(WSVN) - Their cruise was cancelled, their trips ruined by the COVID pandemic, but their newest problem is the cruise line’s fault because they won’t return their money. It’s why many passengers contacted Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
Many businesses have been crushed by the pandemic.
Safe to say, none have been hit harder than the cruise lines, affecting both the ship owners and their customers.
Sherri Benevisto, can’t get cruise refund: “We were going to Venice and to Greece. We were going for my husband’s 60th birthday and for our 35th wedding anniversary.”
But of course, every cruise line shut down. Every cruise was cancelled, and now, seven months later, many customers are still sunk.
Sherri Benevisto: “I’m not getting my money back.”
Sherri is not the only one. Looking at our recent Help Me Howard emails, 13 customers told us they can’t get their money back from their cruise line.
This woman wrote, “I cancelled in March, and 166 days later, all I get is the runaround as I try to get a refund.”
This fellow said he cancelled in March, and “they keep telling me my refund is pending.”
This fellow wrote that he and 18 of his friends had cancelled and were having a problem getting a full refund.
In Sherri’s case, the cruise line said she didn’t fill out the refund form properly. Not true, she says.
Sherri Benevisto: “I filled it out right because I have a form saying I filled it out right.”
But seven months later, Sherri has not been able to convince the cruise line she got it right and they got it wrong.
Sherri Benevisto: “If I did it wrong, OK. It’s my fault, I understand that, but show me where I did wrong.”
The cruise line told her we will give you credit for another trip. No, Sherri says, she wants her cash back.
Sherri Benevisto: “I paid close to $15,000.”
Losing $15,000 to a cruise line in a pandemic. Imagine that feeling.
Sherri Benevisto: “The other day, I was hysterical crying.”
It’s been seven months since cruises started getting cancelled, so Howard, how long do cruise lines before they have to return passengers’ money?
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: “They have a reasonable amount of time to return the money, but seven months is not reasonable at all. They have to return passengers’ money now. If they don’t, they have to be careful because some attorney might file a class action lawsuit and cost the cruise lines a lot more money.”
A few people told us they took the voucher for a future trip instead of a refund, but now, they don’t want a cruise in their future. Can they convert the voucher into a refund?
Howard Finkelstein: “Legally, no. Once you accepted the voucher, you agreed to a contract, and you cannot force the cruise line to convert the voucher into a cash refund.”
Another travel-related question: their 8-year-old son has autism and cannot wear a mask. They were thrown off an airline because he couldn’t keep the mask on. Can an airline do that?
Howard Finkelstein: “This is a great question. The Americans with Disabilities Act gives you the right to reasonable accommodations, but if the accommodation creates a ‘direct threat’ to the health of others, you don’t get the accommodation, and the airline can block you from boarding.”
Sherri Benevisto: “I do feel I’m entitled to that money.”
As for the cruise line, they told us they made a mistake, and that Sherri and her husband were entitled to a full refund and would be getting that $15,000 back.
Sherri Benevisto: “It was supposed to be the time of our lives.”
Instead of that cruise to Greece, they celebrated that anniversary and birthday in a more familiar spot.
Sherri Benevisto: “We stayed in the house and went in the backyard and pool, and we had a barbecue because that’s all you’re allowed to do.”
Howard Finkelstein: “That’s nice, not as memorable as a cruise to Greece, but I bet their barbeque was good.”
And glad we were able to find the right person, so they could get that $15,000 back. That’s a lot of money at any time.
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