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

By | August 19th, 2011

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.

Carnival is technically correct. Canceling your cruise just before your sail date means you’re only entitled to a refund of your taxes and port fees. Had your fiancé walked out on you within your cancellation period (usually about 80 days before your departure) then you could have gotten a full refund, no questions asked.


I wish I could recommend something — anything — to prevent this from happening to other nervous brides out there. Alas, this isn’t a relationship advice column. Trust me, I’m better off sticking with consumer advocacy. But I can’t even offer you any travel advice for your case. Insurance doesn’t cover fiancés who bail out of their weddings at the last minute, so there was really nothing you could have done to avoid this.

Related story:   Do I deserve a refund for a "minor" problem on my river cruise?

I’ve dealt with a few cases similar to yours, and even though technically the travel company is almost always well within its rights to deny a refund, it often shows some compassion.

I wish companies revealed their softer side more often. There are any number of events that can happen, which we can’t control. Those include, but aren’t limited to, divorces, jury duty, job changes, sickness and an unexpected death of a friend or relative. Insurance doesn’t cover all of these situations, unfortunately.

What’s more, we’re expected to let travel companies off the hook when they can’t operate a flight or offer us a confirmed room when the weather is bad or there’s a mechanical problem. When a cruise line takes a hard line, it often smacks of a double standard.

I asked Carnival to review your case. A representative told me a refund was out of the question, but that it would offer you a $509 credit, which is the value of your ticket minus a $50 administrative fee.

(PhotoL dracu lina_ak/Flickr)



  • sirwired

    Another possible solution would have been to take somebody else on the cruise… say a girlfriend to commiserate with.  That usually only invovles a small administrative fee also.  As long as there is one person from the original booking on the ticket, the cruise lines generally allow this.

  • Sweepergrl

    My friend had the same thing happen. She went on the cruise with her best friend instead and tried to ‘celebrate’ the girl time. I’m not sure how she did it, but she seemed to have a great time on the cruise. I sure beats staying at home and crying over a jerk.

  • Ames

    I agree completely – grab another friend, and go on the cruise!  And consider yourself to be a very, very lucky woman. 

    Now that you have the credit instead, pick another cruise within the allowed time so the credit does not run out  – and be sure to go!  You need to be in a happy and looking to your future state of mind to untangle all the other things, like the house you both own. 

  • Raven

    Funny that Carnival would give a credit for this bride but refused to honor a “cancel any reason” policy a friend of mine had. She became pregnant after booking the cruise, would not be able to sail per Carnival’s pregnancy policy, and was told that it was considered a “foreseeable” condition and therefore exempt from their worthless insurance.

    So, once again, Carnival would rather you have an abortion than honor their insurance.

  • companies will pay for jury duty death illness of a relative etc. they could have you been purchased a cancel for any reason insurance policy which would have covered it . I agree with the others she should have tried to go with a friend . most of the cruise lines would be cool with that . but the 500 dollar credit is a good compromise

  • Tom

    You should read the book, “Honeymoon with my brother,” which covers this exact situation. Take a friend, or relative.

  • Carnival is just simply another company trying to provide a service to its customers. Jennifer consider yourself a little lucky because it’s probably better than going through a costly and long and sometimes ugly divorce within a year or so. Also he doesn’t deserve a decent woman like yourself judging from this article. If I were you donate the tickets to some worthy charity and maybe give someone else who would/could never even dream or afford a cruise and make them happy. In the mean time take your time to look for Mr. Right! 

  • Gook

    She really needs to be going after the ex to cover at least half of the cost.  Since he left, he should do that at the very least.  I believe any court would see it the same way.

  • Kelsey

    Great suggestions everyone; I’m the one who recommended Jennifer contacted Chris, so I’ll just throw in a couple other facts: he walked out just a few days prior to the date, and with all the immediate items to take care of (legal things about the home they owned and just recently had purchased) and extremely short notice, no one was able to go one the trip with her instead. This outcome with Chris’ help really was best for her, although they only credited her portion of the cruise. We definitely knew she wasn’t entitled anything under their contract, but was ecstatic for their sympathy in that extremely difficult time.

  • CJ

    Maybe she could have gone with a girl fiend and just use the cruise.

  • Arizona Road Warrior

    “Insurance doesn’t cover fiancés who bail out of their weddings at the last minute, so there was really nothing you could have done to avoid this.”
    – – – – – – – – –
    a travel insurance policy with a ‘cancel for any reason’ would have covered this situation.

  • MrAirport

    Even if Carnival refunded nothing, she got off cheap!

  • travelgalOH

    I think it would have been nice if Carnival had offered to allow someone else to take the cruise with her.  This whole thing of not allowing name changes that the airlines and cruise lines have is, in my opinion, just a way to make more money selling new tickets.  When I buy a ticket to a theatre show or a concert or similar, they don’t care if I let someone else use the ticket.   Of course I understand that there are security concerns and international paperwork associated with travel, but changing a name on a ticket a reasonable amount of time prior to departure should be allowed.  Considering that cruises and airlines sell tickets to new passengers practically right up to departure time, then it shouldn’t be a problem to change a name a couple of days before.

  • Chris in NC

    While quite painful, emotionally and financially, she is way better off in the long run. Hold your head up high, don’t get jaded and life has a funny way of working out in the long run!

  • Mbods2002

    Wow, that was one for Chris, right?  Hopefully your friend fought that.  “Cancel for any reason” must be honored and it’s worth the trouble to make trouble for any company who is so shady.

  • Leslie

    I usually purchase cancel for any reason policies for big trips but remember, they’re good only up until two days before the scheduled departure. It may or may not have worked for Jennifer but for others considering this type of policy remember there are limitations here as well. I’m glad Jennifer was pleased with the solution and applaud Carnival for doing what it did.

  • MikeZ

    Yup, take a best friend with you on the cruise and make a fun time of it. The best friend at least won’t ditch you and is always there for you, good times and bad.

    I made plans for a Tennessee trip just weeks before my girl dumped me a few months back. now I’m looking at visiting the east coast instead. I know it’s not the same trip, but sometimes you just need to get away and have a good time.

    And as someone else said, be happy this happened now. there are millions of people out there, and I’m sure one will be better than the last one.

  • Chris in NC

    Regarding “I wish companies revealed their softer side more often…”

    Not to be cynical, but not every customer is honest or has good intentions. Companies with liberal policies often see if abused or taken advantage of. I cite one of Elliott’s articles regarding Hampton Inn’s 100% satisfaction guarantee (http://www.elliott.org/power-trip/how-to-stay-in-a-hotel-for-free/) as an example.

    I’m not saying companies SHOULDN’T have a soft side, but CSRs also hear so many sob stories that you simply can’t accommodate or even believe everyone. At our company, we had a client cancel last minute 9 times in a 6 month span. When you use the excuse “something came up” 7 out of 9 times, something is amiss. She is no longer a client and frankly, its not even a minor loss.

    I realize that you write that you give the consumer the benefit of the doubt, but I’m pretty sure even you’ve been snookered a few times too!

  • Chris in NC
  • Yep

    Let me get this straight: girl tries to get a refund when she clearly is past the refund date…and 32% of people think Carnival did not do enough even though it made an exception and gave her some credit? Wow…No wonder our government is going broke…people trying to make someone else pay for their problems they should be self accountable for. Carnival has zero fault here. The simple solution is the girl either should have taken someone else, or sued her ex for amount lost.

  • I’m waiting for there to be “wedding insurance” that covers things like this.

    Personally, if something that awful happened to me, I’d bring along a friend on the cruise, and proceed to drink like a fish on it.

  • I feel she should have asked a girlfriend to go with her on the cruise.  It was already paid for so why not go and have a good time?  Living well is often it’s own reward.  Or is it best revenge?  Why allow a cad who walked out on you this close to the wedding ruin an otherwise good time?

    But, no, the cruise line didn’t need to refund anything.  She was capable of taking the trip, she just didn’t WANT to.  Seems to me personal accountability went out the window.  Do people really think if we stomp our feet enough we’ll get our way?  A promise is a promise…

  • Andrew Shepp

    She should sue the cretin.

  • Joe Farrell

    Why would your social issues become a financial problem to the cruise company? Are you really ‘that special’ that your cruise partner deciding not to go becomes an issue for the cruise company . . .. gut it up.  Take the cruise or lose the money – thems the options unless you bought cancel for any reason trip cancellation insurance . . .

  • Wrona

    Most cruise lines do allow name changes – of all but one passenger on the reservation – up until a couple of days before the cruise.  But if you read the note from her friend above above, the dumping happened right before the big day and because there were other legal problems that she needed to sort out, she didn’t have the time to go on the cruise herself, even with someone else.
     

  • Livermorebrianc

    Why not take a girlfriend/relative along with you and make the best out of a bad circumstance??

    You probably could use some time away, why not go and have a good time? 

  • Alan

    Judging from numerous other shipboard stories right in this column, his big mistake was booking Carnival. It seems to be the Ryanair of the cruise industry.

  • Philip

    Chris, I am seeing a deeper meaning here. I think this has been a good omen that her fiancé ended the relationship. My big question is why did Jennifer take on the burden and responsibility for her paying for the cruise? Where is the mutuality here?  Better to see the money disagreements before marriage than it be a constant thorn in being a good marriage. (Her guy must have sensed this; good for him).
    In her disappointment, she should have taken the cruise for the sheer relaxation and enjoyment. (She could have met a nice guy, as well).
    And, yes, if permissible, take along a friend.  Crying the blues does not help.
    Losing a couple of dollars is not the end of the world.
    All of this is the best lessons she could have learned!!

  • Pizo

    there IS wedding insurance but not many people buy it.  It’s expensive and honestly, how many people want to buy insurance that will pay for things should they get dumped a few days before the big day? 

  • Pizo

    As her friend posted above it happened RIGHT before the big day and no one could go on such short notice.  I don’t know about you but I couldn’t go on a week + long vacation with just 2 days notice.

  • DavidS

    If this happenes to anyone else in the future, cancel for medical reasons. Go see a doctor to deal with the stress and declare you medically unable to travel.

    To the OP: Even if Carnival gave you nothing, you are WAY ahead of the game! Use your credit! Find a girlfriend to go with and live it up on the high seas!

  • Amy

    You can buy “cancel for any reason” insurance for cruises.  The keys are to (1) buy from a 3rd party insurance company and (2) if you need protection from pre-existing condition clause exclusions, buy within the clause waiver period (which is usually 14 to 21 days from date you first put down a deposit).  I shopped for such insurance a few months ago through one of those insurance comparison sites (insuremytrip.com) for an August cruise.  I’m always careful about pre-existing condition waivers because I have a chronically ill parent.  I didn’t end up buying one with the “cancel for any reason” policy, but they exist and they typically don’t return 100% — I recall seeing something like 50% to 85 or 90% refund policies.  Make sure to read the details of all the policies you are comparing, as they have different exclusion terms.  The ones I considered truly allowed practically “any reason” (including jury duty, work related cancellations [and there are actually policies you can buy just for work related cancellations]).  So shop around!

  • The problem with companies showing compassion is that no good deed goes unpunnished. Once it’s discovered that company “A” will do something when event “X” happens, then all of a sudden, everybody has event “X” in their lives that makes them eligible for the same level of treatment. No… Unless there is hard and fast documentation, there needs to be a hard and fast rule on some things.

  • I absolutely could go on short notice for a cruise…  It’s not about the cruise, it’s about being there for your friend.  She should be asking her Maid of Honor to go…  Time for them to get away, soothe a broken heart and meet Mr. Right Now.  There are tons of supervisors and bosses who would understand and allow the time off.  But, not asking assures the answer is “No”, right?  How do you know if you don’t ask?

  • The same people who buy car insurance they go years at a time w/o using.  The same people who buy life insurance that is only used, well, when one dies.  The same people who buy trip insurance that might get used once every 100 trips.  The same people who buy health insurance on the off chance they’ll get sick.  The same people who buy dental insurance just in case they lose a tooth…

    Insurance is a part of our lives and I can guarantee you Wedding Insurance costs a lot less than a lot of weddings out there.  If you have no insurance, I’d suggest your not leaving the house or getting behind the wheel of a car…  The rest of us will appreciate it.

  • sirwired

     Maybe she asked for a refund instead of the credit that the policy provides?

  • SallyLu

    How do you know she didn’t ask?  I could probably get the time off, but one of my best friends would never be able to take a week off with a 2 day notice, no matter what.  It really makes a huge difference with each person’s individual situation.  Her friends all might have small children and no one available to babysit.  There could be any number of reasons why her friends couldn’t go. 

  • Dixie

    “But my fiancee will never walk out on me! We’re in love! Insurance is a waste of money!” 

  • Jimithing78

    I can see the port fees being refunded because the port wasn’t used, but the taxes? If the company gets to keep the income then taxes should be paid. A sale should be taxed either way.

  • Dixie

    In most cases, don’t buy insurance from the travel provider (here, the cruise line). Often the provider’s policy offers a credit for future travel rather than a cash refund. 

  • DavidS

    Someone else may have more complete info, but I believe the taxes are not a “sales” tax but a “head” tax based on the number of people on the ship. 

  • Chris in NC

    Actually, Carnival has been quite fair on this one. No need to bash Carnival when Carnival hasn’t done anything to deserve it. 

    What about the other expenses? The cost of the dress, tux rentals, everyone who purchased non-refundable plane tickets to attend the wedding, the caterer, the cake, facility rentals, etc. 

    Its unreasonable to expect everyone to offer full refunds simply because the groom-to-be walked out. 

  • Bob

    The’re talking about departure taxes, not sales tax. The company would not be keeping these taxes as income, as they would be paid to the taxing authority.

  • flutiefan

    because in my job we have to “bid” for days off, regular weekly days off and even a vacation day. my bosses would laugh in my face if i attempted to ask for a a couple days, much less a week so i could accompany my friend on a cruise to soothe her broken heart.

  • flutiefan

    her friend already answered that question.

  • flutiefan

    i have to take exception with your “good for him” statement.  what would’ve been “good” is if he hadn’t asked in the first place, or if issues arose post-proposal, then have the decency to speak to her face-to-face. instead, he cowardly left a note with no explanation.  yeah, so good for him.

  • Lindaco12

    I am guessing that she did not have trip insurance, even through Carnival.  If she did then she would have been offered cruise credits right away for an “uncovered reason” (not death, illness, accident etc). 
    Trip insurance through a third party offers cash back for covered reasons only unless you pay extra for the cancel for any reason policy.
    L

  • pizo

    It’s not uncommon for bridal parties to spend $1000+ to be a part of a wedding when you add in all the parties, the dress, the gifts, hair, shoes, etc, etc, etc.  Perhaps the maid of honor couldn’t get the time off work and drop another $1,000 on airfare to the port.  Love for your friend doesn’t mean you have an unlimited bank account.

    You also should realize that while YOU may be able to go on a week’s vacation ith 2 days notice MOST people cannot.  I work in a fairly laid back office and I couldn’t.  My mom works in a hospital where they are currently doing the 2012 vacation schedules.  They have to schedule summer 2012 vacations in 2011, nearly a YEAR in advance. 

  • pizo

    I challenge you to find ONE person out there who is engaged and planning their wedding and has bought wedding insurance in case one of them changes their mind at the last minute.  People do not get engaged without thinking that this is the person they want to marry.  No one goes into marriage thinking they’ll get divorced.  Affairs of the heart aren’t nearly as clean cut or cold as losing a tooth, getting sick, or being in a car accident. 

  • DavidS

    Other reasons to cancel a wedding:

    Sudden death of bride, groom or close family member.
    Severe accident involving bride, groom or close family member.
    Tornado aftermath, earthquake, hurricane.
    Terrorist attack.
    Sudden legal problems resulting in bride or groom’s incarceration.
    Kidnapping of bride, groom or close family member.
    Health department shuts down venue and/or caterer.
    Sudden military deployment.

  • Guest

    Elliott, cruise lines do not refund port charges, only the govt. taxes

  • guest

    She could only take another person if it was HER card that paid for the trip.  If it was HIS he would have to sign off allowing it

  • Ssheldo

    When Ken’s girlfriend broke up with him, they had an Alaskan cruise booked.  He asked if I would like to go instead (Dutch, of course) .  That was 15 years ago.  We got married a year later and have been happily cruising ever since!!

  • Mark K

    Maybe she couldn’t take someone else on the cruise because she paid only half the total.  While $509 may sound like a lot, if you look that is about what one person would pay for a week cruise. 

    Maybe he was going on the cruise and she didn’t want to be on the same boat with him.  He could have taken someone else with him and there would then be no space for the OP.

    Either way, the credit sems acceptable.

  • Michael K

    a travel insurance policy with a ‘cancel for any reason’ would have covered this situation.

    I believe that’s not accurate.  Can you point to a specific policy you believe would cover this?

    “Cancel for any reason” is a misnomer.   I have not seen any such policy that doesn’t have an exclusion period prior to departure.   48 hours before travel is the most generous I’ve seen.  I’ve also seen 7 days.  In this case the OP’s cancellation was at the last minute (we don’t know exactly how many days/hours) and she could have easily missed that deadline by the time she contacted the insurance company.

  • pat

    Sorry but if no travel insurance with cancel for any reason – why should any travel provider issue refunds?  When I travel I have to pay good money to buy my insurance within a very timely manner to waive pre-existing conditions.  They should have purchased the insurance like the rest of us have to.

  • Rugbypopsie

    Take the credit…book another cruise with a girlfriend preferable a lively one and forget the bum its probably good that he chickened out…he obviously wasn’t good husband material.

  • Asiansm Dan

    If we stick strictly to TRAVEL issue, Cruise Lines  should allow her to change passengers name for another person so everybody will be happy.
    By the way, here is a classical case that relationship broke up after a decision of marriage which is pushed by 1 side having a hunch that the relationship is on the downhills. It’s a good thing that the affair blew up sooner that later so she can limited her lost.
    Love keep people happy together not the marriage which is an outdated institution.

  • DavidS

    Based on the previous comments from the OP’s friend, finding someone to go on the trip or even taking the trip alone was no longer an option.

  • Arizona Road Warrior

    According to her friend, Kelsey, he walked out just a few days before the wedding…that is at least two days which a ‘cancel for any reason’ with a 2-day exclusion period would have covered.

  • Hcollins

    Forget trying to make the cruises pay for your loss.  Go after the FIANCE
    in small claims court!

  • Sadie Cee

    I am sorry that this happened to the OP, but I would suggest that she count her blessings.  Her fiance is obviously not marriage material.  Even if he had changed his mind, the way in which he ended the relationship was cowardly.  Better she finds out about his character sooner rather than later. 

    IMO she should take the credit offered by Carnival for use at a later time when she would probably be able to get more enjoyment from the experience.  Carnival has done the best they can in the circumstances. 

    The OP mentioned a house that they both owned together.  What about the house?  She should concentrate her efforts on sorting through what could become a financial and/or legal quagmire.  Best wishes to her.

  • Michael K

    You’re assuming the absolute best case scenario. 

    1) Even in your best case scenario, she still generally loses 50% of her nonrefundable trip cost (besides the insurance premium)2) Many “cancel for any reason” policies have a longer exclusion period than 2 days.  3) Her cruise was not the only high priority item she had to attend to according to her friend Kelsey.  You omitted: (legal things about the home they owned and just recently had purchased).  She could have easily missed an insurance policy deadline by not calling the insurance company promptly enough.

  • Linda Bator

    TravelGaurd’s policy is a 48 hour prior cancel for ANY reason and receive 75% cash back.

  • Linda Bator

    But they DO allow a name cahange, but as stated a few comments above (by her friend) no one could go with her.

  • Linda Bator

    Really?  Then explain pre-nuptual agreements.

  • Mindy

    There are trip protection plans out there that have “cancel for any reason” clauses…it could be a bad hair day or a loser of a fiance…just have to purchase it to be able to use it! I would have grabbed a friend and gone anyway…

  • DavidS

    based on the information provided…grabbing a friend and going anyway was not an option.

  • Scott Kopper

    The fiance who walked away should pay.  Not Carnival.  I don’t know why Chris even posted this.

  • Guest

    As a seasoned cruiser, I’m very surprised a cruise-line would agree to this credit. The refund schedule is very clearly advertised. I agree that taking someone else was the ideal solution. I had a relationship end prior to a booked cruise. I would have received more of a refund than the woman in this story, but I chose to cruise with someone else instead. It was a wonderful trip and I’m SO GLAD I made that choice.

  • Dcochran3

    How about if Carnival sold the space to someone else? Could the passenger sell her booking to someone else?

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