Hey, what’s your hurry?

The road to Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii’s Big Island. / Photo by Christopher Elliott
I don’t know what I was thinking when I tried to drive 1,100 miles in a straight shot.
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I’ve fallen and I can’t get a refund for my cruise

Question: My partner and I were recently booked on a cruise to the Caribbean through Carnival Cruise Lines. It was to be our first cruise and we were so excited. Unfortunately, we had some extremely bad luck. We flew to Miami two days early to spend some time there before the cruise. That first evening, I slipped and fell on some wet plywood that had been placed in a public park.

I broke my tibial plateau into several pieces — an injury that required immediate surgery. So we had to cancel the cruise and fly home.

We had booked the cruise through an online travel agent and they advised us that we would need to write Carnival a letter explaining the circumstances and inquiring about rescheduling the cruise or getting a refund. We did that in early May. We just found out that Carnival has decided to award us half our money back in shipboard credits if we book another cruise with them.

I find this “resolution” utterly unacceptable. I find it inconceivable that a company would willingly alienate a customer. We are not asking for special treatment; we just want to go on the vacation that we paid for. Can you help Carnival realize the error of its ways? — Jeff Allen, Denver

Answer: Ouch. It sounds like you took a painful fall in Miami, and Carnival’s response only added insult to an agonizing injury. In a perfect world, the cruise line would have offered you either a full refund or a redo of your cruise.

Unfortunately, it’s not a perfect world.
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Accidental tourist? Tips for maximizing happy coincidences — and avoiding the bad ones

Accidents happen when you travel.

The bad accidents — the fender-benders, the missed airline connections the unfortunate food-borne illnesses — are the ones that come to mind first, of course.

Here’s one from Cindy Barthi, a hotel reservationist from San Clemente, Calif. When she returned to the Esmeralda Renaissance hotel, after a fun weekend in Palm Springs, Calif., she suspected something was wrong.

“The valet attendants had some very sad faces as we approached them with our claim check,” she says. “The general manager met us and this is what he showed us: A palm tree had come down on our car during the winds.”

Oops. Good thing Barthi wasn’t in the car.
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Double-billed on a Bermuda cruise – but do I still have to pay?

Sonalika Rungta’s recent Bermuda cruise on the Norwegian Gem was hardly a treasured memory. At the end of her vacation, NCL presented her with two bills: one for the cabin she’d bought through a travel agency and another for the stateroom she accidentally bought through the cruise line’s Web site. Does she have to pay both?

Rungta asked me after NCL billed her for both rooms, even though she just used one.

I booked the cruise with Vacations To Go. They gave me quote for an inside cabin for one person (it was just me traveling).

I confirmed with them.

I had also asked Norwegian Cruise Lines for a quote for a ocean view cabin. When I was registering online (printing the edocs) the quote for the ocean view cabin was accidentally confirmed. I gave them my credit card number. I thought it was asking the number for purchases on board the ship.

When she boarded, an NCL representative told her she had two reservation. She was assured she’d only be charged for one.

But that didn’t happen. After returning, NCL charged her for both rooms.

I asked NCL about the case.

A company representative suggested Rungta’s account was problematic.

In researching this with our automation department we found that registering on our Web site and printing the edocs would not create a booking. She made the first booking on ncl.com and paid for it. She then booked with vacations to go at a lower price, but also a lower category stateroom

The company sent Rungta the following response.

Thank you for your recent letter. We appreciate you choosing the M/S Norwegian Gem for your vacation at sea.

We are very sorry to learn of the problems that you encountered with your reservation for your recent cruise. Our review of booking number 16058282, stateroom number 8096, oceanview stateroom, indicates that this was booked on NCL.com at 12:38pm on November 23, 2008 and payment made in full of $1478.94 on a credit card. An email confirmation was also sent to your email address confirming the reservation.

At 1:23pm also on November 23, 2008 reservation number 16058334, stateroom number 11147, inside stateroom was made with Vacations To Go and full payment also made of $1279.94. Our records indicate that you sailed in stateroom 8096, as both reservations were active and never cancelled we are unable to honor your request for a refund.

Thank you for offering us the opportunity to address your concerns. We do value your business and hope that you will consider a Norwegian Cruise Line sailing in the near future.

I’m disappointed by that answer. If a NCL representative told Rungta that she wouldn’t be billed for a second room, then the company should stand behind that promise.

I think the next step would be a dispute of the credit card charges, and, failing that, a visit to a maritime court to recover her $1,279.

Interestingly, this was Rungta’s first cruise. I’d be willing to bet it’s her last.

Note: Because of a technical problem, the comments on this post were disabled for several days. I’ve enabled them. My apologies to those of you who wanted to leave a comment but couldn’t.