It Shouldn't Take Three Years To Book A Carnival Cruise

Leslie and her husband haven’t been able to cruise with Carnival since Hurricane Katrina rained all over their original itinerary back in 2005. Carnival promised they would be able to cruise on a “space available” basis, except Carnival won’t confirm if space is available until three days before departure, making it nearly impossible for Leslie and her husband to buy affordable plane tickets or arrange care for their sixteen-month-old daughter.

Leslie cc’d us on her letter to Carnival:

This letter is in reference to booking number 6K80R9. My name is Leslie. My husband, Stacey, and I have been trying to sail with Carnival for close to 3 years now. On our first attempt in October 2005, our port was obliterated by Hurricane Katrina. On our second attempt in September 2006, I had an emergent medical condition upon arriving to the airport related to my complicated pregnancy, thus I was unable to board the plane. I am very happy to say I did give birth in March 2007, and with a recent newborn, we have been unable to attempt to cruise until this year. We have been given the opportunity to take a space available cruise until September 2008.

My husband and I have tried on 2 separate occasions to sail according to the space available rules. Unfortunately on both occasions, Carnival was unable to confirm our cabins. We were previously informed that we would know, 2 weeks at the latest, prior to the sailing whether or not we will be confirmed. On both occasions (in February and June), they were unable to tell us “yes or no” until about 3 days before the sailing, making it EXTREMELY difficult and stressful for us. On both occasions, the answer was “no”.

Here is my difficulty with attempting to cruise with this restriction. My husband and I are both hard working, full time employees. We now have a 16 month old child. We also live in the Midwest (Chicago, IL), where we are in no way close to any ports. We originally chose Carnival because it was highly recommended by friends and family and also due to the fact that it was very affordable for us. Of course we did not know we would not be able to make the departure based on my medical status at the time of our initial cruise. Unfortunately for us, we do not have the liberty of taking vacation at a 1-2 week or less notice. Our jobs require us to give ample notice prior to vacationing. This also entails finding childcare for our daughter, finding flights and possible hotels close to port the night prior to sailing. I don’t know if you have ever tried to make arrangements this close to vacation time, but the costs are ridiculous without a 21 day advance notice. We have no family near us; therefore a relative from out of state must also make arrangements to watch our child in Chicago. This involves a lot of planning, time and energy, all of which we cannot afford. We are not retired and do not have the luxury of leaving for vacation on a moment’s notice. Also as mentioned, we must fly to any port you sail out of because we are landlocked from the ocean in the Midwest. Taking all this into consideration, the cost of making last minute travel arrangements alone will greatly exceed the cost of what he have already paid for the cruise, thus now making it unaffordable for us.

I hope that you can understand our predicament. With the restrictions set forth for the space available cruise, it does not seem likely that we would ever be able to take this cruise, especially not by September of this year. Because we work very hard and now have a family to support, we do not want to lose the money we have paid either.

I am hoping that your company can help us out with this matter. I would like to again request a refund for our fully paid trip. If this is not possible, I urge you to please consider giving us a credit of the full amount that of our cruise that does not expire. We would like to request a credit $518 (we have already been refunded the $83.16 for taxes/fees). We also paid a $25 one-way transfer fee from Port Canaveral to Orlando airport which we obviously never used ($50 total for my husband and I). If given a credit that does not expire, this will allow us to rebook a cruise with ample time, and for us to make the appropriate flight and travel arrangements, and also to arrange for time off of work and childcare issues. In short, it will allow us to appropriately PLAN for a vacation. It has really been a struggle to utilize this vacation that we have already paid for. And on both attempts, where multiple arrangements were made in hopes of you having space for us, you were unable to confirm us. I don’t feel that I am asking too much, as this is money that WE have already paid for.

I do understand the policies with missing cruises. It saddened us that we were not able to make that trip back in September 2006 however, such is life, where unexpected things occur. I really hope that we shouldn’t have to be penalized for it (losing all the money for our vacation) simply due to an unexpected medical condition. Please reconsider this. I have spoken to multiple supervisors and company representatives over the past several years, but it does not seem that anyone can understand our difficulties.

Please contact me with any questions you may have.



Three years is a long time to wait for a vacation. A usable credit that doesn’t expire isn’t too much to ask.

(Photo: FredoAlvarez)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Jevia says:

    You might also try writing to Chris Elliott, the travel troubleshooter. He’s pretty good at helping out travelers.

  2. humphrmi says:

    In Carnival’s defense, much of that “three years to book” was actually time they were unable to travel due to the newborn.

    That said, if they were given a space-available credit, they should get a reasonable amount of time to book. A couple of weeks, at least.

  3. tedyc03 says:

    @humphrmi: I think that at some point companies do more to eat the cost and just do the “right” thing. I mean, a lot of companies do the “reasonable” thing, and not knowing if you’re going to have space until the cruise booking is complete is reasonable…but I think that there’s sometimes a difference between reasonable and right.

    Is it reasonable for Carnival to impose a policy like this? Yes. Is it reasonable for Carnival to argue that the newborn is the reason it’s taken so long? Absolutely.

    Would Carnival get a lifelong customer if they ate the cost and had given these people a cruise three years ago, and said “it’s not our fault a hurricane destroyed your plans but we’re going to help you anyway”? You bet.

    Example: Southwest once lost a bag of mine. It actually didn’t make a connection. They were apologetic and said they’d drive it to my house the next morning. They knew where it was and it was an hour out. I asked if I could wait and they said that was fine and then offered me a $25 credit for my time. Did they have to do that? No. It was a nice gesture, and they earned themselves repeat business. Consistently they demostrate this (holding flights so I would make a connection; rebooking me on a departing flight as my flight was canceled; etc.). Does it cost them something? Probably. But they earn my business each and every time.

  4. bvanpelt says:

    Ever heard of travel insurance? The OP is crying over milk she spilled…

  5. nsv says:

    Carnival knows what their busy season is. It would be simple for them to select what they know is a slow month and offer a cruise during that month, a few months in advance. That would fill up a cabin that would otherwise be empty, and keep an existing customer happy.

  6. Parting says:

    @bvanpelt: Your comment was very jerkish. Very.

    If you miss a cruise, and company offers you to retake it, I doubt you will try to reclaim the money. Especially when it’s due to a hurricane. Now if just the company would make an exception to confirm the reservation 3 weeks in advance. That would be great PR for the company, and very happy customers. Which are young, by the way, so they will take future cruises in their life.

    Or maybe you’re a psychic. Then you always know better.

  7. humphrmi says:

    @Victo: OK now, Before everyone starts screaming “OMG! They won’t rebook a cruise that was canceled due to a HURRICANE!” let’s review the cliff notes (for those of you who didn’t read the post):

    – They rebooked their missed hurricane cruise in 2006.
    – They missed the 2006 cruise due to a medical condition
    – They waited until 2008 to try to rebook it

    Missing a cruise due to medical complications is exactly what travel insurance is intended to cover, because carriers generally don’t.

    That said, Carnival did apparently offer them yet another credit, on a space-available basis.

    The part that sucks is that Carnival isn’t being cooperative with them about a reasonable advance booking period. They could do better. But it’s not entirely their fault.

    My advice to the OP: find out when their off-peak travel season is, and book then. You’ll have a much better chance of not getting bumped.

  8. kepler11 says:

    I have to agree. This is why travel insurance exists.

  9. albo23 says:

    Her husbands name is Stacey? High School must have been hell.

  10. timmus says:

    Going on cruises is basically supporting coporations that operate sweatshops. Most cruises hire Indonesian, Indian, and Filipino labor, paying about $400 a month for 14+ hour days in poor working conditions. And of course as we see here they treat their clientele like cattle.

    Here’s an article that scratches the surface.

    A cruise is ethically the worst idea for a vacation. Though I recognize the OP clearly has no choice but to recoup their vacation from the stingy bastards.

  11. AdvocatesDevil says:

    Yeah, I totally agree! These people are horrible monsters who HATE America!

  12. The OP is asking for a credit and will accept a credit. A credit towards a future cruise would solve a lot of problems. The OP could book when best for her. Carnival will generate more revenue from the OP (as the credit is not sufficient to cover the cost of the cruise today), and everybody will be happy.

  13. 5thAveCocaine says:

    @Corporate-Shill: Absolutely. The OP will also tell her friends and family that the company did right by her and her family and maybe even give them a new customer or two.

    Carnival, listen up: this is your chance to put some polish on your image. After all the illnesses coming from yours and other company’s ships, I’d think you want as many people saying GOOD things about you as possible..

  14. RabbitDinner says:

    Another empirical reason for me to hate credits and always demand refunds.

  15. baquwards says:

    It was required that they give credit for a canceled cruise. It was nice of them to give a credit for the medical emergency, at this point it really isn’t their problem. Cruise lines (all of them) are usually very strict about not giving refunds, they will not refund for medical emergencies or even a death in the family, and will rarely give a credit in these circumstances, that is why trip insurance is a good idea. For us it usually adds less than $40 each for our vacations and covers far more than this. They missed their make-up cruise due to medical emergency and it was very nice of Carnival to give them one more shot, their contract clearly says that they don’t have to, it is the same way with any cruise line.

  16. pollyannacowgirl says:


    You have the most reasonable response, IMO. The rational part of me applauds and agrees.

    The irrational (mean) part of me wonders why these people would want to take a Carnival Cruise in the first place. When I think of all the crimes and illnesses that take place on cruise ships, not to mention the slave labor that timmus mentions… A friend of mine said of her Carnival cruise: “It was like the Bronx emptied out onto that ship.” (she said it, I’m just repeating it)

  17. SinisterMatt says:

    I almost wonder if a few days advance notice is all Carnival is able to give the OP. I really don’t know how the cruise line does things (I’ve never been on a cruise), so this may be way off. Perhaps they have people who book cruises and cancel right up to the last minute. In order to avoid ticking new customers off, they won’t tell Leslie here (an old customer). Perhaps in a similar matter to flying standby. I know, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me either. Just thought I’d throw that out there.


  18. baquwards says:


    There are very few crimes that happen on cruise ships compared to land. You hear of the illnesses because cruise lines are required to report outbreaks to the CDC where hotels, hospitals, nursing homes, etc.. are not. You are much more likely to get sick from a shopping cart handle than you are a cruise (just think of the little kid with their mouth all over the handle, or putting their hand in their diaper and touching the handle).

    As far as the labor goes, these people choose to work on these ships and in many cases what we consider terrible pay these people can support an entire family in much better style than they could if they worked in their native country. The service staff often makes more in a month from tips than I do at my job.

    I took my first Carnival cruise last year (7 other cruises on different lines) and it was wonderful, as good or better than Royal Caribbean, Princess, and NCL. But as with any cruise line you never know what type of passenger you will be sharing the boat with that week.

  19. psychos says:

    It seems that most people are missing the very important point that Carnival said that 2 weeks notice would be provided on the “space-available” condition, yet both attempts did not get a reply on whether space was available until around 3 days before. Whatever the facts are on the other circumstances, Carnival has broken that specific promise twice now, and thus the complainants are due a full refund as far as I am concerned.

    I do think that if Carnival had not made such promises, then perhaps there would be less obligation for recompense to the travelers. It seems like they handled the natural disaster complication okay since the couple were able to rebook, then were perfectly reasonable in accommodating the health-related issues on the rebooked cruise; if this were, say, an airline, a health-related matter such as that may have resulted in a full forfeit of the tickets. But they have obviously failed at providing rebooking after that as promised.

  20. timmus says:

    Micky Arison
    CEO/Chairman of the Board/Director at Carnival Corporation
    Salary, compensation package, stock options:
    Source: []

    I think this company can’t pay a decent wage nor give Leslie the replacement cruise because they can’t afford it. There’s too much money tied up fattening up their executives.

  21. mhutt says:

    I booked a cruise and was unable to go because of unexpected complications with a pregnancy. We had travel insurance. We still ate 60% of the price. I had a letter from my doctor stating I had been in the hospital and though now released was not allowed to travel the next week which was our scheduled cruise. They wrote us a letter telling us at least 5 reasons why they didn’t have to give us any money at all but were being nice and gave us some of our money back. Some of the reasons included that my husband did not contact them 24 hours after being admitted to the hospital. That a pregnancy isn’t covered at all because it is not an unexpected medical emergency. etc. So I am surprised that carnival gave them anything and the poster should be happy she was able to get anything back at all. I would have rather had her situation than mine but she seems still very unhappy with the outcome.

  22. Consumerist-Moderator-Roz says:

    @bvanpelt: Read the comment code. Blaming the victim is not appropriate. It’s fine to suggest travel insurance, but do so in a helpful (rather than dismissive and snide) manner.

  23. EricaKane says:

    What is going on around here? If the “victim” is not really a victim why can’t she be blamed? Lets look at the facts:

    1.) Carnival could have told them, after the “medical emergency” – sorry we have done all that was required of us. Its not our fault you booked a cruise while you were pregnant? Instead, Carnival allowed them to cancel and use it until September 2008.

  24. juniper says:

    All things being equal, that was a very well-written letter. Narrative, easy to read, and it will probably evoke some compassion in the wage-slave at Carnival who is actually reading it.

    Leslie writes that she lives in Chicago, she should contact the Fixer at the Chicago Sun-Times. He/She loves taking care of things like this, and it has the right amount of human interest that it could get picked up. Local news might also like it as a human interest story.


  25. Jevia says:

    In regards to travel insurance, since the cruise in Sept. 06 was from a credit provided by Carnival for a cruise canceled by Carnival, could the OP even have gotten travel insurance for it (since they didn’t actually pay for the Sept. 06 cruise)?

  26. basket548 says:

    So completely irrelevant to bring up the wage of the CEO. How does that relate at all to the issue?

  27. timmus says:

    It’s Carnival Cruise Lines, this is Consumerist, and it’s discussing the merits of being their consumer. It’s not my understanding that this thread is supposed to be a problem-solving roundtable.

  28. humphrmi says:

    @Jevia: You can buy travel insurance, usually at booking time, whether that travel is paid for by check, credit card, debit card, or in-house credit.

  29. JennQPublic says:

    I don’t understand why anyone is blaming the OP. Her letter wasn’t whiny or full of self-pity, she is asking a company that she is a customer of to make her a more satisfied customer. She doesn’t seem to be mad about the situation, or to be blaming Carnival, she is just an intelligent consumer, and knows that if she is polite and reasonable, she may get what she wants. I hope this works for her.

  30. coren says:

    @bvanpelt: Yeah, what was OP thinking, causing a hurricane in New Orleans?

  31. SacraBos says:

    I think the key phrase here is “space available”. For the most part, cruises are booked up in advance enough that there will probably NEVER be “space available” unless someone cancels at the last minute – thus giving them 2-3 days to fly down there. “Space Avaiable” isn’t really fair compensation in this case.

  32. mariospants says:

    For people who argue that it’s the OP’s fault for reneging on the re-booked cruise and that it’s ultimately their fault, I’d argue that the cruise line was doing what was right by honoring additional credit because: a) the cruise line cancelled their original booking for an extreme reason beyond their control so the OP should be excused once for doing the same and b) it could be reasonally assumed that when the original and first booking was set, the OP was NOT pregnant.

  33. coolkiwilivin says:

    @bvanpelt: You have got to be kidding me? So what division of carnival do you work for? This ladies response was reasoned and not demanding. Carnival has consistently showed themselves to be a lousy company. From the pregnant women they would let on board, EVEN though they sent her a brochure saying she was fine to go to this. It shows that they really don’t give a rip about their customers.

  34. Charlotte Rae's Web says:

    Hey it was worth a try for the OP. It would be foolish not to give it a shot.

    However, if I were them I would have tried to get a refund after the first cancellation (Katrina) and then rebooked myself with that money later.

  35. cccdude says:

    This is the same game as airlines that offer vouchers that are practically impossible to redeem in the name of “customer service”. They can say “we did the right thing” but in reality, they make the process so difficult or restrictive that only 1 out of 10 credits are actually redeemed.

  36. trujunglist says:

    I think this says it all:

    This involves a lot of planning, time and energy, all of which we cannot afford.

    Planning (calling your relatives, whom you hopefully call anyway from time to time? booking flights online?), time (from the planning?) and energy (clicking your mouse is THAT difficult?) is somehow not affordable? WTF? I think the OP is just lazy and screwed up, which could explain the over a year waiting period between cruises. I’m sorry, but I think that their jobs would find it reasonable that they needed to cancel their vacation due to Katrina and get a new date a short time later.
    Her note is very reasonable and I honestly hope she gets something, but Carnival has 0 obligation at this point.