“Apparently with Carnival, the passenger does not always come first”

carnival destinyKristen Hernandez thought she’d found a bargain on the Carnival Breeze next month. Or, to be more precise, she thought her travel agent had found one.

She booked two separate balcony cabins for her 8-night Eastern Caribbean cruise for $3,440 each.

Turns out she and her travel agent were wrong.

“After researching the Internet, we found out that Carnival Cruise Lines had slashed the prices due to the fact of the many mishaps,” she says. “Yesterday I went online on the Carnival website and found out that the balcony cabins are now selling for $2,319. That is a difference of over $1,100 per cabin.”

Hernandez assumed that Carnival would adjust the rate on her cruise, so she contacted the agency through which she’d purchased the vacation and asked for a partial refund.

“I was informed that they have a contract with Carnival Cruise Lines stating that they are not allowed to change the rate,” she says.

Disappointed, she sent an email to Carnival asking it to reconsider. Here’s its response:

We are truly sorry to disappoint you and your clients by not being able to provide a rate adjustment on their reservations for the June 22, 2013 sailing of the Carnival Breeze. I hope that by providing you with an explanation you will better understand why we cannot honor your request.

In 2009, we introduced a pricing program called Early Saver that provides an attractive fare with a price protection feature for guests who book early and purchase this promotion. This means that if a lower fare is offered on the sailing (up to two business days prior to sailing), Early Saver guests are eligible to receive the difference as an On Board Credit. The program, however, does have certain restrictions like a non-refundable deposit and admin fees if changes are made to the booking.

Early Saver is a very successful program because our guests really value the price assurance feature. In order to protect the integrity of the Early Saver program, we are obligated to our customers not to make price adjustments to bookings made on non-Early Saver fares (including Past Guest fares).

Despite our best efforts to anticipate demand, at times we are forced to lower fares closer to sailing. Nobody dislikes the lower prices more than we do, but occasionally our “crystal ball” is a little cloudy. Regrettably, this means that guests who do not purchase Early Saver are not eligible for a price reduction, onboard, or any other compensation for the decrease in rates.

The promotion is available up to 5 months prior to sailings that are 6 nights or longer; the Early Saver promotion was available at the time your booking was made on November 21, 2012. However, the booking was made under the Group rates and promotion that your agency was able to secure for the group. Since the Early Saver promotion had not been selected at the time of making this booking, or had not been changed to the Early Saver promotion at any time that it was still open on the sailing, we cannot apply the price protection feature to this booking, as it is only applicable to those guests who accepted the harsher terms and conditions associated with this promotion in exchange for the price protection feature.

We certainly understand any disappointment it may cause when rates are decreased, Ms. Hernandez. We value your business and hope the next time you consider booking with us, you will be sure to make reservations under the Early Saver promotion so you are able to utilize the price protection feature.

In closing, we ask that you not let this experience color all the fun that is in store for you when you sail. We appreciate your support and would very much like to count on your continued loyalty.

That didn’t sit well with Hernandez, who appealed the decision in writing to Carnival and also contacted her local newspaper, the Miami Herald. The Herald’s business editor referred the case to me, and I circled back to Hernandez.

“What’s more upsetting than writing e-mails to Carnival Cruise Lines and not getting responses?” asked Hernandez. “Finding out that the balcony you overpaid for is the most basic balcony available. I have been trying to get my issue resolved with Carnival, yet I have not heard a satisfying response. Apparently with Carnival, the passenger does not always come first.”

The terms and conditions of Carnival’s Early Saver offers are spelled out clearly on its site. But did Hernandez’s travel agency take the time to explain the rules of her cruise fare? Perhaps not as clearly as she would have liked it to.

This case offers two important lessons. The first is the importance of communication. Travel agents do their best to disclose the terms of everything you buy, but they don’t — they can’t — explain everything verbally. It’s up to you, the customer, to review the fine print and ask any questions you might have.

The second lesson? Never look back. Hernandez’ enjoyment of her Caribbean cruise has been tarnished by the knowledge that someone else paid more than one grand less for the same cabin. But thanks to dynamic pricing used throughout the travel industry, rates can change minute to minute. That’s why you should never look back, especially when it’s your vacation.

That said, I can’t blame Hernandez for doing what she did. I probably would have checked the rates too, just out of curiosity.

I contacted Carnival on Hernandez’s behalf to see if there was any kind of goodwill adjustment to her fare it might make.

A Carnival supervisor called her and restated the company’s position. “In his words, ‘How fair would it be if I did this for you and not the other thousands that are having the same problem?’,” she says. “I was appalled at that answer. They do not care for the average Joe. I’m very upset.”

Should Carnival have turned down Kristen Hernandez' request?

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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 chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • polexia_rogue

    “That’s why you should never look back”

    i really wish more people would realize that. unless a cruise/airline/hotel EXPLICITLY SAYS they price match- do not expect them to lower the price you paid, just because it is either

    a. currently lower or

    b. lower on a different website.

    and Cruise lines sure as h**l do not price match. as Carnival said, even IF the OP had taken advantage of the Early Saver program they would get the difference back as a “on board credit.” (so they are guaranteed to get the money back)

  • jmtabb

    To be very honest, I can appreciate that this is a cruise line that stands by its word, at least in this case:

    If you book their “early saver”, you’ll get the benefit of any price drops. If you don’t, you don’t.

    It’s kind of like refundable and non-refundable airplane tickets. Except we’re reaching the point where just about any decent sounding sob story can get a non-refundable ticket refunded if you make enough noise about it.

    The “average Joe” decides if the ticket price is worth it at the time of purchase. If it isn’t, then he doesn’t buy. You can take a chance that prices may go down at the last minute – but you also take the risk that the sailing is full and/or the prices go up.

    I wonder if the OP is one of those people who try to get the sales price on an item they bought several months ago that is now on the clearance rack at their local department store too….

  • Bill___A

    That’s how it goes. Even when you buy fresh fruit in the store, the price goes down nearer the due date. I don’t even see why this is a case. They explained it quite well.

  • PsyGuy

    I understand the cruise lines position, and I agree with the cruise line, but they could also have done something for her in the name of good will, such as giving her a couple hundred in shipboard credit, maybe not the difference n ticket fares but $200 would be nice and reasonable.

  • Rebecca

    Carnival explained their position well, and I agree with them. The OP is actually asking for MORE than those in the Early Saver program receive. They get an onboard credit; she wants cash. That’s like buying a winter coat in the fall and going back to the store with the receipt in April demanding a price match because the coat is now on clearance, with the store trying to get rid of it out of season. There are clear policies in place, and they make sense. Some people just seem to think they’re entitled to follow a completely different set of rules where businesses lose money.

  • sirwired

    If they didn’t promise anything even remotely related to price matching, then I don’t know why she thinks she’s entitled to it now. The person she should really be talking to is her agent, who could/should have explained the different fares to her when she booked.

    Basically, if Carnival did what she asked, then somebody who booked with Early Saver could very well start complaining that it’s not fair that they got charged for change they had to make that was Totally Not Their Fault. And somebody else complaining that they are misers that never spend anything onboard and don’t know what to do with the cruise credit they were promised; they want cash instead.

  • Kevin Mathews

    I was thinking about the same analogy for retail on this one…

  • Tom Petrocelli

    She bought something that she thought was a bargain and was happy with it. It seems that she is really begrudging someone else their good (better) fortune.

  • Michelle

    I voted no. If I were to purchase a car only to find out that the same car later was on sale for a lesser price, I cannot then go back and say I want a refund on the difference. Perform due diligence before purchasing anything.

  • EdB

    I’m wondering if she was still inside a cancel period where if she canceled and paid any fees associated with it then repurchased at the lower price, if it would have saved her some money.

  • http://www.eyeonannapolis.net/ John Frenaye

    I am not sure when she first discovered this, or the availability on the sailing, but she might have been able to mitigate some of the loss had her agent canceled the original booking (and foregone part of a deposit) and re-booked as a new booking. She may have been able to recoup $800 per cabin. Not all, but something.

  • toniv

    Does she realize that many of the other passengers on the airplane to the port also paid less for their tickets? When she buys something at a store, and then it goes on sale, does she go back to the store and ask for the difference?

  • Korrine Johnson

    I am a travel agent and I am super thorough, sticking to a script when recapping the booking. But when something doesn’t go the way my clients like, they sometimes get amnesia. I believe Carnival is right in this case, and I am willing to give the agent the benefit of the doubt that she did go over the fares and their terms.

  • Cam

    Seriously, would she be on here demanding to pay more if the price had of gone up?

  • TravelmanDE

    Even with the lost deposit and fees, it probably still would have been less expensive to cancel and rebook the reservation at the lower rate.

  • RWD

    Although I voted NO, Carnival has every right to turn them down. It would have been good PR to at least put them in a better cabin. I’ll bet they never sail with them again and that TA has lost future business as well.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    This is exactly what I was planning on posting after reading the article! However, I’d take it a step further and NOT re-purchase the trip, using that money to go elsewhere using another mode of transportation. I wouldn’t give these guys my business after their cavalierly tossing aside the fact they didn’t choose, in the interest of customer satisfaction, to give her back the monies she would already have had she booked a couple days later.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    If something goes on sale w/n 30 days of my purchase, yes, I go back to the store and ask for the difference back. Unless the cost of gasoline is more than what I’m getting, yes, I ask for it back. Most retail stores offer this.

  • Lisa L

    I agree with the Cruise Lines stance on the subject however with all the issues that have been happening in that industry as of late one would hope they would be a bit more accommodating even if just offering a few hundred dollars in ship credit. Quite honestly this statement of ” but occasionally our “crystal ball” is a little cloudy” would have sent me thru the roof. A Customer does care about your crystal ball.

  • Raquel Hickman Thiebes

    Would you expect this compensation from the airlines? No. Look she gambled and lost. Maybe next time she’ll wait a bit longer….or not. It’s part of the finesse of knowing when to buy….or not. Case closed.

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    So… are you advocating that businesses like cruises / airlines start the process of refunding tickets purchased xx number of days before a price drop? If not, why this ONE customer? Because if they do it for the OP and word gets out, you’d better believe people will be flooding them with requests for refunds.

    I once booked airfare to Barbados and within an hour, the price dropped. I called my travel agent (bless her heart!) who called the airline and got me a refund. She went over and beyond that day. If she / the airline said it couldn’t be done, I would’ve totally understood.

  • EdB

    I was thinking the same thing. While Carnival may be correct in not giving some kind of goodwill gesture, what will it have cost them in the long term. My only cruise was on Carnival, but after all the issues with them discussed on here and other experiences, I’ll never sail with them again and I actively encourage others to avoid them too.

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    I’m pro TAs but you’d better believe that once they give me a quote, I try to find a better price on my own! If I can’t then kudos to them and business goes to them. I know they don’t have the time to scour the internet and are probably not as motivated as I am to get the best deal.

  • mytimetotravel

    Why should they do that? Why should they do something for her, and notfor all the other passengers in the same position?

  • James Orth

    Cruise lines carry alot of passengers every year, how many $100 dollar bills should they give away to be nice and reasonable? Or to put it another way how much more would you be willing to pay for a cruise so that they could be real nice and reasonable? How much less would you be willing to take in dividends if you had stock in the cruise line in the name of Goodwill?

  • James Orth

    My feelings exactly. I would be the 1st to side with anyone who is being cheated or taken advantage of by any company, but in this case I do not believe the OP was treated unfairly. The company followed its rules.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    Yes, actually, I am. It’s called doing the right thing.

    And you’re being contrary when you say, “Why this ONE customer” and putting words into my mouth/thoughts I didn’t say. It’s not for this ONE customer but all of them.

    With any mode of transportation, I believe the price should be the same for everyone, with the exception of “Early bird” special pricing given by a lot of transportation companies, which encourages people to actually plan a trip in a timely fashion.

    Again, it’s called doing the right thing. You should try it sometime. It feels good.

  • MarkKelling

    I am willing to bet that the Early Saver program costs more for the initial booking than she paid for the option she chose. The cruise line has to make something out of it or they wouldn’t offer the option (OK, you get to spend the difference on board, probably with lots of restrictions, but you would probably spend a lot on board anyway). The OP was probably shown this option and chose what she did because it was a lower cost than the Saver plan was at the time of booking. You spend you money and you take your chances.

    I recently bought a plane ticket (biz class) for an upcoming long trip where I had been watching the prices closely. I noticed the price had gone up $400 since the last time I checked, so thinking this was it, I bought. Seeing the price go up another $500 the next week, I was congratulating myself for making an almost perfectly timed purchase. Of course when I checked this morning, the price is back down to $200 LESS than I paid. So using the OPs reasoning, I should demand the airline refund me the $200 immediately in cash? No, I won’t. I know that there will be people on this flight probably sitting right next to me that paid a lot more and a lot less than I did. All I care about is that I got a great price on the ticket, thousands less than what most airlines charge on this route, and I will be happy and comfortable (I hope) in my seat.

  • mytimetotravel

    I would really like to live in a world where item x always cost $y. But we don’t live in that world. In this one the cost of travel may go up – think airfares and trains – or down – think hotel rooms. Since a cruise is a combination of both, and is often booked many months in advance, it seems reasonable that the price might move in either direction. Buying one is a gamble, sometimnes you win (the price goes up), sometimes you lose (the price goes down). If you’re not prepared to lose you shouldn’t play.

  • Dolphin2

    It seems to really depends on the cruise company… I booked a cruise last february with Royal and the price dropped down 400$ each for me and my wife. I asked my travel agent to call and check to adjust it and they did it the same day…

  • Grant

    Sure ya can. You may not get it, but in these economic times, it’s surprising what companies will sometimes do to hang on to a customer. As I’ve taught my kids… “Don’t ask; don’t get.”

  • MarkKelling

    The cruise line could have stated something like “sorry you didn’t choose the Early Saver option so we can’t give you a credit back, but if a higher priced balcony cabin is available when you board we will upgrade you for free” and then not upgrade her because a cabin is not available. This way, the cruise line comes across as more caring, and the OP thinks she will get something for nothing.

    Rereading her comments, I am thinking she has buyers remorse anyway when she states that her cabins are “the most basic … available.”

  • MarkKelling

    You may have been within the cancel with no penalty window and the cruise line knew they could lose you as a customer if you cancelled or they knew you would probably end up spending more on board if they gave you the credit . Either way, congratulations!

  • http://www.thewomenstravelgroup.com/ Phyllis Stoller

    Again the contract of carriage is the key to a dispute with a cruise line. That is your ‘deal’ with them. As a group travel seller for The Women’s Travel Group, I would have thought the agency with special rates would also have a ‘special’ sales person at Carnival to contact. Afterall the agency got the booking due to its good faith with the client and should be the follow up chaser of the solution.

  • sirwired

    If the price had gone up by a grand, they wouldn’t go asking for all those bargain customers to pony up the additional cash…

    She booked a fare with a fully refundable deposit and no-fee changes. The tradeoff is that she isn’t eligible for the Saver benefit of price matching. And the price-matching with the saver fare (which she didn’t book) doesn’t even return cash in the event of a drop, it returns credit. So she’s asking for a benefit the other fare doesn’t even provide, while she got to retain the benefits the fare she booked gave her.

    That’s not Carnival being mean. That’s giving the customer exactly what she paid for, and not giving her what she explicitly didn’t pay for.

  • Grant

    Why this one customer? Because she asked. You asked for a refund. Why shouldn’t the OP? Don’t ask; don’t get.

  • jmtabb

    But this wasn’t a “something goes on sale within 30 days of purchase” kind of thing, at least in my opinion.

    Carnival says the booking was made in November 2012.
    The sailing is in two weeks on 22 June 2013 – that’s a 6 month difference.

    I don’t consider it OK to expect a cash refund for nearly 1/3 the price she paid 5 months after she paid it.

    And for those that say “ask for the difference back” – she’s not just asking for the difference back, she’s expecting it. She asked, got told “no”, got Elliott involved and is further miffed that the answer is still “no”.

    It’s time to decide whether she’ll be happy on her cruise at the price that she paid for it, or cancel altogether.

  • sirwired

    Why is it “the right thing” to provide a customer with something they didn’t pay for? It’s nice, to be sure, but it’s certainly not wrong to refuse to give money away just because somebody asks for it.

    Carnival likes their money just as much as customers like theirs.

    And transportation companies should not adjust pricing dynamically to fill as many cabins/seats as possible just to avoid some hurt feelings? How does THAT make sense?

  • http://thestockhome.com/ Josh S

    Plus, Carnival gave her a very clear outline of the policy, why it exists, and why her situation doesn’t merit an exception. It doesn’t feel like a form letter (though it might be one if they run into this often)–it feels sensitive to her concerns.

    I think that Carnival handled this well, even if they couldn’t satisfy the customer.

  • john4868

    This just strikes me as the same issue that Chris writes about occasionally where someone has an issue that would have been covered by trip insurance but they didn’t buy it. Now they expect the company to just cover them like they had.

    Carnival offers a program to cover you in the case of a price decrease and you declined to accept the program. Sorry but you can’t reap the benefits of a program you opted out of.

  • Grant

    Actually, Southwest does do that. I usually buy my ticket months in advance, but if the fare drops before the flight, I can get that lower price… no charge, no hassle. Amazon does something similar. I’ve gotten refunds without even having to ask for them. That attitude has made me fanatically loyal to both Southwest and Amazon. It’s just good business.

  • cjr001

    “Apparently with Carnival, the passenger does not always come first”

    You’re only learning this now!?

    In the end, you book earlier at a higher rate to guarantee you get the room you want. You wait, and sure, you may pay a lot less, but you may not get a room you like. That’s the risk you take.

  • CruiseStarter.com

    This could have been avoided by using a competent travel agent. I recently booked a Carnival cruise for a client, and I was sure to explain the differences among the various fares and their benefits/restrictions. Ms. Hernandez’s agency was only looking out for themselves, and not the needs of their client.

  • Grant

    Because she asked. You know, squeaky wheel… etc. I ask for favors and accommodations all the time. Sometimes I don’t get them, but sometimes I do. Hell, I even talked a cop out of writing me a speeding ticket the other day, and as a short, fat, 63-year-old man, it sure wasn’t because of my looks. There’s a lot to be said for a polite, friendly, request. As for the other passengers in her position… ya don’t ask; ya don’t get.

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    How many ways can we say “You get what you pay for”? In the wake of all the problems, Carnival must be paying huge travel agent commissions to book unfortunate/ignorant people on their ships. Unless you’ve been spending the last few years in a cave, how could you even consider taking a cruise on a Carnival ship?

  • DavidYoung2

    Really, why look back? If you’re happy with what you paid at the time of booking, congrats to you. Who cares what somebody else might or might not have paid?

    This sounds like the kind of person with an inferiority complex that always has to ‘win,’ to get a better deal than the next guy or get there first or get a better seat or whatever. If you got a fair price when you booked, hurray for you. Go enjoy your cruise. Quit trying to ‘compare’ yourself against everybody else in gauging your happiness.

    We sailed the Allure two years ago – we paid $5,300 for three in a balcony cabin. My buddy is the brother of a “higher up” officer on the ship. They paid $10/night and stayed in an unsold suite. Guess what – we all had a great time. And as for him getting a $10/night fare — good for him.

    Bottom line – be happy and go enjoy your cruise. What somebody else gets or doesn’t get, pays or doesn’t pay, doesn’t affect you. So if a fellow passenger gets a screaming great deal – congrats to them!

  • sjcruiser36

    I think the passenger was trying to circumvent her group rate, and tried to get the lower rate, which I believe she honestly knew she was not eligible for. I think the travel agent also should have informed her of the booking rules, including the group rate before taking this to Carnival. Most cruisers are aware of the booking strategies used including ES (early saver), PG (past guest), MIL (military), Senior (55+), etc., along with booking during sales, all of which have there pros and cons. I recently booked two cruises on Carnival, both using a PG Family and Friends Event Sale Promo. On the first cruise which has passed, I was able to upgrade my cabin to a higher category, higher deck, once the price dropped, but knew I wouldnt get the difference in OBC, as I didn’t book the ES rate. The upcoming cruise I changed the rate to Military in order to get a better cabin, and the OBC’s, but I paid the price difference to get the cabin I wanted.

    Most average Joe’s are not aware of the booking strategies used by all cruise lines, and thus rely on TA’s to do the leg work. Unless the vacation or cruise is complicated or involve multiple parties, ports, airlines, hotels, etc. Most people are better booking cruises themselves, and then keeping an eye out for price drops, etc., and can call the cruise line directly eliminating the middleman.

  • Michael__K

    With non-refundable plane tickets, you can at least get funny money back if the price drops.

  • Michael__K

    Actually, it’s more like pre-paying for a winter coat the previous spring and then coming to the store to pick it up in the fall and finding that the customers who didn’t pre-pay are getting the same coat at the same time for one-third less.

    Carnival is free to set it’s policies that way of course, and customers are free to express what that says about the company’s priorities.

  • bridgelover

    Because Carnival cruises are a great travel bargain. I went on a 4 night cruise last year for a total of about $500 for two, that’s including taxes and tips. And for that it included meals – either buffet or sit-down, entertainment, swimming, etc. Eating 3 meals a day in a dining room, dancing in clubs at night, watching shows, seeing different ports – I thought it was an amazing deal and would do it again in a heartbeat!

  • DelrayCruiser

    The Early Saver program has been around a long time. Travel agencies should be very aware of the benefits and drawbacks of the program by now. If the Early Saver rates were indeed available at the time of the booking, the guest would’ve received the lowest rate in Carnival’s system at the time, possibly an upgrade within her stateroom type, and assurance of price protection. Since the guest was booked under a group rate, perhaps she received additional amenities the travel agency had on this departure that may have made the group and Early Saver Rate comparable. Either way, Carnival is not obligated to adjust the rate since it could set a precedent for others in the same situation and unfair to those who did purchase under the correct price program.

  • Michael__K

    If you book their “early saver”, you’ll get the benefit of any price drops. If you don’t, you don’t.

    I don’t believe that’s completely accurate either. If you read the terms, you get the benefit of any price drops only for fares that include a confirmed cabin assignment.

    Carnival is free to offer super low fares to last minute passengers without a confirmed cabin assignment, and not pass those price drops along to passengers who paid extra for “early saver” fares when they booked.

  • noah

    I guess if the demand had been really high and the last few tickets were going for twice as much, Hernandez would have been okay with Carnival increasing her rate…

  • Linda

    I totally agree! Always do your due diligence and RESEARCH when spending this much money. Just another cry baby thinking she is special.

  • jmtabb

    …. OK works for me.

    If you book their “early saver”, you’ll get the benefit of any price drops in fares that include a confirmed cabin assignment. If you don’t, you don’t.

    So the OP still doesn’t have have (in my opinion) a valid complaint here, and even if she had booked an “early saver” fare may not have had a valid claim for a credit either.

  • jmtabb

    But, if you ask and the answer is “no”, then what? She got the “no” answer, with a pretty complete explanation even, and wasn’t happy with that.

    Then she got Chris Elliott to ask again and got the same “no” answer and is still unhappy.

    At some point you stop being a friendly squeaky wheel and start being a problem customer….

  • Michael__K

    Right, the references to the “early saver” program are mostly a misleading distraction. The crux of the matter is that Carnival chooses not to provide the kind of price drop protections that many other businesses do. Which is their prerogative of course.

  • John H.

    One lesson here is to never do business with Carnival. They sell price protection? That’s insurance and for the customer, it is betting against himself. Wouldn’t it be less of an income stream and more of a good will program to just say the company will refund
    any low price differences in on-board credits? Sure it would tamper with the line’s profit margin, but considering how it has handled
    maintenance (its ships have been in the news recently, right?), it’s a wonder anyone trusts them at all to even float. Any profit
    should be celebrated by the company in view of the injuries, deaths and chaos its cost cutting policies re maintenance have caused.
    Also, less than a month ago Carnival’s ship Sunshine was turned out after renovations with cabins now working right, water park closed, main swimming pool unfinished thus closed. I would advise cruise customers to look elsewhere for cruise lines that are well managed

  • Michael__K

    Why is it the right thing to provide customers who paid less and who paid later with more than customers who paid more and who who paid earlier? (e.g. people can reserve a suite today for substantially less than the OP paid for a balcony)?

    It’s true that dynamic pricing can open the door to these sort of conundrums. Yet other businesses that use dynamic pricing generally have more consumer-friendly policies for early bookers. Even airlines provide price drop differences back to the customer as a credit towards a future purchase.

    Some businesses are concerned with fostering repeat business from long term happy customers, and some businesses are purely focused on their current-quarter revenue…

  • Lindabator

    Probably not, as that would be 90 days in advance, and this seemed to be a late reduction (sometimes happens)

  • Lindabator

    NOT a couple of days later – she booked in November. And these type of lower last-minute fares are usually after final payment dates (90 days prior) when they find themselves stuck with more inventory than originally scheduled for.

  • Lindabator

    It is NOT the right thing though. They have the option to book this benefit upfront, with more restrictions and a nonrefundable deposit, but she chose to go with fewer restrictions and fully refundable deposit (till final due). Just because she gets buyers remorse later does NOT entitle her to more than she would have been eligible for EVEN if she had taken the more restrictive fare.

  • Lindabator

    But this sounds like one of the last-minute offerings, and whe would have probably already been in penalty at that point.

  • Lindabator

    But six months later is a bit ridiculous!

  • Lindabator

    Actually, it clearly states the deposit is nonrefundable, no changes allowed (in other words, sail or lose). The reason Carnival CAN make that offer is because it rarely happens. THOSE people get the benefit of the lower fare. They paid for it!

  • Lindabator

    Provided that was within the proper time frame, and the rate was NOT restricted to new bookings only, it would probably work. But I have also seen the opposite happen – lower fare is available, BUT if you cancel your booking and rebook, you no longer qualify for that rate, as it is considered a re-book, and outside the terms and conditions of the offer.

  • flutiefan

    you voted NO, which says that Carnival shouldn’t have turned down her request?!? your follow up analogy seems opposite of that. perhaps you mean you voted YES.

  • Michelle

    and THIS is why I should make sure I am wide awake before reading Chris’ column!

  • Lindabator

    Ask any cruise line – they will tell you you are always better to book with a competent agent – we have the better pricing, group rates, added amenities and relationships with the vendor which can ensure the best options. Just wondering what the agent DID do for her, and what she was getting for the group rate, that she is now looking for a lower rate.

  • sirwired

    Repricing the entire ship (and issuing massive credits and refunds) in order to unload some empty cabins at the last minute is not a sustainable practice.

    And there was a “price protection” fare available. (Just like there are airline fares that provide price protection. Not all do.) That’s not the one she purchased. She bought one with no-fee changes and a refundable deposit instead.

  • Lindabator

    My thoughts, too. IS this a special group travelling together, so she opted for the group rate/amenities, or was this a great bargain at the time only offered through the agency (again with nice amenities?)

  • Eileen

    This is another one of those times where they were not obligated to do anything. But a CSR worth half their salt would have found SOME way to help appease the situation. Upgrade their room, give them an on-board cash GC, SOMETHING. It wouldn’t have even had to be for the whole difference, but SOMETHING. She would have come away from the transaction saying, “you know? They took the time to listen and at least tried to make it right.” Now they have to defend their dirty laundry all over the internet. Sometimes, going beyond what you are required to do can help.

  • Lindabator

    Actually, they offer it for those who CALL constantly looking to see if there is a lower fare – gets those PITAs off their lines, and gives those guests peace of mind. And obviously, since they DO offer it, do you REALLY think this situation comes up often? NOT!

  • flutiefan

    i’ve taken 3 Carnival cruises over the past few years, and never found a problem with any of them. to each his own, i guess.

  • flutiefan

    LOL no worries, i was just confused!

  • flutiefan

    “Even airlines provide price drop differences back to the customer as a credit towards a future purchase.”
    i can think of only 1 airline that does this (SWA). don’t the rest make you rebook your ticket, less a “change fee”, even if the price drops?

  • flutiefan

    indeed, this does sound like a special group trip that’ll be on that particular ship with special events/amenities, and she found a discount fare for the same boat/date on a website.
    a few years ago, i went on a sports team’s “fan cruise”, which was not exactly cheap. i saw online that the same cruise, same cabin class, was going for much less than i’d paid. however, that rate was not part of my Team’s event, and i wouldn’t have been able to attend the special parties, nor received the gift bags and goodie baskets, nor been anywhere near the players, coaches, and other fans.

    i paid more because i got the Fan experience, and the cheaper rate would not have allowed me to gain entrance to any of those things.

  • Michael__K

    When the price drop is more than 5x the change fee, that can be a valuable option for the customer. It’s certainly more generous than Carnival’s policy here.

  • Michael__K

    You claim this is unsustainable, and yet if I’m reading correctly many companies did this until quite recently and some (e.g. Princess — same parent company ironically) still do.


    And if “price protection” was really a matter of “pay $x more and we will credit you for any price drops” that would be easy to understand and make sense.

    But this “early saver” “price protection” sounds like a lousy deal — you pay the $x more up front, yet you still stand to get absolutely nothing if Carnival slashes prices — unless they also drop the price for fares with confirmed cabin assignments.

  • Rebecca

    As Carnival told the OP, they can’t make an exception for her without doing the same for everyone else. By the OP’s logic, any time an item drops in price, the business should refund the customer the difference, indefinitely. That just simply isn’t a working business model.

  • sirwired

    That same website points out that “new bookings only” fares (applies to virtually all last-minute sales) cannot be matched/applied to existing bookings. (Nor can you cancel and re-book…)

  • emanon256

    I actually liked the crystal ball comment. I thought it was a nice humorous personal touch to show they got a real person and not someone in an overseas call center providing a form response.

  • Michael__K

    Actually, the example they use is a one or two day “promotional ‘WOW’ fare.”

    I have no idea what percentage of last-minute sales fit that mold (and such sales certainly wouldn’t be protected by “early saver ‘price protection'” either), but it doesn’t appear that the OP was quoting a transient last minute sale promotion. All future 8-day Eastern Carribean cruises that I see have substantially lower balcony fares than what she paid.

  • Michael__K

    They could have policies that are more friendly to everyone who pays early (like some other businesses — including competitors of theirs — do).

  • Frosty

    This sounds like the most expensive Carnival Cruise ever. Most times you can find week long cruises for under $1000 per cabin. Who in their right mind would pay over $3000. This is a case where she should have done a bit of research. Too little too late.

  • PsyGuy

    Because they aren’t $100 bills its OBC, what’s a couple hundred in OBC get you, a massage and a couple premium drinks?

  • Cybrsk8r

    Hmmm, it sounds like her TA dropped the ball. You’d think a professional TA would have known about that “Early Saver” program. Apparently, this TA didn’t. And since this is the main reason you would book thru a TA, you’d expect them not to make a mistake like that, it makes it pointless to book your travel with a “professional”. I’m sure she won’t be booking any more travel thru that TA.

  • Ian Parrish

    Yeah, no sympathy here for the OP. I give the Cruise Line a lot of credit for writing an honest, straightforward response.

    The flip side to look at this, is well, what if the cruise line didn’t get enough bookings? Could they just shorten the cruise for a day after accepting everyone’s money to make up for it? The OP and the cruise line agreed to a contract. As long as they deliver the cruise that was offered, there’s nothing to mediate here.

  • EdB

    It has been talked about on here before and if I remember right, in most of those contracts, the ship doesn’t have to go where you originally booked. And no refunds if they don’t.

  • Maggie

    I booked with Carnival too, but not with super saver. However, I did get a recent price adjustment as I noticed the price went down before my final payment and I had a refundable deposit. The price just went down again, but that’s life and I don’t obsess about it. I can’t adjust it now, so win some, lose some! It won’t affect the enjoyment of my cruise. One never knows what prices will do on cruises or flights or packaged holidays. Sometimes it’s best not to keep on checking prices!

  • MarkKelling

    Sure, I can find week long cruises for $600. But that is an inside cabin without even a porthole. The OP booked a balcony cabin. Those are always more expensive. What was paid is within normal ranges.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Problem with “because she asked” is there are plenty of other customers who didn’t ask and would never ask in a situation like this. And bending to everybody who does ask is basically a stick in the eye to all those good customers who understand that not every purchase contains a price match guarantee.

    Good customer service is sort of an art. You need to know when to make exceptions to rules, but you also need to know when to stick to the rules to keep things the fairest possible for everybody involved. At some point, the answer is going to be “no.” If you can clearly define where that line is, then customers better understand the rationale. Make too many exceptions and the guy told “no” has a more legitimate beef because he knows you’d caved to somebody in almost his identical situation before. Then, the decision seems arbitrary.

  • Cat

    I wonder if she looked around any of the internet cruise deal sites? That was not a good deal and I am surprised the travel agent didn’t find a better price/cruise. But this happens with so many things, cars, flights,- even clothes.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    “I won’t give you the thing of value that you want, but here’s something worthless instead. Now, we can all be happy!”

    Is that really better than a clear policy that the company can defend and sticks to? These things remind me of kids throwing a fit at the store when mom won’t buy them the cool toy they really want, so she caves and gets them some piece of junk at the checkout to appease them. It’d be better for everybody if they just learned that sometimes the answer is “no.”

  • bodega3

    The type of cabin and the location affect the price. A week long cruise for $500 per person is not going to be a cabin with a balcony. I have and will pay that ‘kind of price’ for a nice cabin, but it won’t be on any Carnival ship!

  • bodega3

    I am guessing the her travel agency was found online.

  • Liza

    “What’s more upsetting than writing e-mails to Carnival Cruise Lines and not getting responses?”

  • James Orth

    OBC is money that did not come out of your pocket that is spent for goods and service aboard ship, I guess the cruise co. can just go to their Fairy godmother for those funds. You sound like Kramer on the old Sienfeld show “they just write it off”

  • EdB

    You have to remember that the item you pay $100 for on board did not cost the cruise line that much. While it may be $100 for you, it was less than that for the cruise line. How much less depends on the item itself.

  • James Orth

    Agreed, what you pay for anything is a combination of what the cost of the item or service is + profit. Cost is more than the raw materials in a drink or what is paid to an employee performing a service. There costs associated with delivering those goods or services. Lastly investors expect to make a profit on their investment. My maternal Grandmother owned a butcher shop in Chicago put it best when she once told a customer “I am not here for glory,this is not a charity I am running here.” FYI The reason they finally closed the store was because They wanted to retire.

  • TonyA_says

    Sorry Chris, I have read the article and most of the comments; but the title of your article should really be – “Apparently with Travel Agencies, the passenger does not always come first”.

    My understanding of the OP’s problem is she wanted a longer term price protection (up to 2 days prior to sailing) but she wasn’t sold a fare or rate that offered it. Most Carnival fares offers a 48 hour Lowest Price Guarantee. But Carnival’s Early Saver offers much longer price protection for as long as you are NOT booked on the following programs: Super Saver, Instant Saver or any other program that does not allow cabin selection at the time of booking.

    By booking her on a group rate, she lost most of the basic price drop protection that Carnival offered. So this sounds like a travel agent malfunction to me. She would have done better booking the cruise directly with Carnival, in my opinion.
    Lesson: Choose your travel agent well.

  • jim6555

    I voted no but now I’m having second thoughts about my decision. There was a time in the recent past when the price of fuel increased greatly and Carnival started imposing fuel surcharges on passengers who had already purchased and paid for their tickets. To me, there is something very wrong with a contract that gives the cruise line the right to demand additional payments from paying passengers but does not allow passengers to receive a rebate when the price of a cruise goes down.

  • bodega3

    I have noticed that how this reservation was made isn’t mentioned. Was this done online? Was it initially found online and then booked over the phone with an agent? It does make a difference, My guess, since the OP was surfing the web that the original reservation wasn’t made over the phone, where she could have asked this questions initially. Without knowing how this was booked, it is unfair to place blame on ‘her agent’ when the OP may never have spoken on one until she wanted the reservation adjusted. Why are we not told how this reservation was first made?

  • TonyA_says

    The article said her travel agent FOUND the fare, not her.
    She also said she was trying to get the refund (price difference) THROUGH the agent or agency.
    I think it is synonymous for a travel agent finding a great bulk airline fare and pushing it to the pax without realizing the pax did not want the restrictions.

  • bodega3

    A lot of the online cruise agencies are in FL. Some, if you go to their website, have ‘an agent’ who will work with you to get the booking done. I am not clear on if the OP shopped online, then called or shopping online using one of ‘the agents, or actually has a TA and uses that TA regularly. For online cruise agencies, most of their cruises are group rates with OBC’s. If the OP has used this agent before, why was the OP shopping online later? I bet the OP found the agent and price online and kept on checking to make sure their price was ‘the best’.

  • TonyA_says

    I think you are trying to differentiate TYPES of travel agents.

    That is not easy to do for customers unless they have one who is a personal concierge. For most people as long as they are talking to a live person, they consider them travel agents.

    Back to this specific problem. She said she had a 7 day Caribbean cruise. Early Saver should be 5 months in advanced. So unless she booked that early, there is no Early Saver option for her.

    We don’t know what program she booked on. But chances are it wasn’t Super Saver since it seems she was able to choose her cabin. So I think she bought one of the Fun Select packages and then a month or so before sailing Carnival put out some Instant Saver Fares that were very low. Hence, her complaint.

    In the above scenario, there is nothing a travel agent can do. But if it was 5 months prior sailing then the Early Saver would have been a good idea. What I noticed is that the travel agent probably did not do a good job explaining price protections with Carnival. Had it been clear, there was no reason for her to even write Carnival.

    I really do not want deal with these kinds of issues so I do not research cruises.

  • bodega3

    Yes, I am pointing out the face that how and who you book with can affect the price you will get. Chris asked, where all options presented? They don’t have to be and they won’t be if you are going for price only.

  • TonyA_says

    LOL. Most would-be travelers think I am crazy when I try to explain things BEFORE they buy. Then they get into problems and ask why. By that time they want to listen to me :)

    But you are right about bottom of the bucket agencies. It’s all about price.

  • Ann Bartholomew

    Actually, we as TAs are supposed to ‘scour the internet’. And sometimes the ‘best deal’ is not all it’s cracked up to be. But we have preferred suppliers, and if I book with them on a regular basis, I can usually ask for things like OBC that can’t be matched by the internet. And when something goes wrong, Expedia won’t book you a new flight, or find a hotel.

  • Lindabator

    they do – you either get the lowest fare available immediately, or PAY MORE for the price guarantee. she made a decision, and now doesn’t want to have to live with it.

  • Lindabator

    but she had a GROUP rate – she probably wanted all the amenities that went with it, and just got buyer’s remorse when the time got closer, and she saw lower rates she would not get any of those amenities on

  • Puck2u

    I understand both sides of this. Carnival is already taking a whooping from all there disasters. When we cruised we’ve ended up at a table or event where if price paid came up some had amazing prices high or low. Right now I would bet Carnival’s bookings are down, way way down. Some of their “employees” are barely paid so survive on tips. No passengers no tips. Other side is ship board purchases have to be lucrative just like baggage on airlines. Perhaps Carnival could have just given them a freebee like a message to soothe away their pains. The most enjoyable cruises for us has been on smaller ships of a few hundred with unusual ports of call. Super ships have little to no appeal.

  • Lindabator

    She says this was a group rate – those are not always the least expensive, as there are certain amenities which go hand-in-hand with them

  • Lindabator

    UNLESS she chose that group option for a reason, and then did not like that the fare was higher in that case (they can sometimes be, as there are added amenities only the group gets)

  • TonyA_says

    He he, cheap price, what else? Now she is regretting since she saw a cheaper price.
    I’m sure you met many of this kind of customer :)

  • Michael__K

    No, a) she used a travel agent who apparently made the decision for her without her knowledge.

    And b) the price guarantee terms have a huge loophole. The carrier can simply slash all their fares that don’t include confirmed cabin assignments to fill up the ship, and no one gets a dime.

  • Lindabator

    you know it! HAHA

  • JW

    Carnival has a hideous reputation and it was duly earned.

    We have sailed on several lines and have reached Elite status on Celebrity. Nobody is perfect, but they seem to try harder to correct errors and accommodate clients.

    case 1 – We early-booked a Norway cruise last year and 3 months later the advertised price dropped. We were re-booked through our on-line travel agent at the lower price. The discount package was different from the original, but the overall price was very much lower.

    case 2 – We (2 couples) arrived to check-in last March at San Diego bound for Hawaii. Celebrity’s on-line records indicated a different balance due for each couple, although our booking and payments were identical. We had on-line confirmations and receipts indicating paid-in-full. The problem seemed to be caused by a 3rd party discount promotion. The staff was insistent that we sign a voucher for the balance before we were allowed to board. We were extremely upset at this policy of detaining us and embarrassing us at check-in. However, much to our satisfaction, the Hotel Director corrected the situation well within 24 hours and offered us numerous apologies and a free dinner with wine in the extra-cost restaurant. Celebrity is obviously a classier operation and allows their staff to do the right thing. We will stick with Celebrity Cruises.

  • pauletteb

    “…the other thousands that are having the same problem?” Yup, sounds like Carnival. I doubt whether many of those “other thousands” will book another cruise on Carnival and will advise their friends/family/acquaintances to avoid the line as well. Carnival’s management must believe there’s a bottomless ocean of suckers.

  • bob bear

    From my experience you were very lucky, Celebrity and RCL are very reluctant to do anything, maybe an up grade if available!

  • bob bear

    At least Carnival offers a package to get a lower price, none of the other lines we’ve cruised on didn’t care one bit, its the ‘sorry, you’re out of luck’ attitude!
    So we give no loyalty back, we buy what we want at the price we want with zero loyalty, and we never spend an extra dime on the ships as in excursions, etc.!