Answer: I’m sorry this happened to you. On top of the pain of having your fiancé walk out on you just before your wedding day, you shouldn’t have to worry about losing your honeymoon.
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.
Every now and then, it’s useful to take a peek behind the scenes in the travel industry to see how the machinery works. But don’t stare — it could drive you mad. That’s what almost happened to me when I tried to mediate the case between Jerri Olsen and Carnival Cruise Lines.
Before you continue, a warning: The following case contains information that some travel agents might find offensive. The rest of us are likely to just be confused.
Here’s Olsen’s gripe.
My husband, son and I took a cruise on Carnival that got shortened by a day. For the inconvenience Carnival gave us a 20 percent discount on a future cruise.
Carnival said the discount would be on any price we were able to get. We signed up for a cruise that met the requirements. We called an agent who did not know about our discount when she quoted us a price for the cruise. When we told her about the discount she said she would not deal with it. I had also been getting quotes from a Carnival agent.
The difference between what Carnival quoted and what we paid for the three of us was $86 The agent booked tickets for us and 6 other people who we convinced should take the cruise with us. Shortly after booking with this agent I called Carnival and was told we would receive a refund of $243, which was 20 percent of the ticket price, and it would be back on my credit card in 7 to 10 days.
We received a credit of $64.
I started calling both Carnival and the agent trying to get the rest of the promised refund. I tried to get this resolved before the cruise. The agent keep telling me she would check into and call me back. That never happened and unfortunately the agency has since gone out of business.
Can you offer any suggestions on how to get Carnival to make good on the offer they promised us?
On the surface, this looks like a case in which Carnival didn’t honor its deal. But it turns out this was the tip of … oh, let’s just scrap the tired nautical metaphors. There’s a lot more to this story.
Here’s Carnival’s response.
According to our records, Ms. Olsen had been offered a 20 percent discount which could be applied to any fare extended by Carnival. In the meantime, it appears that the travel agency involved with the booking offered Ms. Olsen a discount of their own based on rebating part of their commission. This is not something that Carnival was aware of at the time nor is it something we condone.
We also do not account for commission rebating by travel agencies in our billing and refunding process. The total amount due at the time of booking was $1528. This amount includes the cruise fare and government fees and taxes for both guests. A 20 percent discount in the amount of $127 was applied to Ms. Olsen’s fare, bringing the new total to $1,400. The commission due to the agency was $138, leaving a net due to Carnival in the amount of $1,262.
According to our records, the guests paid $1,342 (apparently based on the rebating arrangement with the travel agency). The difference of $80 was sent to the agency as part of their commission. Given the guests’ arrangement with their travel agency, we were unable to refund them any monies as they had underpaid the reservation. Any monies due to the guest would have been forthcoming from the agency and not from Carnival. Carnival fully honored its commitment to apply a 20 percent discount to the cruise fare.
Whoa. So the travel agent, who is now out of business, cooked the books and put Olsen in an awkward position. How interesting.
Some travel companies consider rebating an unethical practice, as my colleague John Frenaye pointed out recently.
Earlier in this post, I suggested the information you’re about to read might drive you mad. And I certainly am mad. I think Olsen should have been aware of this issue so she could have made a purchasing decision based on all the facts.
If her agency had quoted her a total price that included a complete breakdown, including their commission, taxes, fees and port charges, maybe she could have.