Cruising is indeed a very enjoyable vacation experience, but it’s certainly not without its occasional problems and mishaps. Despite your highest hopes or the best intentions of the cruise line and its staff, something might actually go wrong during your cruise.
It could be one of several scenarios:
- Your luggage somehow gets lost (or dropped in the ocean during embarkation)
- You contract the Norovirus onboard, then subsequently confined to your stateroom
- An itinerary change occurs
- You don’t like the food served in any of the dining venues onboard
- You experience problems with your stateroom (plumbing issues, broken furniture, odor, noise)
You’ve spent hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on this vacation, and expected a problem-free good time. This issue has you disappointed (and possibly a little pissed off.) The problems you experienced may have ruined your entire vacation, and now you feel the cruise line should pay. At this point you may be asking, “I‘m entitled to some compensation for my trouble, right?”
The honest answer is: Maybe. Then again, maybe not.
Whether or not a guest should receive compensation is determined by a number of factors, and even that can vary depending on the cruise line. Of course, there are several instances where compensation is warranted. Here are some examples:
- Stateroom issues. Problems with plumbing, electricity, cleanliness, and general operation are usually granted compensation immediately (depending on company policy). The type and amount is usually determined in part by the severity and the number of days the problem occurred.
- Quarantine due to Norovirus. If a guest contracts the Norovirus during the cruise, he or she is quarantined and confined to the stateroom for a period of time. Many cruise lines offer compensation to the guest based on the number of days he or she was confined to the stateroom. (Keep in mind, this compensation may not apply to anyone who opted to stay with the ill guest but were not subject to the quarantine.)
- Missed days of cruise due to delayed/cancelled flights (applies to Air/Sea guests.) There are some instances when the cruise line compensates guests that missed a portion of their cruise due to a delayed or cancelled flight, provided the air arrangements were made through the cruise line. The compensation amount can vary depending on the itinerary, length of cruise, and number of days missed.
- Cancelled sailings. If the cruise line has to cancel an entire sailing (due to circumstances that are normally considered “under its control”, like ship mechanical issues), oftentimes it offers additional compensation on top of the full refund of the cruise fare it issues its guests. Because of the negative impact a cancelled cruise can cause, the cruise line aims to retain these guests and entice them to rebook for a future sailing versus the guest booking with another cruise line.
- Poor service. If you were subjected to issues like inedible food, an impolite (or downright rude) staff member, excessive noise in your stateroom, or other related issues, this is definitely a qualified complaint. A service failure committed by the cruise line is a failure of the company’s promise to you as the consumer.
Complaints that are subjective in nature generally don’t qualify for compensation. So, if you thought the décor was gaudy, hated a particular port of call for personal reasons, or you didn’t care for the food served in the main dining room, it’s pretty safe to say you won’t be granted compensation.
Here are a few other instances that may not qualify for compensation from the cruise line:
- Pricing/product issues with third-party vendors. If you were dissatisfied with your spa treatment or feel you were overcharged for a painting you purchased onboard, you’ll be referred to the vendor for resolution. The vendor will determine if compensation is warranted and will issue it if it’s granted.
- Itinerary changes. For cruisers, at least 50% of the reason they take a cruise is for the itinerary. However, because an itinerary change may become required at any given moment (at times against the will of the cruise line), itineraries can’t be guaranteed. This is detailed in the cruise ticket contact, thus releasing the cruise line from liability. They may offer compensation in an extreme case (a natural disaster, for example) but aren’t required to do so.
- Not reporting a problem while onboard. You may have had water leaking from the bathroom in your stateroom or had a broken air conditioner the entire trip. Generally, those issues are eligible for compensation. But for some cruise lines, that’s only if you reported the problem while onboard the ship. In these cases lines, waiting until after the cruise is over to lodge your complaint is considered a forfeiture of compensation – even if you were entitled to it because of the issue. Some lines will check the Purser/Guest Relations log for the sailing in question to verify if you reported it before responding to your complaint.
- Being denied boarding. If the denial was warranted, not only will you not be given compensation for missing the cruise, you most likely won’t get a refund either. If you were denied boarding due to negligence on your part (wrong documents, no visa, illegal substances, etc.), you’re out of luck, as well as the money you paid for the cruise.
It’s important to remember is that compensation provided to a guest for a bad experience is generally handled on a case by case basis most times. This is not an exhaustive list, but a highlight of some of the more common occurrences. Thousands of guests have sailed multiple times without ever having an issue. Hopefully you’ll have the same experience. If you’re not as fortunate, though, now you have a better idea of what to do, and what to expect.