Their passports sailed to the Bahamas, but they didn’t

Anne Newman’s holiday cruise from Baltimore to the Bahamas on the Carnival Pride got off to the worst start possible when two members of her party — her brother and father — were left standing at the dock because of a paperwork problem.

No, they didn’t bring the wrong birth certificate. Instead, they had inadvertently packed their travel documents in their bags and checked them.

Newman wants to be compensated for their denied boarding, and she wants me to help her.
Continue reading…

Smoked out of my suite on the Carnival Miracle

Andrew Besterman’s eight-day cruise to the Bahamas on the Carnival Miracle was something short of divine. For the duration of the journey, he was annoyed by the odor of cigarette smoke which seeped into his mini-suite from the cabin next door.

“Every time the passengers in the next stateroom lit up their cigarettes the smoke came into our room,” he says. “Since our bed shared a common wall, we could tell exactly when our neighbors smoked.”

A few days after his cruise, Carnival tightened its smoking policy, banning smoking in all staterooms. But alas, not in time for his vacation.
Continue reading…

Carnival kicks mother and son off Christmas cruise

This is Rebecca Dickerson and her son, Jordan. A few days ago, they were cruising to the Bahamas on the Carnival Fascination. But last week, they were removed from the ship in a “shocking” turn of events, according to Rebecca Dickerson.

Their nightmare began shortly after boarding the vessel on Dec. 10 in Jacksonville, Fla. On the first day, Dickerson reports that her room was burglarized.
Continue reading…

Can this trip be saved? “This was the worst vacation any of us have ever taken”

Whenever I get complaint like Ashish Kapila’s, my first reaction is, “Oh no, not another laundry list.”

Companies almost never respond to laundry lists, because they look like pointless rants. (I always advise picking the most egregious offense, and focusing on it.)

But then I read Kapla’s litany of complaints against Carnival. And I understood why she couldn’t decide which part of her cruise was the worst. The whole thing was bad.

“This was the worst vacation any of us have ever taken,” she told me. “I have been on several cruises on Carnival and other lines, as have the others in our party, and none of us have ever seen something like this.”

What was so bad about it?
Continue reading…

The Travel Troubleshooter: My fiancé walked out on me — can I get a refund for my cruise?

Question: I was supposed to be going on a cruise for my honeymoon. Then my fiancé — make that my former fiancé — walked out on me. I came home to the house that we both owned together to find all of his stuff gone and a letter not explaining anything except that he didn’t want to get married.

The reason I am writing is that I called Carnival to cancel the cruise and was told that even considering the circumstances, I can’t get any money back, except taxes. Can you please help me with this? — Jennifer Tomes, San Antonio, Texas

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.
Continue reading…

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.
Continue reading…

Is this enough compensation? Get off the ship now — or cruise to nowhere

Jason Plott was scheduled to sail from Galveston, Tex., to the Western Caribbean earlier this month on Carnival’s Ecstasy. But his cruise wasn’t exactly filled with delight.

“We didn’t depart the next day because of fog,” he says. “The next day it was still foggy, but Carnival decided to bring the Conquest ahead of the Ecstasy. I guess they figured they’d rather have one ship with a ruined itinerary instead of two.”

Then the Conquest was struck by a fuel barge, which delayed it further. Here are a few details from a TV report.

Continue reading…

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.
Continue reading…

Can this trip be saved? Salvage my “absolutely horrifying” cruise, please

Spend a little time on a cruise ship, and you’ll notice how germ-phobic the seafaring class seems to be. From the ever-present dispensers of Purell hand sanitizer, to the employees offering antiseptic towelettes at the all-you-can-eat-buffet, they look as if they could show Howard Hughes a good time.

Well, there’s a reason for that: Norwalk virus, a painful gastrointestinal illness, also goes by the name Cruise Ship Sickness. Cruise lines like to blame passengers for bringing the illness on board. Passengers say it’s employees, some of which may still have third-world hygiene, who are at fault.

Joe LoTempio is one of those customers. He just returned from a seven-day cruise on the Carnival Valor — an experience he calls “absolutely horrifying” — and is looking for help salvaging his vacation.

It all started when LoTempio and his girlfriend embarked on the Valor and headed to lunch at Rosie’s Restaurant. Shortly after that, his girlfriend began feeling ill.

“Within the hour she experienced severe vomiting and diarrhea, and by the evening she was so violently ill that we had to place an emergency call to the medical facilities,” he says. “She was so weak by that time that we had to call for a wheelchair to take her down to Deck 0 because she couldn’t make it under her own power.”

Then things got worse.
Continue reading…

Can this trip be saved? Carnival won’t cover mileage expenses for Splendor victims

Remember the Carnival Splendor, the ship that was marooned 200 miles south of San Diego for several days last year after a fire knocked out its power? Robert and Beverly Howell won’t ever forget it, because they were on the ship.

The cruise line claims it went to great lengths to make things right for the Howells, and other 2,300 passengers who were adrift four days and had to subsist on spam.

But Carnival didn’t go far enough, says Robert Howell.

Continue reading…

Is this enough compensation? Missed honeymoon cruise because of paperwork problem

Becky and David Hovis’ honeymoon cruise on Carnival never happened. And it never will, probably.

Why not? When they booked their cruise directly through the company back in 2009, they were told she only needed a photo ID to board. Not true.

Here’s her recollection of her conversation with the Carnival agent:

I specifically asked if we needed a passport. She said no, just a photo ID. She left out the birth certificate part. This was our honeymoon.

You can probably guess what happened next.
Continue reading…

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.
Continue reading…

This Carnival cruise refund turned into a real circus

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.