Can a cruise line cancel a sailing because of lack of interest? Can it rebook you on the next available cruise, but charge you more?
Walter Jacoby wants to know, because it happened to him.
I won’t keep you in suspense with the answer. Yes, a cruise line can do that because of its one-sided adhesion contract, which passengers like Jacoby agree to when they book a vacation. But just because it can doesn’t make it right.
So should our advocates step in and help him?
Jacoby paid $30,000 for four passengers on a Romance of the Rhine and Moselle itinerary on Grand Circle Cruise Line. It was a 14-day sailing, plus a 7-day land extension — a real adventure of a lifetime. “We also bought the insurance and airfare through them,” he says.
“Last week, I received a call that it was canceled by them,” he adds. “The reason given was not enough passengers on this trip date.”
Can Grand Circle do that? Absolutely. Check out section 9 of its terms and conditions.
b) Additionally, Company may, for any reason, without prior notice, cancel a cruise; deviate from the scheduled ports of call, route and timetable; call or omit to call at any port or place or cancel or modify any activity on or off the vessel; comply with all governmental laws and orders given by governmental authorities; render assistance to preserve life and property; or change the date or time of sailing or arrival, change the port of embarkation or disembarkation, shorten the cruise or substitute a vessel or other transportation or lodging. Company is not responsible for any losses you may incur as a result of such cancellations or deviations.
Company, at its option, may substitute accommodations of an equal or superior class or provide a full refund of the fare actually paid by you for such cruise, or substitute accommodations of a lower class and provide a refund of the difference, if any, between the booked class and the substitute class for such cruise, but Company shall not incur any other liability for failure to provide the reserved berth. Any partial refunds shall be calculated in accordance with the Company’s typical business practices.
If you want to see what an adhesion contract looks like, scroll up to see the terms that apply to your cancellation.
“They said the next available same trip was in September,” he says. “We were agreeable to this until we were told we would have no price protection and would pay thousands more for the same trip previously booked.”
Jacoby protested. After all, he’d paid for the whole cruise and had even purchased insurance.
“They refused to do anything more for us except give our money back to us. This just seemed so wrong and also poor business relations,” he says.
Jacoby wants us to pressure Grand Circle to honor his original price. That would seem like a fair resolution, but is it? Remember, there are individual components over which the cruise line has no control, like airfare and hotel accommodations. He is effectively asking Grand Circle to cover those as a penalty for canceling his cruise.
The real problem, as I see it, is that Grand Circle accepted his money and then canceled the cruise. It did that because it couldn’t sell enough berths, which is not Jacoby’s problem.
So what’s a fair resolution? While Grand Circle issued a refund, I think it should have offered a future cruise at no additional cost. Consider that for nearly a year, the company had been holding Jacoby’s money, and he had blocked off an entire month for the trip. Now, because of its failed business initiatives, Grand Circle says he should uproot his life to travel at a different time, and pay the cost difference between the original cruise and the new one. The company should also refund the premiums for his travel insurance.
At this point, a discount off a future cruise might offset some of Jacoby’s anger, although there’s no telling. If I’d just had my dream vacation canceled, I wouldn’t be so understanding.