(CNN) – When she returned home after weeks at sea on board the Pacific Princess cruise ship, passenger CJ Hayden, an author and business coach based in San Francisco, immediately filed for a refund request.
According to her calculations, she and partner Dave Herninko owed about $ 37,500.
“They wouldn’t have charged us for the days spent floating in the Indian Ocean without a place to go,” Hayden tells CNN.
The Pacific Princess set sail in January for a 111-day trip around the world which was reduced in mid-March when the Covid-19 pandemic closed the cruise industry.
Hayden and other Pacific Princess passengers say they have been informed that they can claim a 1
Hayden opted for the first option. She and Herninko claim that air tickets for home, excess baggage fees, money for pre-paid land excursions that never happened, and port taxes and fees also had to be paid.
Hayden says she chased the cruise line three weeks after the refund request because she hadn’t heard anything and was later told by Princess Cruises that she should expect to wait 30 days.
A month later, Hayden had heard nothing else. She checked in again and was told 60 days.
Fast forward to the end of June, and Hayden says 99 days and more have passed. He received his credit, but his money is nowhere to be seen.
Long delays in processing refunds
CJ Hayden, pictured, from the Pacific Princess cruise ship.
Courtesy of CJ Hayden
And she’s not the only one who’s been hit.
While stranded at sea, Hayden and Herninko formed close ties with other stranded travelers. At home, the ex-crewmates stayed in touch and these other Pacific Princess passengers told Hayden that they too were waiting for refunds.
Browsing the message boards of online cruise posts and social media, Hayden realized that the problem extended beyond the Pacific Princess. Other Princess Cruises passengers and passengers from other cruise lines were also very attentive to long waits.
Frustratingly, pending refunds, they have seen cruise operators advertise new excursions. Some of these trips were subsequently canceled after the Cruise Lines International Association sector extended a “non-sailing order” until September 15.
Hayden says she complained to the California Attorney General, the United States Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Maritime Commission.
Princess Cruises’ public relations director, Negin Kamali, told CNN that guests have been updated on the refund process via social media and email.
CJ Hayden with partner Dave Herninko on the Pacific Princess cruise ship.
Courtesy of CJ Hayden
“Because we respect our guests’ money and time, processing refunds has remained one of our top priorities since our company suspended operations,” read the note.
Princess Cruises said it had to “increase the capacity of our systems” to manage the volume and complexity of refunds.
The shipping company claimed that almost 60% of the refunds have been completed and that the refunds and credit have been handled separately.
“Therefore, it is normal to receive one at a different time than the other. In many circumstances, the full amount of the credit for future cruise will consist of two or three separate FCCs,” read the note.
Cash refunds can also occur in a series of payments, added the cruise line.
Kamali told CNN that Hayden’s refund was processed on June 19 and that he should receive it within 5-7 business days.
A widespread problem with delayed refunds
Other cruise passengers who spoke to CNN said they also faced long waiting times with no sign of money. Others received part, but not all, of their money or credit.
David Hidding, who canceled a Princess Cruises family trip to Alaska in March, received a refund last week.
He says he is frustrated with how the situation was handled.
“I explained that in over 90 days we had not received communications from anyone with Princess – which was unacceptable,” Hidding tells CNN. “No excuse, but [a Princess Cruises advisor] reiterated that they have been overwhelmed by the issue of refunds. “
Retired analyst Judy Schmitz of Iowa was also aboard the Pacific Princess. He has chosen to receive 100% of the cash refund, in addition to the corresponding credit amount.
He received the credit, Schmitz says, but is still waiting for his cash back, which he calculates at around $ 33,500.
When she returned home after being stuck at sea, Schmitz was busy caring for his sick father, who later died.
“Until all the money is repaid to me, I won’t be able to breathe out,” he says.
Christina Golston, with her family on board a cruise trip last fall.
Courtesy of Christina Golston
Iowa-based nurse Christina Golston, waiting for a refund from Carnival Cruise Line, created a Facebook page to connect passengers awaiting refunds from Carnival Corporation, owner of Princess Cruises, together with Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America and Costa Cruises.
“There are many people like me who like to surf, but now we need our money for the bills, due to the loss of work or the reduction in hours worked,” says Golston.
Carnival Cruise Line representative Vance Gulliksen told CNN that the “absolute volume” of refunds caused delays at the start of the service break.
“But we have continued to automate and simplify the process and have collaborated with our banking processor to work more efficiently,” added Gulliksen. “For the most part, we have been working on the backlog and we believe we can now process and issue refunds in a much more timely manner. We certainly appreciate the patience of our guests for this unprecedented interruption of our business.”
“Much higher than normal volume of refund requests”
New York official Julie Huang says she is awaiting a refund from the Norwegian Cruise Line.
Huang filed her refund request in March – a $ 9,100 compensation request on behalf of herself and several family members. She received an automatic reply informing her that she would have to allow 90 days to process the request.
On day 90 he arrived and left in the penultimate week of June, but Huang had received no updates. After not being able to call, she tweeted Norwegian.
Judy Schmitz, cruise passenger
“There are 90 days of missed opportunities to let me know proactively that they needed more time,” says Huang. “I’m okay, I think our money will eventually come back. But I will lose some confidence right now, if they answer that way, and I didn’t appreciate it.”
“I’m more concerned about their response than about the money,” he adds.
Norwegian Cruise Line told CNN that the cruise line had “a much higher than normal volume of refund requests to be processed” due to the unprecedented situation.
“Refunds are handled based on the travel departure date and the date the refunds were initially requested. Our team is working tirelessly to finalize these refunds to the original form of payment as quickly as possible,” reads in a statement provided to CNN.
“Unfortunately, we are experiencing delays with our ability to deliver within the 90 days originally communicated and we want to establish adequate expectations with our delivery capability. We highly appreciate our guests for their understanding and patience.”
The Pacific Princess in Los Angeles in April, her final port of call after most passengers disembarked in Australia.
Mario Tama / Getty Images
However, while many cruisers are frustrated, some travelers, like Robert Sohns, have not been put off by the experience of getting stuck at sea or waiting for money.
Sohns was also aboard the Pacific Princess, but unlike Hayden and Schmitz, she opted for full credit repayments for future cruises.
He had to wait 90 days, but the credit of around $ 36,500 is now in his Princess Cruises account and another $ 36,500 of credit is in his wife’s account.
“We just hoped they hadn’t gone bankrupt,” says Sohns. “We just waited our time knowing that it would eventually come to us.”
Sohns and his wife earned credit for a 2022 Pacific Princess world cruise, with the goal of replicating the 2020 trip that was supposed to be.
“We’ve probably been on nearly 100 cruises in the past 50 years, and half of those have been on Princess and we’ve always known that there is potential for things to happen on ships, but that’s so atypical.”