DEAR TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTING: Last year I paid a $ 750 deposit for three tickets for a Carnival cruise from Los Angeles to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. After the COVID-19 outbreak, Carnival canceled its cruises. Carnival repaid one of the down payments. He sent me a letter stating that we have until May 2021 to decide whether to accept a full refund or reschedule a cruise and get an additional $ 500 cruise credit.
But somewhere along the line, they decided to change the offer without notifying their customers. When I asked the question, a rep said they have an internal email saying they’ve decided to deny refunds to anyone who canceled more than 90 days prior to the cancellation. Now they are refusing our refund. Can you help me get my $ 500 deposit back?
– Bessie Walker, Waipahu, Hawaii
REPLY: Carnival, like all other cruise lines, has suspended operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. It offered the choice between a refund or a future cruise credit. The offer has changed over time causing some confusion for the cruise line, as well as for travel agents and passengers. Yours seems to be one of those cases.
Carnival’s records show you canceled your reservation 68 days before it suspended operations. He did not offer you any refunds, but said you were entitled to an “early savings credit” of $ 150 for each reservation.
However, your phone records suggest that you contacted Carnival on April 18, more than a month after it was announced that it was suspended. You indicated at the time that you intended to accept the future $ 500 onboard credit offered by Carnival.
Here’s the problem: The emails Carnival sent you were clear about their refund process. He had “fully automated” the repayment and credit process, “avoiding having to call us”.
“We urge you to carefully review this information and go through the online process, as calling us will not expedite your request,” he added.
I don’t know if Carnival wanted you to call. Calling him may have led to some confusion as to when you requested to change your reservation. And since a phone call doesn’t generate a paper trail, it’s really Carnival’s word against yours.
You said it should be Carnival’s responsibility to provide an exact date and the name of the person you called and canceled the reservation, along with a transcript. But unfortunately, that’s not how it works. While companies like Carnival have sophisticated call center technology that generates transcripts and tracks every conversation, the only way to access them is through a court order. And no one is going to hire a lawyer for a $ 500 deposit; it is not profitable.
I recommended that you contact one of the cruise line’s executive contacts. I post the names, numbers and email addresses of Carnival officials on my consumer advocacy site at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/carnival-cruise-lines/.
You emailed the executives at Carnival, as I suggested. In addition, I have also contacted Carnival on your behalf. He has reviewed his records, including his phone logs, and has fully refunded your deposit.