Q. I had to cancel my American Cruise Lines cruise from Memphis to New Orleans for medical reasons.
I called American Cruise Lines and inquired about rebooking for a cruise this fall using my cancellation credits. I had paid $570 for a “cancel for any reason” protection plan.
A representative informed me that I only had $350 in credit instead of 80 percent of the original fare of $5,745. When I asked for an explanation, referring to the “cancel for any reason” protection plan, he said that I had canceled less than nine days before the start of my cruise. That’s not true. I canceled a day before the deadline.
I hoped that upon investigation, American Cruise Lines would find that it made a mistake and decide to take a more responsible attitude. But it hasn’t. Can you help?
EDWARD MARKS, Washington, D.C.
A. Your “cancel for any reason” travel protection should have covered your cancellation. But the American Cruise Lines protection plan (found online at www.aclmedia.azureedge.net/cmsmedia/libraries/acl/documents/cfar/acl-cfar-summary.pdf) comes with some important restrictions. First, it’s not insurance, but “protection.” You’re paying $570 for more lenient cancellation terms. And those terms state that you must cancel nine days or more before the start of your cruise package to receive an 80 percent cruise credit. A standard “cancel for any reason” insurance policy would let you cancel within less time — usually 48 hours before your trip — and receive a 50 percent to 75 percent refund.
Travel insurance is something worth considering for any cruise. Cruises can be expensive, and a lot can go wrong. (Believe me, I know.) But you have to shop carefully. Never take the first travel insurance or “protection” policy that someone offers. Talk to your travel adviser or spend a little time researching travel insurance options online with my consumer guide (www.elliott.org/ultimate-consumer-guides-smart-travelers/how-find-best-travel-insurance). Based on the reviews I’ve seen, the protection you had was a little pricey and had some significant limitations. You might have found something better elsewhere.
You canceled your cruise on the ninth day before departure, so the cruise line should have honored your claim. Instead, it apparently considers day nine to be past your deadline. Technically, that would have been nine calendar days before you checked into your hotel in Memphis for the start of your trip.
You could have appealed this to an executive at the cruise line. I list the names, numbers, and e-mail addresses of the American Cruise Lines executives on my consumer advocacy site at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/american-cruise-lines-inc. I also publish a few helpful tips on how you can negotiate a refund at www.elliott.org/answers/how-to-fix-your-own-consumer-problem.
I thought American Cruise Lines should review your case one more time. Losing $4,596 over a few hours, and on a technicality, seems wrong.
I contacted American Cruise Lines on your behalf. It agreed. A representative contacted you and said the cruise line restored the 80 percent you should have received under your protection plan.
Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers resolve their problems. Elliott’s latest book is “How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler” (National Geographic). Contact him at elliott.org/help or email@example.com.