Charlotte-area travelers struggle to get refunds from canceled cruise trips due to COVID-19

Charlotte-area travelers struggle to get refunds from canceled cruise trips due to COVID-19

The coronavirus outbreak has brought the $53 billion cruise ship industry in the United States to a grinding halt.

Over the past few months, there have been horror stories of sick passengers and deaths from COVID-19.

In the wake of the outbreak, thousands of passengers in Charlotte and across the country who put down deposits for upcoming cruises are wondering if they will ever get their money back.

WBTV spoke to three Charlotte-area customers of two different cruise lines who are struggling to get their money back after cancelling their trips because of the virus pandemic.

It’s an ongoing battle for Deborah Donnell who booked a trip to the Bahamas through Royal Caribbean, which was scheduled to leave in April but was suddenly canceled in March.

“I never received an email regarding how the cancellation was going to work,” Donnell said.

The total cost of the trip was $827.08.

Only a meal was refunded in the amount of $85.98.

“What bothers me most is the inconsistent information that as a consumer that I’m receiving," Donnell said.

WBTV Investigates contacted Royal Caribbean to check on the status of Donnell’s refund.

Royal Caribbean, in a written statement, says in part, “We are processing refunds as quickly as possible; however the current turnaround time is approximately 30 business days.”

Jessica Behrmann and her fiancé were booked on Carnival cruise ship bound to Mexico for their honeymoon.

“Thanks to the coronavirus, we no longer get to do that, and I tried contacting customer service to see if we could get our money back or get a credit for a future cruise,” Behrmann said.

Carnival wouldn’t do either, so Behrmann is fighting for her deposit of $150.

“It’s pretty aggravating," Behrmann. "It’s only $150 so it could have been worse, but it would have been nice if we could have at least gotten a credit.”

Teresa Richards is in the same boat, high and dry.

She was booked on another Carnival cruise scheduled to depart for the Bahamas in October, until it was cancelled as well.

“With work as it is now and the country shut down and not knowing what’s happening, it’s kind of scary,” Richards said.

She’s still fighting for her deposit for $198.

“They didn’t even suggest what about rescheduling the cruise later, they just said there’s nothing they can do," Richards said.

WBTV also called Carnival to check on both women’s refunds.

In a statement, Carnival said in part, “over 1 million Carnival guests have been impacted and they’re working to process refunds as quickly as they can but cannot provide an approximate date for when refunds will be issued.”

President of the Charlotte Better Business Bureau Tom Bartholomy said the complaints and responses from the carriers are not a surprise.

Bartholomy says the preferred means of communication is the consumer goes to the website for information.

His advice for getting your money back?

“Once you’ve put in your cancellation request, if you used a credit card, that affords you another level of protection that you can go and file through your credit card itself for a refund,” Bartholomy said.

Otherwise, Bartholomy said, be patient and persistent in contacting the cruise lines.

According to the BBB, if you’re trying to hop on deals and book a trip, you may want to wait until things are calmer in the cruise line industry.

If you have a problem and need our help, call the WBTV Investigates tip line at 704-374-3511 or email us at investigates@wbtv.com.