Carnival Cruise Line ‘Guarantees’ Fun Vacations with New Money-Back Guarantee Program

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Carnival cruiseAfter a year of cruise ship accidents and mishaps, Carnival Cruise Line is making a pretty bold statement. According to the Fun Ship line, the days of worrying over injuries and crimes are over. In fact, the company is ‘guaranteeing’ that passengers will have a good time on their cruise and if not, will not have to pay a penny for their vacation.

Seems to our firm like Carnival is finally putting its money where its mouth is. The world’s largest cruise company announced their new money-back “Great Vacation Guarantee” last Thursday, which promises not just a partial or full refund, but a whopping 110 percent refund and free transportation home if a passenger is unhappy with their vacation and wants to leave within the first 24 hours of their cruise. If a guest isn’t satisfied, Carnival will let them disembark at the first port of call and will arrange for them to get back home safely. But that’s not all. Unhappy cruisers will also get $100 worth of onboard credit for a future cruise if they ever want to try out another vacation on the high seas.

After all the negative publicity Carnival has been getting for months on end, it’s refreshing to see the cruise company give back to their guests and offer quality incentives for travel. According to Gerry Cahill, Carnival’s president and CEO, the guarantee follows the highly publicized coverage of the Carnival Triumph cruise ship fire and other mechanical issues on Carnival ships that have led the once popular and family-friendly line to suffer  a drop in appeal and bookings. Cahill hopes that with the new money-back guarantee promotion, first-time cruisers Carnival travelers will be inspired to check out one of the line’s many itineraries and see that the company really is taking a greater approach to maritime safety.

According to Harris polls that were conducted shortly after the Triumph debacle, America’s trust in Carnival diminished by 18 percent. For a company that was once at the top of the cruise industry, this drop in popularity meant a subsequent huge drop in bookings and revenue. Cahill noted that the negative publicity was especially damaging for virgin Carnival cruisers, which became hesitant to sail with the Fun Ship after the slew of accidents and mishaps. New cruisers represent a giant part of the market for cruise companies, and with a severe decline in demand for travelers, Carnival knew it was time to make a drastic change to raise interest for guests once more.

But while it may seem like a nuance for the line, the new program is actually a revision of a policy introduced back in 1996, which offered passengers a money-back guarantee for the portion of a cruise they didn’t take and reimbursement for travel back home. But with only a small percentage of guests taking Carnival up on their offer, the company decided to step up their efforts and expand the policy. Now, Carnival includes both air and ground transportation back home and even a hotel stay if necessary.

“We tried to make this as seamless as possible and hassle-free as possible for the guest,” explained Cahill.

Carnival is certainly promoting the new policy to the fullest extent, featuring ads on the company website, through travel agents and even in print, but is this guarantee too good to be true?

Our maritime attorneys have learned that when a cruise line makes a promise that appears too good to be true, it usually is. Like most cruise compensation programs, the Great Vacation Guarantee does have a caveat. The promo is only good for three- to eight-day itineraries to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Alaska, Canada, and New England from now through April 30, 2015. Additionally, it only applies to U.S. and Canadian residents and travelers must have their passports at hand.

Yet, given these stipulations, it sure beats having no compensation for an unfavorable cruise experience. Back when the Triumph caught fire in February and left thousands of passengers stranded in the Gulf of Mexico without power, sufficient food provisions or working toilets, Carnival barely offered any compensation to guests who suffered what many were referring to as the worst conditions ever experienced onboard a cruise ship.

After much debate, Carnival finally offered to compensate Triumph guests with the following:

  • A full refund
  • $500 per traveler
  • Future cruise credit
  • Free flight home
  • Refund for most onboard expenses

Yet, many, including our maritime lawyers, felt that what Carnival was offering paled in comparison to the plights of the Triumph victims. Carnival had the chance to have the disabled Triumph towed to the much closer port of Progreso, Mexico instead of Mobile, AL, which would have saved travelers at least 2 days worth of torment on the “floating petri dish.” Yet, the costs associated with getting passengers back home would have been much more expensive for Carnival had the line taken the more logical and passenger-friendly approach.

The line could have also arranged for victims to be airlifted back home or transferred to another vessel, but alas, that too would have cost the company too much money. At the very least, Carnival could have arranged for a Coast Guard ship or helicopter to bring the stranded passengers a supply of food, but that didn’t happen either.

Several guests are involved in lawsuits against Carnival for the Triumph cruise accident, including a class-action suit filed by our firm. It’s tough to imagine passengers getting over such a nightmarish experience such as the aftermath of the Triumph fire, but we have to admit, the line seems to finally be taking a step in the right direction to prioritize passenger needs and safety.

Hopefully this is just one of many changes Carnival will undertake to get back on track and regain its former appeal as fun, family-friendly cruise line.