Anne and Jack King couldn’t wait for their December cruise to Panama, Costa Rica, and Belize on the Carnival Miracle. But the tour of Panama City and the Panama Canal would have to wait for them. At the last minute, and with no warning to the Kings, Carnival abbreviated its itinerary to include ports of call in Costa Maya, Cozumel and Roatan.
What’s worse, Carnival offered them a $25 onboard credit for the change in schedule, which didn’t come close to compensating them for a cruise they never wanted. How could it do that?
When we arrived in Fort Lauderdale to check in, we were told by rude agents that the itinerary had been changed and that we could not get our money back. They said we should have received an email a couple of days before. We didn’t.
We drove from upstate New York to Fort Lauderdale for this cruise, and checked our email every day. The only email we got from Carnival was a lame Christmas card.
The Kings asked a Carnival representative why its itinerary changed, and were told the ship’s propulsion system was “failing” and they couldn’t get to Panama and back in the time allotted.
We are sick that we spent more than $2,000 on a cruise we didn’t want to take and never would have chosen at any price.
We heard other passengers say they didn’t believe there was anything wrong with the propulsion, that Carnival had shortened the route because the ship wasn’t full and they wanted to save money.
In fact, on the last night of the cruise the captain announced that we were arriving in Fort Lauderdale at midnight instead of 8 a.m. because there was a sick passenger who needed emergency care. Then he floored it, and gave us a jolting ride back at top speed. What happened to the broken propulsion?
To add insult to injury, Carnival is not even returning our $160 fuel surcharge! They changed to an itinerary with half the mileage and still charged us for the trip to Panama, PLUS the surcharge.
The couple hadn’t contacted Carnival yet, so I suggested they do so.
Here’s the cruise line’s response:
Dear Mrs. King:
When any guest of ours takes the time to share their cruise experiences they obviously care enough to bring these matters to our attention.
We realize many vacations are chosen because of a specific itinerary and regret any disappointment caused as a result of the changes made to itinerary. Please understand that the decision to change an itinerary is difficult and generally undertaken as a last resort to ensure the safety and comfort of our guests. While we certainly sympathize and extend our sincere apologies, our passenger ticket contract and Welcome Aboard brochure state that Carnival reserves the right to alter itineraries as needed, as was the case with this sailing.
We hope to regain your confidence in us so that we may have the opportunity to welcome you aboard again soon.
Obviously a canned response, but it’s technically correct. Carnival’s cruise contract says it can make any change it wants to an itinerary.
If a change in the itinerary is needed due to factors or conditions beyond Carnival’s control, no refund or credit will be made, however, Carnival will make an effort to provide accommodations and services of a comparable quality and standard as set forth in the brochure. Any such change shall not modify the cancellation provisions in the brochure. No credit will be allowed nor refund given for any services provided in the brochure should any such services not be utilized by Participants.
I think Carnival’s response to King’s letter left something to be desired. There’s a precedent for a better answer than just “it’s in our contract.” But as I mentioned in an article several years ago, it’s up to the cruise line.
Carnival should have communicated its schedule change more clearly to passengers like King. It should have offered a refund if they wanted one, and at the very least, it could have offered a partial refund for the fuel surcharge.
It shouldn’t take a miracle for Carnival to do the right thing.