Our daughter had been planning a family Mexican Riviera cruise aboard Carnival Splendor, Carnival’s biggest and newest ship, for about one year and it was getting very close. With only 34 days left to go, Carnival announced that, due to the Swine Flu outbreak in Mexico, the ports she was to be going to were closed and the new itinerary would take her to one port in Oregon and two in Canada. Now, while Canada is beautiful, it is a far cry from the Mexican Riviera. The other factor was that there was not much of interest there for the 7 & 9 year-olds traveling with her.
Carnival offered this new itinerary or credit toward a new cruise to be taken sometime before the end of 2010. She already had plans for this vacation and was beginning a plan for next year’s vacation as well, so changing dates this close to the cruise was not an option. She chose to exchange this cruise for a Caribbean cruise sailing on the same dates. While this was also an alternate itinerary for this cruise, it worked well for her. The Caribbean offered more excursions for the children. While disappointed she was not going on Carnival Splendor out of Long Beach, Carnival Valor sailing out of Miami is also a beautiful ship.
The next week was filled with frustration and stress. Hours were spent with Carnival and Carnival Vacation Club, in fact, almost 4 hours on hold with her Rep the first call she made. Things got easier from there but there were still calls for a week to get everything firmed. Carnival and CVC were great and her rep, Michelle, was terrific. I do not think any of us would want their jobs right now. She was able to switch ships and sail during her scheduled vacation time. Everyone at Carnival bent over backwards to make this change happen. She even got some unexpected upgrades and on-board credits. No one is to blame for the ports in Mexico being closed and Carnival went out of their way to provide exceptional customer service.
While the Carnival exchange took time, stress, and periods of uncertainty; the worst was yet to come. For three of her party, there was a friend’s wedding the day before they sailed, so those three were flying to Los Angeles the night before the cruise. The other three were driving to Los Angeles via Las Vegas. Only one was to fly back after the cruise while the other five were driving back to Colorado.
Let’s start with the flights. Our daughter booked the tickets on Frontier Airlines through Priceline, big mistake! If she had researched the company and googled it, she would have not used them and this will be the last time using them. They do not give refunds or credits, so do not book unless you are 100% sure you can use the flight. Ok, she understood the policy and was 100% sure she was going to take the Mexican Cruise. The Swine Flu and port closures were not in anybodies plans. She asked for tickets to be transferred to Miami flights, Frontier does not fly there. She asked for a change to another airline or for a flight to Orlando on Frontier and then transfer to another airline. She still was met with a no; they suggested she should call Frontier. Please take note that their web page states:
“Warnings have been issued regarding a potential influenza (flu) outbreak in Mexico. As a result, several airlines have relaxed their policies and are waiving change fees for those who do not wish to travel to Mexico. The current policies apply only to travel in May.
NOTE: If you are not traveling in May or if your travel dates are not yet included in your airline’s relaxed travel policy, we ask that you contact us after May 15th so we may give priority to travelers with immediate needs.”
When bringing this statement to their attention, she was told she was not flying to Mexico. Because she was flying to Los Angeles, there was no help for her, she could still fly there. Why would she go to LA if she was now sailing out of Miami?
During the last contact she had with Priceline, she was emailed May 11, 2009 a customer service phone number and told to call. She had already called several times. She was transferred to Trisha, a Travel Service Advisor and told she could offer our daughter, $150.00 a ticket to change itinerary, $30.00 per ticket service charge from Priceline and the new tickets would have to be used by April 13, 2010. The change would cost her $540.00 – the original tickets were $333.40 for a total of $873.40…….what kind of deal is that?
She has tried to go through the credit card company to take the funds back but was told it probably won’t happen because Priceline has a no refund/change policy.
William Shatner needs to get a legitimate job!
The end result, our daughter is out the cost of the tickets to Los Angeles and has paid for tickets to Miami for 1 traveler. The rest of her party is now driving to Miami instead of Los Angeles. The cost is much higher for flights for all six to Miami and they cannot afford it especially without the refunds or credits due.
In the process of dealing with Priceline, she did contact Frontier as suggested. Please keep in mind, Frontier Airline is a company who filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2008. One would think they would be more interested in quality customer service. She was told it was not their fault the flu closed the ports and she needed to deal with Priceline. Anyone that travels knows what happens when someone does not make a plane; the seat is given to stand-by. So they now make double the money for the seat and she is still out the money. This is not good customer service and for an airline they always use, they just lost 6 more customers.
Hotels.com handled the hotel bookings in Las Vegas for the drive to and from Los Angeles. What a great company to work with! Her bookings were refunded, even though one of the hotels was past the cut off deadline. Please support them.
Her last nightmare was with Hotwire. She had booked Embassy Suites LAX Intl Airport South for the night before the cruise. She took 2 rooms for the 6 travelers. This site works much like Priceline, you pick the hotel star quality and location, and they pick the hotel. They also do not permit transfers or credits. She gave them her story and asked to be re-booked in the Miami airport area. This was going to be more expensive and she offered to pay the difference. Upon speaking with Jeff on May 4, 2009, she was told to call back in about four days. They were issuing credits only and were up to bookings for the 31st. When she returned the call on May 8th, she was informed that Jeff had not told the truth, they only were offering credits for hotels in Mexico. She was again told that they could still stay at the hotel, but why, when they would be in Miami? They refused to switch or give her credit and suggested she contact the hotel directly. Our daughter is now out the money for two rooms and she has had to re-book rooms on her own.
Embassy Suites LAX Intl Airport South manager was unable to help her. She was told there were others trying to get assistance and he could only suggest working with Hotwire. The rooms are sold in blocks to Hotwire and they no longer owned the rooms. But, again as we all know, when you do not show for your room by the deadline time, the hotel can re-sell the room. This again would mean they are getting double for the room.
In today’s economy we hear that we are suppose to spend to help the economy! This had been paid for during the past year and they are going to go. However, why should the American people spend money when companies screw them out of money? Shouldn’t companies be trying to get customers? Neither the airline nor hotel was going to be out money as the new itineraries were more expensive. Please avoid companies such as Priceline and Hotwire and help the legitimate caring companies stay alive.
It makes no sense for any company to use the Swine Flu outbreak to their advantage and as an excuse to not work with their customers. They know what they are doing and are simply taking this windfall to add to their profits. It will hurt them in the long run.
You may say she should have taken the trip insurance offered by these companies, sounds like a good idea doesn’t it? Wrong again! It does not cover a change in travel plans. It only covers personal illness, injury, accident, or travel delays. The Swine Flu closing your destination and making necessary changes is not covered. It would only cover if YOU get the Flu and have to cancel.
Again, please do not use Frontier Airlines, Embassy Suites, Priceline, or Hotwire; they are looking for an excuse to cheat their customers.