Q: We recently booked an 11-night, air-inclusive Adriatic cruise on the Celebrity Silhouette through the cruise line. We paid the $6,800 using our Visa card.
A few days before our flight from Minneapolis to Venice, Delta Air Lines notified us of a change in flights due to an Air France pilots’ strike. The new flights were to be on the same day as our scheduled departure, but left later in the day.
However, when we arrived at the Delta counter, there were no reservations in our names. We called Celebrity and were given two reservation numbers to show the Delta agents for our flights the next day. But we would be arriving only 40 minutes before the ship sailed – not enough time to clear customs and make it to the ship. We had no choice but to cancel our cruise.
We’ve been trying to get a full refund from Celebrity. The company’s best offer is a 25 percent credit and a voucher for 75 percent toward a future cruise. Our credit card company has worked with us to find a better resolution, but Celebrity refuses to deviate from its “no cash refund” policy. Can you help us?
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Ronald Dunnington, Rochester, Minn.
A: I’m sorry you missed your vacation. It looks like you purchased an air-inclusive cruise directly through Celebrity, which offers a program called “ChoiceAir.” Air-inclusive cruises can cost a little more than buying your own airfare, but one of the benefits is that the cruise line assumes some of the responsibility of getting you to the ship.
You didn’t mention travel insurance, but a review of your itinerary shows that you purchased a policy. Unfortunately, your correspondence notes that your claim was rejected.
At this point, I needed to talk with your cruise line about your case to get its side of the story. So I contacted Celebrity on your behalf.
What you didn’t explicitly tell me in your original correspondence is that you were planning to dispute the entire amount of your credit card purchase. I normally recommend saving that strategy as a last resort, but many consumers either don’t want to wait, or they can’t wait, because they only have 60 days under federal law to dispute a purchase.
It appears that when you found out you’d be arriving late for your cruise, you decided to cancel your vacation. Your insurance wouldn’t cover that because, technically, your cruise line was still offering to get you to the ship. Once you landed in Venice, Celebrity would have flown you to the next port, meaning you’d miss only part of your cruise. That’s hardly ideal, but still better than missing your entire vacation.
When you make the call to cancel, you’re basically letting your travel-insurance company and your cruise line off the hook. Celebrity could have offered you a partial refund or nothing at all under the terms of its ticket contract.
My hails to Celebrity went unanswered, and I suspect I know why: By the time I contacted them, your credit card dispute was already in full swing. A few days later, you reported back that you’d won the dispute. I don’t know if I could have gotten you a full refund, but all’s well that ends well.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. You can read more tips on his blog, elliott.org, or email him at email@example.com.