Kelli Schultz wants our help, but she also wants everyone to know what Carnival has done to her.
I can’t help with the first one, but I can definitely do something about the second.
What happened to her? Schultz and about 2,000 other passengers on the Carnival Fantasy didn’t get the vacation they’d booked.
“They notified us late the night before our cruise of ship problems, and changed our itinerary from Mexico to Nassau,” she says. “That’s a much cheaper vacation and one we were not interested in.”
That wasn’t the only thing that left her with a sinking feeling about her cruise vacation. The Fantasy wasn’t just rerouted; it was also delayed.
They held 2,000 people in the cruise terminal with no food or water, waiting for a ship that didn’t show until after 9 p.m. People were calling Carnival’s customer service complaining, but they were not understanding or accountable.
They told us they were only authorized by their corporate office to issue us all $50 on board ship credit and 25 percent off a future cruise.
I didn’t get on the ship until after 10 p.m. so I lost that day. Then we went somewhere I didn’t want to go as we had already flown into Miami and had no other plans.
I believe they’re crooks and taking money from people who have no choice. The ship we were on (still not fixed) was loading new passengers later in the day after we disembarked. The ship was supposed to be in dry dock before our cruise, so how it had mechanical issues I’m not sure.
Schultz says that a better resolution would be a $150 refund to cover the missed vacation day. She wants to secure the money for her and the 2,000 other passengers on the Fantasy.
“They made us feel like we should have been appreciative they were still taking us somewhere we didn’t want to go, knowing full well we were unable to cancel due to their last minute notification of our itinerary change and ship problem,” she says.
Unfortunately, that kind of a refund en masse is, well … a fantasy.
Would the cruise “bill of rights” have helped in a situation like this? Probably not. As you’ll recall, the cruise industry voluntarily adopted a bill in 2013, presumably to avoid almost-certain government regulation.
Among the provisions:
- You have the right to disembark a docked ship if essential provisions such as food, water, restroom facilities, and access to medical care can’t “adequately be provided onboard.”
- You have the right to a full refund for a trip that is canceled because of a mechanical failure, or a partial refund for voyages that are terminated early.
- You have the right to “professional emergency medical attention” onboard.
- You have the right to timely information updates regarding any adjustments in the itinerary of the ship in the event of a mechanical failure or emergency.
- You have the right to transportation to the ship’s scheduled port of disembarkation, or your home city, in the event a cruise is terminated early because of mechanical failures.
- You have the right to lodging if disembarkation and an overnight stay in an unscheduled port are required when a cruise is terminated early because of mechanical failures.
Alas, Carnival’s ticket contract – the legal agreement between Schultz and the cruise line, leaves no doubt about her rights. Simply put, she has none. Carnival reserves the right to “omit or change any or all port calls, arrival or departure times, with or without consent, for any reason whatsoever.”
It’s a gorgeous adhesion contract. A hat tip to the Carnival lawyers for stripping away every single one of Schultz’ rights with the efficiency of a Las Vegas showgirl.
Speaking of lawyers, her implication that this might be a class action lawsuit is problematic, to say the least. Sure, all 2,000 passengers were inconvenienced by the schedule change, but technically, they signed the one-sided ticket contract when they purchased their tickets. Even the craziest maritime lawyer (and I know a few) wouldn’t touch this case.
And even if there were a provision within Carnival’s ticket contract to refund passengers for schedule changes, it’s unlikely they would compensate a passenger like Schultz for a missed vacation day. Doing that opens the door to a lot of “lost time” claims; doing it for 2,000 passengers is a reportable offense on your next quarterly earnings report.
It’s a shame passengers have to surrender so many of their rights to take a cruise. I’m not sure how thoughtful regulation could solve this problem, but maybe it’s worth a try.