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. –– When she returned home after spending weeks stranded at sea aboard the Pacific Princess cruise ship, passenger CJ Hayden, a San Francisco-based author and business coach, immediately filed for a refund.
According to their calculations, she and her partner Dave Herninko were owed around $ 37,500.
“They weren’t going to charge us for the days we spent floating around the Indian Ocean with nowhere to go,” Hayden told CNN.
The Pacific Princess set sail last January on a 111-day world tour that was curtailed in mid-March when the covid-19 pandemic shut down the cruise industry.
After being denied entry into multiple ports, the Pacific Princess finally docked in Perth, Australia on March 21, and most passengers, including Hayden, disembarked for flights that weekend. The ship’s operator, Princess Cruises, reported that there were no known cases of coronavirus on board.
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Hayden and other Pacific Princess passengers said they were able to request 100% of their cash refund, in addition to an equivalent amount of credit for future travel, known as Future Cruise Credit (FCC). Alternatively, they were offered 250% credit on future trips.
Hayden chose the first option. She and Herninko explain that they were also owed the money for air tickets to return home, excess baggage charges, money for pre-paid land excursions that never occurred, and port taxes and fees.
Hayden notes that she chased the cruise line three weeks after the refund request, as the company will not contact her, and that Princess Cruises replied that she should wait 30 days.
A month later, Hayden had had no further news. She went back to look for the company and was told it was 60 days.
The situation lasted until the end of June, and Hayden assures that 99 days have passed and counting. She received her credit, but her cash is nowhere to be found.
Long delays in the refund process
And she is not the only person affected.
While stranded at sea, Hayden and Herninko created close ties with other travelers in the same situation. Back home, the former shipmates kept in touch, and these other Pacific Princess passengers told Hayden that they were also still waiting for their refunds.
Checking the message boards of online cruises and social media, Hayden realized that the problem extended beyond the Pacific Princess. Other Princess Cruises and other cruise ship passengers also posted about the long waits.
Frustratingly, as they waited for refunds, they saw cruise companies announce new excursions. Some of those trips were canceled after the International Cruise Line Association extended a “do not sail order” until September 15.
Hayden says he has complained to the California Attorney General, the US Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Maritime Commission.
Princess Cruises’ public relations director Negin Kamali told CNN that passengers received updates on the refund process via social media and email.
She pointed out the company’s latest statement in this regard, dated June 22.
“Because we respect our passengers’ money and time, the processing of refunds has continued to be one of our top priorities since our company stopped operations,” the statement read.
Princess Cruises noted that it had had to “increase the capabilities of our systems” to handle the volume and complexity of refunds.
The cruise line assured that almost 60% of the refunds had already been completed, explaining that the refunds and credit were handled separately.
“Therefore, it is normal to receive one and the other at different times. In many circumstances, the total amount of your Future Cruise Credit will be made up of two or three separate series, ”the statement reads.
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Cash refunds can also come in a series of payments, the cruise line added.
Kamali told CNN that Hayden’s refund was processed on June 19 and that he should receive it within five to seven business days.
Delayed refunds are a widespread problem
Other cruise ship passengers who spoke to CNN said they also faced long waiting times with no sign of their money. Some others have received part, but not all, of the cash or credit owed.
David Hidding, who canceled a family trip with Princess Cruises to Alaska in March, received a refund last week.
He states that he is frustrated by the way the situation was handled.
“I explained that in more than 90 days, we had not received any communication from anyone from Princess, which was unacceptable,” Hidding told CNN. “There was no apology, but [un asesor de Princess Cruises] He reiterated that they have been saturated with the issuance of refunds, “he added.
Retired business analyst Judy Schmitz of Iowa was also aboard the Pacific Princess. She opted for 100% of her cash refund, plus the corresponding amount in credit.
Schmitz says he received the credit, but is still waiting for his cash refund, which he estimates is about $ 33,500.
When she returned home after being stranded at sea, Schmitz was busy taking care of her sick father, who later died.
“Until all the money is returned to me, I will not be able to exhale,” he said.
Nurse Christina Golston, who is based in Iowa and awaits a refund from Carnival Cruise Line, created a Facebook page to connect passengers who have not received their refunds from Carnival Corporation, owner of Princess Cruises, along with Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America and Costa Cruises.
“There are a lot of people like me who love cruises, but now we need our money to pay bills, due to job loss or reduced hours worked,” said Golston.
Carnival Cruise Line representative Vance Gulliksen told CNN that at the beginning of the break in service, the “large volume” of refunds had caused delays.
“But we continue to automate and optimize the process, and we collaborate with our bank processor to work more efficiently,” added Gulliksen. “For the most part, we have worked through delays and feel that we can now process and issue refunds in a much more timely manner. We certainly appreciate the patience of our passengers in this unprecedented disruption to our business, ”he completed.
“Much higher volume than normal on refund requests”
Julie Huang, a New York civil servant, says she is waiting for a refund from Norwegian Cruise Line.
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Huang filed her claim for reimbursement in March, a claim for $ 9,100 on behalf of herself and several family members. You received an automated response informing you that you should wait 90 days for the request to be processed.
The 90th day arrived in the penultimate week of June, but Huang had not received any updates. After failing to communicate by phone, he tweeted mentioned to Norwegian.
She says that a response citing the large number of reimbursement requests that were being processed was not satisfactory.
“There are 90 days of missed opportunities for them to proactively let me know they need more time,” said Huang. “I’m fine with that, I think our money will come back eventually. But I’m going to lose a little faith now if they respond like that, and I don’t appreciate it, “he added.
“I am more obsessed with your response than with money,” she added.
Norwegian Cruise Line told CNN that the cruise line was dealing with “a much larger volume of reimbursement requests to process” due to the unprecedented situation.
“Refunds are handled by the date of trip departure and based on the date the refunds were originally requested. Our team is working tirelessly to finalize these refunds to the original form of payment as soon as possible, ”reads a statement sent to CNN.
“Unfortunately, we are experiencing delays with our delivery capacity within the originally communicated 90-day period, and we want to set appropriate expectations with our delivery capacity. We greatly appreciate our passengers for their understanding and patience, ”added the statement.
An “atypical” experience
Although many passengers are frustrated, some travelers, such as Robert Sohns, have not been discouraged by the experience of being stranded at sea or waiting for their money.
Sohns was also aboard the Pacific Princess, but unlike Hayden and Schmitz, she opted for a full refund on future cruise credit.
He had to wait 90 days, but the credit of approximately $ 36,500 is now in his Princess Cruises account, and another $ 36,500 of credit is in his wife’s account.
“We just hoped they wouldn’t go bankrupt,” Sohns explained. “We simply await our time, knowing that they would eventually contact us,” he added.
Sohns and his wife have put their credit towards a Pacific Princess 2022 world cruise, with the aim of replicating the 2020 trip that they could not finish.
“We have probably been on about 100 cruises in the last 50 years, and half of them have been Princess, and we have always known that there is a possibility of things happening on ships, but this is so untypical,” he added.