Q – 10.19.23 –  My wife and I are booked on a major five-star line whose name begins with the letter “S”. We worked with them directly so there would be no funny business. Our cruise was calling in Egypt and Israel after sailing to Greece and other ports. The cruise departs in a month and a half and I called them this morning after consulting with my wife. I was told that the stops in Egypt are still on but that Israel ports are going to be replaced with time in Cyprus and Turkey. The cruise will now end in Turkey and I am responsible for changing my air return from Tel Aviv.

They were nice about it but they will not consider giving me a refund or even allowing me to let them keep my money and allow me to go on a different cruise some time nest year.

This is really lousy customer service and I am surprised the media is not calling them out about it. I did everything they asked me to do but they were non-responsive. Is there some strategy you can recommend to get me my money back or a future credit? 

A –  Thank you and truly sorry about this situation. We have heard from dozens of cruisers in much the same position. Let us make just a few specific observations that may be too late for you to have a satisfactory outcome but hopefully will help others avoid the same travel trauma.

  • The rules are, as stated to you by “S”. The only way they will cancel your cruise and offer any form of refund is if there is a government order that Americans not travel to Europe as well as the Middle East.
  • It sounds as though you did not use a travel advisor but, instead, booked this cruise yourself in the expectation that the approximately 15% travel agent commission would be refunded to you in cash. Our guess is that you never asked for it.
  • You likely spoke to someone in the “S” call center. You are representing one booking, one revenue source – yours. The call should have been made by a trusted travel advisor familiar with the line’s management team. You could have been working with a travel advisor who gives upward of $1,000,000 in annual revenue to the line. Instead, you decided to give up the advocacy a talented advisor represents while representing yourself and your single booking. And, sadly, you never knew to demand the refund of the built-in commission for services you never received.
  • The cruise line does have the right to change itineraries when they feel it is in the best interests of the guests to do so. That language appears in every cruise line contract. So we would suggest you persist, be firm, but be kind as they are only doing what every one of their competitors is doing.

As to what to do now?

We would suggest that you start writing every day to executives  using their Facebook and other social media accounts. Try calling again and try to speak to the head of the line’s Customer Service division The reservation team does not have the authority to change policy but the Customer Service Desk does. 

You will not be put in harm’s way – not when you are traveling aboard one of the company’s prized assets.  At this point we would think you might want to start thinking about how you can maximize your enjoyment of this cruise. And do take our advice – never book directly again unless you  have the cruise line’s or the tour operators assurances in writing that you will be refunded the 10-17% of the total cost represented by the build-in travel agent commission.