When a family booked a cruise of a lifetime with Princess Cruises, they had no idea their trip would suddenly be canceled by the cruise line. The problem?
Their baby is below the minimum age for sailing, which a Princess agent failed to tell them when making they made the booking.
Read on to find out what complicating factors were involved, and the lessons learned from this unfortunate situation.
The story starts with a family: a couple, their newborn child, and both their sets of parents. After one of the grandparents was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer, the family decided to book the family cruise they had been dreaming about for so long. They booked their trip directly through Princess Cruise Line, reserving three staterooms for a Mediterranean cruise.
The family also used all the miles on their credit cards for the airfare, and rented an apartment in Rome for a few days prior to the cruise. After weeks of preparation—flight arrangements, hotels and payment—the family received disappointing news from Princess.
The cruise line informed them that infants under the age of 6 months are not allowed on their ships. While this age policy information is listed online, the Princess representative who took the family’s reservation failed to alert them of this policy, and allowed them to make the reservation despite knowing the infant’s age. (The booking agent even congratulated them on the new birth.)
Princess realized it was at fault here and granted a cancellation and full refund of the couple’s stateroom.
However, Princess would not cancel the two staterooms that had been booked for the two sets of grandparents. They were were facing multiple health issues, and traveling without the kids was not an option. Faced with the possible forfeiture of these two staterooms, the family requested a full refund of the additional two rooms or future cruise credit of the same amount, both of which Princess denied at the start.
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We contacted Princess Cruise Lines in hopes of aiding this family and ameliorating the unfortunate situation they faced. Seeing as it was a Princess representative that allowed the family to book despite the known age of their child, we again requested a full refund of the two additional staterooms or future cruise credit of equal amount.
Princess replied they would make an exception and grant a full refund of one room and future cruise credit for the other two bookings.
However, it was only after again checking in with the family that we found the ending of this story was not as happy as it had first appeared. The family did receive a refund for one room and cruise credit for two rooms, but only after spending nearly $1,000 on lawyer fees. Princess had been unwavering in their denial of the family’s request until receiving a letter from the family’s lawyer who threatened to inform the NY Attorney General’s office about Princess’ handling of the matter. It was then that Princess granted cruise credit for the two staterooms, only days before the planned trip’s embarkation.
While the family could have pursued a lawsuit, lawyer fees are usually so high that even if they won there would not be much left. The hassle and money lost in the process left the family disappointed and confused. The only good news is that with this credit in their pocket, the family may re-book their once in a lifetime trip as soon as the child is old enough.
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So, what should you take away from this story? Pay attention to all policies of age and health. Cruise lines tend to be very strict on these rules and never make exceptions. If you make a reservation without taking into consideration the age or health status of your group, you may lose your cruise and your money.
Most cruise lines–including Royal Caribbean, Princess, Celebrity, Carnival, NCL, and Holland America– set their absolute minimum age at 6 months. For certain cruises on the same line, such as transatlantic trips, the minimum age for infants increases to 1 year.
You may be wondering “if I’m traveling on the same cruise line, why two different age minimums?” Well, we asked Princess how they constructed their age policies, and found that these are not arbitrary numbers made up to be an inconvenience for travelers with children. Rather, they are researched safety regulations established to ensure the health of younger travelers.
Princess informed us that their medical team takes a look at all their destinations and determines the ease of access to medical care. For some locations it is more difficult to obtain medical care and therefore more risky for infants. This is why the transatlantic cruise, for example, which takes guests across the vast Atlantic Ocean, sets the minimum age limit of 1 year. Princess’ medical team, along with most other cruise lines, has determined that it is always too much of a risk to have young babies under the age of 6 months onboard. In order to protect the health of all infants, exceptions to these policies are never made.
If you’re absolutely set on bringing your 4-month-old on a cruise, try Disney Cruise Line, which sets its age minimum at only 12 weeks. But for most other cruise lines, you’re going to have to put that cruise on hold for a few months before you can bring the young-ins.
Always double check regulations when researching cruises, as policies such as these don’t only apply to infants, but also to pregnant women. For many cruises (Princess, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, NCL, HAL) women who will enter the 24th week of pregnancy by the last day of the cruise are not allowed to board the vessel.
In addition, many cruise lines require that pregnant women send in a medical certificate indicating their due date prior to embarkation. Similar to the age policies, exceptions to these regulations are very rarely, if ever, granted. Check out your cruise line’s individual policy for more information.
The story above demonstrated the emotional and financial burdens that can be faced if regulations are overlooked. Don’t let the same issues add complications to your cruise vacation. Be aware of all policies before booking and you should be set for smooth sailing.
By Alyson Keller for Peter Greenberg.com.