Donna Peacock has a simple question for us today: Why won’t cruise lines offer credit for passengers whose plans change?
It’s a perfectly valid thing to ask. Unfortunately, the answer is: Because they don’t have to. But more on that in a second.
Peacock had to cancel her cruise under difficult circumstances. She and her partner had planned a cruise this month, when her partner’s mother suffered a massive stroke.
“We did not purchase insurance,” she says. “We did not want to cancel the trip — we just wanted to reschedule.”
I can already hear some of you saying:
- “She should have used a travel agent.”
- “She should have bought insurance.”
- “She should have read the cruise contract.”
Truth is, we don’t know if she used an agent (we’re still waiting for the paper trail). We also don’t know if insurance would have covered her (remember, it was her partner’s mother). And how many people actually bother to read NCL’s ticket contract?
Unless you’re a lawyer or a consumer advocate, you probably don’t bother reading one-sided, “take-it-or-leave-it” adhesion contracts.
It doesn’t really matter. Section 15, which deals with cancellations, appears to be written in the Martian language. At least, after reviewing it, you couldn’t be blamed for thinking it was online cancellation policy, written in English by Martians.
My point is, if she was a cruise newbie and didn’t have a qualified travel agent, it was probably fair for her to assume that she could cancel her cruise and receive a credit. You can do that with most other travel products. But that assumption proved to be dead wrong.
Peacock offered to pay a rebooking fee. NCL said no.
I tried to emphasize the fact that we did not want to cancel, but simply rebook because I understand if we canceled then we should lose our money.
I believed — and still do — that the insurance is for cancellations, not for those who want to change dates due to an emergency.
I also told them that I could provide any documentation necessary so they would know we are not lying.
Peacock canceled the cruise as her partner’s mother deteriorated to the point that she has been admitted to hospice.
“Her time is short,” she says.
She hopes I can persuade NCL to either offer a cruise credit or to refund the $1,600 she spent on the vacation she and her partner had to cancel.
“We would love to be able to reschedule our cruise for a later date. At this time our ‘Mom’ is in hospice and her time is short so we were really hoping to take some time in late April for a cruise.”
“We are hoping maybe you could help us get some sort of satisfaction regarding this matter,” she adds. “Please let me know if you think you can help us.”
And I want to help. If I jump in, I’ll probably get an earful from the cruise industry apologists, who will tell me “rules are rules.” Save it, folks. I’ve heard it all before.
The real trick would be persuading NCL to bend a rule for this couple. I think it all hinges on this clause from NCL’s BookSafe insurance policy:
We will pay a Pre-Departure Trip Cancellation Benefit, up to the amount in the Schedule if you are prevented from taking your Covered Cruise Vacation due to your, an Immediate Family Member’s, Traveling Companion’s, or Business Partner’s Sickness, Injury or death or Other Covered Events as defined, that occur(s) before departure on your Covered Cruise Vacation.
I would interpret that to mean that even if Peacock had been insured, the cruise line would have still kept her money. After all, it was her partner’s mother, not hers, who’d had a stroke. But one of our advocates notes that a different part of the contract seems to suggest that she would be covered.
Like I said, Martians.
And big picture: Cruise lines really should offer passengers like this credit, in my opinion. It’s the right thing to do.