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CNN Discusses Cruise Refunds

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A recent article on by Christopher Elliott answers a travelers question regarding a cancelled cruise.

Q: 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, Colorado

A: 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. Carnival’s ticket contract — the legal agreement between you and the cruise line — is clear about your rights. Check out paragraph six. “No refunds will be made in the event of “no shows”, unused tickets, lost tickets, interruptions, partially-used tickets, or cancellations received late or after the start of the cruise,” it says, adding, “Carnival strongly recommends the purchase of trip cancellation insurance from your travel agent.” (Here’s a copy of the contract on its site).

Would travel insurance have helped? Without a doubt. A fall like this would have almost certainly been covered by your policy, including your return airfare, any medical attention you received in Miami and your cruise fare. Your travel agent should have recommended a comprehensive insurance policy, and in your case, it would have been a sound investment.

(Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. You can read more travel tips on his blog, or e-mail him at

Most travel insurance plans offer coverage for trip cancellation and trip interruption.  This reimburses the traveler any unused and forfeited trip costs, whether it be cruise, lodging, airfare or other travel expenses.  To cancel or interrupt, the trip it must be a for covered reason listed in the policy.  A sickness, injury or death of a traveler or family member is normally a covered reason and it is the most common trip cancellation claim.  The limits of trip cancellation and trip interruption coverage is determined by the amount of trip cost that is listed on the travel insurance quote.  Always refer to the certificate of insurance for details.