Author: Kerry S
I was just another hard-working, pregnant woman looking for a vacation when I booked a Bahamas cruise. Scheduled for this month, our Royal Caribbean cruise with another couple was sailing from the Port of Miami to the Bahamas. After learning about the spread of the Zika virus to other parts of Miami and the new CDC new travel advisory extending through all of Miami-Dade County and now the Bahamas, my OB/GYN mandated that I could not take my scheduled cruise on the Enchantment of the Seas, which was leaving out of the Port of Miami and cruising to the Bahamas.
He provided me with a medical note so that we could contact JetBlue airlines and Royal Caribbean to request refunds.
I love JetBlue
Upon contacting JetBlue I was immediately reassured that anyone who was scheduled to travel to an area where a Zika advisory was now posted was receiving a full refund on their tickets. I was not asked for additional details as to why I was no longer flying to Florida or for a medical note. The process was a breath of fresh air and I was hopeful that my call to Royal Caribbean was going to be as smooth.
Why we don't love Royal Caribbean
My husband made the initial contact with a general customer service representative that informed him that they would not be issuing any refunds to expecting mothers or their families and my only option was a voucher for a future cruise (which would need to be used within 12 months).
Being 4 months pregnant, the thought of planning a trip in the next 12 months, especially on a cruise line with no infant care, was unacceptable.
I contacted a work colleague who has contacts within the Royal Caribbean PR system to ask for a little help in getting my refund request pushed up the ladder. She reached out to a few people on my behalf and I received a call from a woman in their Miami office. I explained my entire situation and included the fact that JetBlue was kind enough to refund our money in hopes they would follow suit. She explained that it is Royal Caribbean corporate policy that they issue the voucher, and they are only issuing them to pregnant women and their families.
My story could be your story
Okay, this is a longer story. My husband got that cruise "free" by using his loyalty points, so we really needed to take it. We didn't pay for the cruise but we bought flights and a balcony cabin upgrade because I thought I might get seasick and be unable to leave the cabin.
I was able to negotiate $259.68 back from the Royal Caribbean supervisor but they refused to refund the remaining $304.00. The $259.68 is the gratuity and taxes that we had to pay upfront, and the $304 is the upgrade fee for the cabin with a balcony. The supervisor further explained that the remaining balance of $304.00 would be issued in the form of a voucher for future travel.
Since my husband was not able to even secure a partial refund through general customer service and I was able to get a partial from her call I asked if I could be transferred to a supervisor or manager and she stated that I cannot escalate it further.
I again reiterated that other cruise lines (Bravo for Carnival) as well as airlines and hotels were issuing refunds since they were more concerned about maintaining their customer’s loyalty than about $300.00 and she said she would bring that to corporate's attention but there is nothing that can be done besides what her offer is.
I have since taken to social media and have only received a standard practice response from whoever handles their social media.
My husband and I would have loved to have our babymoon as planned but unfortunately this is a situation beyond anyone’s control. We are upset that we cannot take the trip as planned, angry with the cruise line, and we are looking for a refund so we can move forward and plan for the arrival of our child.
My only advice to all new moms and moms-to-be is to read the fine print on any travel product. Or relax at home, that is if you don't live in Florida.