Steven and Karen Marinoff had a cruise to remember — until it was time to go home. That’s the part of their vacation they’d like to forget. Norwegian’s handling of their problem is making it impossible for them to do so.
The Marinoffs were sailing on a Baltic Sea cruise operated by Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL). All was going smoothly until the ship docked in Stockholm, where it developed engine problems that prevented it from leaving the port for eight hours. The delay resulted in the Marinoffs and other passengers not being able to get to the airport in Copenhagen, Denmark, in time to catch their return flights.
NCL offered the passengers some compensation, but the Marinoffs don’t think it’s enough. Are they entitled to anything else from NCL for their troubles? Or are the extra costs incurred by the Marinoffs to get home sunk costs?
According to the Marinoffs, when the ship’s crew announced the delay, “chaos ensued as everyone was in a panic regarding what to do”:
There was confusion and frustration on board. The ship’s staff seemed ill-equipped to handle the chaos. Communications for those trying to rebook flights was inadequate. Even the captain of the ship said his job was to run the ship, not handle situations like this.
A few computers were set up in a room, but they were slow and had poor connections. Passengers had to wait in line for hours just to use them.
Most questions couldn’t be answered by the staff, and we were told to contact customer relations in Miami about many of our issues. At the final port, we were given a letter stating we would be reimbursed $300 per person to change our tickets and $250 to pay for a hotel room if required.
But this is a far cry from what the Marinoffs actually spent. The Marinoffs incurred $4,483 in extra expenses as a result of the delay, including the cost of two new one-way air tickets on Icelandair back to Kennedy Airport in New York. (They had used Expedia to book their original flights on Icelandair, but Expedia was not able to find them another flight on Icelandair for two days.)
Their costs also included hotel rooms for an extra evening, transportation to the Copenhagen airport, cab fare, parking, and telephone charges. Although they had travel insurance with Aon, their coverage was only $500 per person.
The Marinoffs filed a claim via certified mail with NCL’s customer service department and provided copies of their receipts, but two months went by without any response from NCL.
As the Marinoffs had used a travel agency, Pavlus Travel, to book the cruise, they asked Pavlus for assistance in recovering more compensation. After Steven Marinoff emailed various executives of NCL for assistance, NCL sent the following response to Pavlus:
Thank you for choosing the Norwegian Star for your clients’ recent vacation at sea.
As you may know, the Norwegian Star experienced a technical issue with the engine’s electronic system that has since been repaired. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience that the ship’s delayed departure from Stockholm may have caused your clients, which in turn forced us to change our arrival time into Copenhagen.
Please note that under the terms and conditions of our Contract of Passage, Norwegian Cruise Line in its sole discretion may cancel, postpone or delay any port of call without prior notification. While every effort is made to adhere to the published schedule, there are those instances that necessitate change. Please be assured that, although we reserve the right to alter the itinerary at our discretion, as stated in our Passenger Ticket Contract, any changes are carefully considered.
Upon review of their receipts for your additional expenses, we have requested a check in the amount of $850 on your behalf from our accounting department. This amount corresponds to the $300 per person maximum for airfare fees, and $250 per stateroom for hotel expenses as offered onboard. The check will be forwarded to them under separate cover to the address on file within 20 – 30 business days.
Per their reservation our records show that they purchased our travel protection with Aon, Ltd. in which you can also file a claim…
We hope that aside from this situation, your clients’ found other aspects of their cruise enjoyable and trust this will not deter them from accepting our invitation to sail again with us. It would be our pleasure to welcome them back onboard any one of our vessels soon.
Steven Marinoff then contacted our advocacy team, who advised him to post about his case in our forum. The forum advocates advised him to use our executive contacts to request additional compensation from NCL.
The Marinoffs have received the check for $850 from NCL as well as an additional $350 as a “goodwill gesture.” But they’re still out $3,000.
As Pavlus only booked their cruise, not their air or hotel expenses, it is unable to provide further assistance to the Marinoffs. We aren’t sure we can either.
NCL’s guest ticket contract holds that
Itinerary Deviation: The Guest agrees that the Carrier has the sole discretion and liberty to direct the movements of the vessel, including the rights to: proceed without pilots and tow, and assist other vessels in all situations; deviate from the purchased voyage or the normal course for any purpose, including, without limitation, in the interest of Guests or of the vessel, or to save life or property; put in at any unscheduled or unadvertised port; cancel any scheduled call at any port for any reason and at any time before, during or after sailing of the vessel; omit, advance or delay landing at any scheduled or advertised port; return to port of embarkation or to any port previously visited if the Carrier deems it prudent to do so; substitute another vessel or port(s) of call without prior notice and without incurring any liability to the Guest on account thereof for any loss, damage or delay whatsoever, whether consequential or otherwise.
This language disclaims any liability on NCL’s part for the delay in disembarkation at Stockholm and the resulting expenses to the passengers. So its refusal to provide more compensation to the Marinoffs beyond the $850 it has already offered them is consistent with this provision.
The Marinoffs are considering legal action against NCL. That may be the only way they can recover any more of their costs. Unfortunately, their case seems to be a situation in which they are left high and dry through no fault of their own.