Travel Troubleshooter: Cancer returned and spread; no one will refund cruise payment

Question: My husband and I planned to go on a Princess cruise this fall. He has esophageal cancer, but his last chemo radiation was at the end of 2015, and his doctor deemed him medically stable to take the trip.

Unfortunately, at the end of October, right after we paid in full for the trip, he suffered what we thought was a stroke. It turned out to be Bell’s palsy, and at the same time they checked a tumor under his arm, which turned out to be cancer, and now we have found out that he has brain cancer.

We canceled the trip. Neither of these symptoms was pre-existing, but our insurance company is deeming them pre-existing conditions. Our insurance company claims that my husband’s regular checkups are ”treatment.” Princess has offered us vouchers for a future cruise. Unfortunately, he has been given six weeks to live.

Keep in mind that we had a cruise agent with Princess, whom we were very upfront with, and did exactly as she advised. She knew about the previous cancer. Now our emails are being returned, because either we’re blocked or she is no longer there. My husband will be gone and unable to use a voucher. We could use this money for the burial instead. Can you help us get our $7,626 back?

Answer: I am so, so sorry this is happening to you. Your travel agent should have helped you, and your insurance company should have processed your claim, and if it didn’t, then Princess should have refunded your cruise as a compassionate goodwill gesture.

Instead, your agent left, your insurance company squirmed out of its obligation, and the cruise line offered you a voucher it knew you couldn’t use.

For you and your husband, this literally was a bucket-list cruise, a final vacation together. To have it end like this is really heartbreaking.

You did everything you could to protect yourself. You worked with someone you believed to be a reputable travel consultant, purchased insurance that you thought would cover you, and booked a cruise through a company with an excellent reputation.

But let’s break down each of those failures. It’s not clear what happened to your travel agent, but you obviously were not dealing with a competent one. If you were, then the insurance you purchased would have covered your husband’s pre-existing medical condition. Also, the agent wouldn’t have left you high and dry. To avoid connecting with a bad agent, consider working with an accredited travel adviser. The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has a helpful agent finder on its site: web.asta.org/imis/Travelsense.

When it looked as though you would lose your cruise, you also could have reached out to one of the executive contacts at Princess. I publish the names, numbers, and email addresses of the Princess customer-service managers on my consumer-advocacy website: elliott.org/company-contacts/princess.

Although Princess was under no obligation to refund your cruise, I asked it to review your case one more time. The cruise line agreed to refund the full amount of your vacation on compassionate grounds and in the interest of good customer service.

I’m grateful for the company’s reversal, and hope this will bring you some peace during a difficult time.

 

Update:  I have an update on last week’s case involving a man who died while on a trip to Malaysia. An early version of that story didn’t fully describe the various travel insurance companies involved in the claim. There were three parties: the  travel insurance company, AMIG; a travel insurance retailer, April; and Seven Corners, a third-party administrator contracted by April and AMIG. Seven Corners says it processed the claim on time six months ago, but sent the check to the widow’s old address, which caused the delay. I’m happy to report that the widow received her check and cashed it Jan. 5.

 

    Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the author of ”How To Be The World’s Smartest Traveler.”  Read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org, or email him at chris@elliott.org.