BOARDING

Kicked off my cruise for getting sick

carnival ecstasyQuestion: We were recently scheduled to sail on a seven-day Carnival cruise to Mexico. A few minutes after we boarded in Long Beach, Calif., I had horrible kidney pains. I couldn’t walk, and felt as if I was going to pass out.

My husband immediately took me to the medical doctor on board. He performed an ultrasound and I asked for something for the pain. All of a sudden he said you need to get off the ship because you have a kidney infection. Within two minutes we had three Carnival employees rushing us to get our bags and they escorted us off the ship.

All the while, I could barely walk. One of the employees told me not to worry, that I could cruise at a “later date.” Everything happened so fast. I was never given a choice of whether to stay on board or not.
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A long, bumpy ride to denied-boarding compensation

Iurii/Shutterstock
Tom Posch missed a weekend trip to Cleveland last summer after United Airlines overbooked his flight. Normally, travelers in Posch’s shoes would quietly accept the flight vouchers the airline offered as compensation.

But Posch is an Air Force attorney, and he decided to dig into federal regulations to see what the law requires of United.

What he found led him to file a lawsuit in a Virginia district court last month and it reveals that passenger rights are never a sure thing — even when it comes to something as seemingly certain as involuntarily denied boarding compensation.
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The Travel Troubleshooter: Can this cruise be salvaged?

Question: We need your help with a Carnival cruise that went nowhere. Earlier this year, we booked a Western Caribbean cruise directly through Carnival, including airfare and shore excursions.

On the day we were supposed to travel, our nightmare began. Our plane was delayed because of mechanical problems. So was the next flight. We missed the boat in Miami.

We wanted to reschedule the cruise, but Carnival suggested that we catch up with the ship in the Cayman Islands. We had to pay for new tickets to the Caymans. But when we arrived in Miami, a Carnival representative asked us for passports — and we only had passport cards.

We had to turn back to Cleveland. There were more mechanical delays. We made a claim with our travel insurance, but were only reimbursed $500 per person. Carnival says they should be able to give us something for the missed cruise but said we first had to fill out the insurance claim.

We booked the cruise, shore excursions, balcony upgrade and the missed flight all through Carnival. We want a vacation and we don’t have the money because Carnival is holding us hostage. Could you help us? — Denise Frantz, Cleveland

Answer: This cruise just wasn’t meant to be. But it might have been — if you’d gotten a passport instead of a passport card.
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Is this enough compensation? A do-over for being denied boarding on my cruise

Veda Robinson and Jackie Smartt were looking forward to their Carnival cruise last December. But they never made it on board. Smartt had packed the wrong ID, and the cruise line left her standing at the dock.

They also left Robinson standing next to her.

Actually, it was a little more dramatic: Robinson says she was told she wasn’t going anywhere without Smartt, and then the pair was escorted from the building by security, even though they made no effort to resist.

In other words, Carnival denied Robinson boarding, even though it had no reason to.

Robinson and Smartt had to buy a last-minute airline ticket back to Memphis. Robinson contacted Carnival and asked for a full refund of her ticket, since she feels she should have been able to take the cruise. After all, the cabin had been paid for, and she had the right ID.

In response, Carnival offered her a do-over cruise, based on availability, in February.

Why not a full refund?

“Carnival will not reimburse me for being denied boarding, even though I had documentation, because they recently advised me that the personnel at the pier asked me, “Do you want to board?” and documented on my incident report, that I said no,” she says.

That’s untrue, she says.
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Everything you need to know about the new denied boarding compensation rules

Editor’s note: This is part six in a series about the Transportation Department’s sweeping new airline passenger protection rules. You can read the entire document here (.DOC). Please take a moment to comment on these proposed rules at Regulationroom.org. The future of air travel depends on it.

The problem with proposed rulemakings is that they often run on forever, and the journalists who are supposed to review them and report back gloss over the really important material.

Result? You get the headline: “Government to raise denied boarding compensation.” And that’s it.

But there’s more — so much more — when it comes to the proposed overbooking rules.
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“Pay an additional $800 or you can’t board the ship”

Timing is everything when you pull a bait-and-switch. Most of them happen just before or after the purchase – an “oops-the-price-isn’t-available” or a “sorry-did-we-forget-to-mention-a-fee” stunt. But for Mary Hoefs’ Royal Caribbean cruise, she didn’t find out until she tried to board.

Here’s what happened she tried to embark on the Liberty of the Seas with her family recently:

While checking in, our son and his family from Texas were pulled out of line and taken to another room. There they were told: “Pay an additional $800, or they you can’t board the ship.”

They were in a state of panic, and two little grandsons were in tears because they could not get on the ship. Not really understanding the reason, we had to come up with the extra cash for them to board. (Had we not had the money, what would have happened?)

The cruise was paid in full by us, at the time of booking. They had all this information far enough in advance that should there have been a problem, had plenty of time to let us or our travel consultant know so that it could have been taken care of before the date we were to set sail. Under no circumstance should this have been thrown in our face while standing in line to board the ship!

We feel that the full $800 should be refunded by Royal Caribbean. They only refunded $400, and sent that to the travel agent, with no reason or apology to us as to why our family from Texas was singled out like this.

Sounds dreadful, doesn’t it? I figured there must be another side to this story, so I asked RCCL. Here’s its response.

Our records indicate that this booking was not created in-house, rather, through a travel agent. During the booking process, the guests from Texas were booked as being residents of West Virginia – with a promotional discount that was being provided to residents of West Virginia at that time. When the guests were unable to provide government issued ID that showed they were residents of West Virginia, the discount had to be removed, thus, the additional charges.

In other words, Hoefs’ family had used a discount that can only be used by West Virginia residents. When they couldn’t prove they lived in West Virginia, they had to pay a fare difference.

I shared this information with Hoefs.

I paid for the two from West Virginia $1,787, which was the “special rate.” The family from Texas, I paid $3,275. And from here in Arizona, the price was $3,275. So the Texas family did NOT have a special rate. Regardless, I booked and paid in full on December 16th, 2008, the cruise was not until March 14th 2009. If there was a discrepancy, they had plenty of time to notify me before rather then wait till we were standing in line to board the ship. If they did not feel they were in the wrong, then why did they return half of the $800?

Hoefs is correct. She didn’t create the confusing pricing system that led to this problem. RCCL had ample time to check the IDs of the travelers. And yes, the $400 refund doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Lesson learned? If you’re booking a cruise through a travel agent, make sure you qualify for any discounts, and can prove it. At a time like this, cruise lines are trying to collect every extra penny from their passengers — even if they have to do it at the dock.