If your plans change and you have to cancel your cruise at the last minute, the cruise line keeps your money and you get nothing. But if your cruise line’s plans change at the last minute, it still gets to keep your money — and you still get nothing.
That’s an odd concept for people who don’t work in the travel industry, and it’s one Daniel Couillard is trying to wrap his head around.
“My wife and I just recently returned from our honeymoon aboard the Carnival Liberty,” he says. “We were disappointed when we learned aboard the ship that the Liberty would not be making its scheduled stop in Cozumel.”
Why was he disappointed? He doesn’t say. It’s his honeymoon. Presumably, he wanted to do whatever newlyweds do in Cozumel. I’ll say no more. This is a family publication.
Couillard isn’t going to like my answer, and he’s probably going to think I’m an industry shill. But here it goes anyway: Carnival can change its plans, but he can’t. That’s the way it goes.
I’m telling his story today because I want people like Couillard to find out about these industry double standards before they cast off — not halfway through their dream vacation. Missing a port of call feels like a betrayal (“But Cozumel was on the itinerary!”) Finding out the cruise line is going to get away with it adds insult to injury.
The crew blamed the missed port on “broken bow thrusters” and “high winds.” But there was more to the story.
“We were dismayed when we learned the Liberty missed its stop in Cozumel for the exact same reason the week before,” says Couillard.
And that’s the thing. The couple thought they were sailing to Cozumel. “We had essentially booked this cruise only for the stop in Cozumel and were very upset that Carnival had not been forthcoming about likely issues we would encounter,” he says. “The entire crew then pretended to be surprised that we would not be going on to Cozumel, as if this had not just happened the week before.”
The Couillards received a $100 onboard credit for the “inconvenience” but it did not nearly make up for the missed port, he says. He’d like $400 in real money for the skipped port.
“I will not have vacation time again for over a year so that is why the missed stop was even more disappointing,” he adds. ” I contacted Carnival about resolving the situation but was only met with hostility. Do we have any recourse at all?”
Let me be blunt: no.
Carnival’s ticket contract — the one-way adhesion agreement between the cruise line and passenger — is crystal clear on this issue:
The Vessel shall be entitled to leave and enter ports with or without pilots or tugs, to tow and assist other vessels in any circumstances, to return to or enter any port at the Master’s discretion and for any purpose, and to deviate in any direction or for any purpose from the direct or usual course, and to omit or change any or all port calls, arrival or departure times, with or without notice, for any reason whatsoever, including but not limited to safety, security, adverse weather, strikes, tides, hostilities, civil unrest, port closings, emergency debarkations of Guests or crew, late air, sea, car or motor coach departures or arrivals, mechanical breakdowns, US or foreign governmental advisories or travel warnings, all such deviations being considered as forming part of and included in the proposed voyage.
Except as provided in Clause 7(c) with regard to early termination of a voyage, Carnival shall have no liability for any compensation or other damages in such circumstances other than as provided by Carnival’s change of itinerary policy at the time Guest or his agent acknowledges receipt and acceptance of the terms and conditions of the cruise ticket contract.
Blah, blah, blah. You get the point. Carnival can do whatever it wants. It doesn’t even have to offer an implausible excuse. It can just skip the port.
The $100 voucher was nice, but will it really make up for the snorkeling trip the Couillards will miss? For the romantic walk on the beach? Can it make up for the feeling of betrayal, the sense that they were lied to? (I mean, bear in mind, Carnival advertised this as a cruise that stopped in Cozumel. It didn’t deliver.)
Carnival seems to think the answer is “yes.” Do you?