab and gone home we had cruise insurance …why we stayed..i’ll never know… we’re done “cruzn” for quite a while.12th of never perhaps  tom

  • Wow.  Incredible.  Reads like a nightmare. However, you state, “Princess refunded his cruise fare (but not his tips and incidents) and booked his family’s flights home.”  I think that seems fair.  Maybe they could have refunded his airfare to arrive in the departure port.  However, a refund for tips and incidentals?  I don’t think so.  First of all…he didn’t need to tip.  And, if  the person did their job (ie waiters, room attendents, etc) then why not tip them?  In regards to incidentals, well…he just has to get over that.  If he was at home, he still would have spent money on “incidentals”  (coffee, snacks, etc.)

    I think Princess is foul though.  Because they knew (at least a few days) in advance of that ship pulling into port that they had an outbreak and that it would affect the new group coming aboard.  To not inform them days ahead of time just seems shady.

  • “Then why do many people still insist in cruising if the contract is supposed to be quite “onerous”?”  Because people do it all the time.  For example, have you read your cell phone contract?

  • TonyA_says

     No. I barely use my cell phone since I find it very disturbing.

  • Jen

    No, “special’,” isn’t punctuated correctly.

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