Question: My husband and I have a cruise scheduled on the American Empress from Vancouver, Washington to Clarkston, Washington. I logged onto the cruise line’s website to check on the COVID protocols. When we booked the cruise, my husband and I reviewed the procedures on site. We felt the overall standards were excellent.
However, I was shocked to see how much the standards have dropped. A PCR test was no longer required and only antigen tests would be given before boarding. Trials of vaccinations (not booster shots) were mandatory. But social distancing and masks were no longer required.
Our travel agent was equally surprised. She promised to call me back. I am still waiting to hear back from her. I contacted our doctor for his advice. He sent us a letter strongly advising us not to participate, especially with the increased number of cases at the moment. Our travel insurance company said we could make a claim if we had a reason not to get a vaccine. My husband and I are both vaccinated.
American Queen, the cruise line, will retain 100% of our fee if we cancel now. But the cruise line changed its protocol without any notice. And the company’s current protocols are less than other major cruise lines. Can you help us either get our money back, or a cruise loan?
A: I can understand your reasons for canceling your cruise. Your health is more important than any vacation. But is American Queen required to refund your cruise when it changes its COVID requirements?
Your cruise was scheduled for May 2022, when many cruise lines have relaxed their masking and social distancing requirements. American Queen does not address health and safety requirements in its passenger ticket contract. This means it can make a change like adding or removing a mask requirement, and nothing is owed to passengers.
American Queen can keep your money. But I don’t think it should. COVID turned everything upside down. Passengers made some concessions to cruise lines – and vice versa. American Queen should show some understanding and offer you either a refund or a voucher for a future cruise.
Also, I think you bought the wrong insurance for your circumstances. If you had a “cancellation for any reason” policy, you could have canceled and received between 50% and 75% of your prepaid, non-refundable expenses. You had a less expensive named risk policy which would not allow you to cancel and get your money back.
I contacted the American queen. The company offered you coupons that are valid for the next two years. The company has also refunded your port charges.
Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit consumer organization. Contact him at elliott.org/help or firstname.lastname@example.org.