Carnival offers money-back guarantee to lure passengers
Cruise line will refund full cruise fare and more within first 24 hours of voyage.
Palm Beach Post
After a tough year, Carnival Cruise Lines is fighting back with a money-back guarantee that will provide unhappy passengers a 110 percent refund, free transportation home and more. That’s only if they ask for it within the first 24 hours of the voyage.
Some travel agents are certain the offer will boost Carnival’s bookings. They said passengers have already benefited from lower rates on that line and others since Carnival’s ill-fated Carnival Triumph cruise out of Galveston, Texas, in February, during in which thousands of passengers were stranded for sea at days on a filthy ship after mechanical failure.
“The whole idea is to entice first-time cruisers,” Carnival President and CEO Gerry Cahill said Thursday. “It’s always a hurdle to get someone to cruise the first time. We’ll do something like this to get people over that hurdle.”
The Miami-based cruise line said the new Great Vacation Guarantee allows guests to end their voyage early for any reason and receive 110 percent of their money back.
Carnival will pay for the guests’ return air transportation from the next port of call — including ground transportation and hotel accommodations if necessary. Government taxes and fees will also be refunded, Cahill said. Each passenger will also receive a $100 shipboard credit for a future cruise.
The initiative comes after a series of Carnival problems including the debacle of the Carnival Triumph seven months ago. After an engine fire knocked out power, the cruise turned into five days adrift. The more than 4,200 passengers endured overflowing toilets and food shortages before being towed into Mobile, Ala., on the ship running on limited generator power.
Cahill noted that the company sails 1,500 cruises a year and the stranded Triumph was one incident.
Those passengers were refunded their cruise fees and were given a free future cruise and $500.
“There was an impact,” Cahill said of the Triumph. “It did impact people who never took a Carnival cruise. We think we’re on the road to recovery now.”
Uf Tukel, co-president and founder of Icruise.com, said Carnival has had 100 percent guarantees in the past, but few people ever invoked the refund plan because they were having a good time.
“In my opinion, it is targeted to those people who are on the fence about taking a cruise vacation. This is a great plan for Carnival to put their money where their mouth is and show what a great value a cruise is,” Tukel said.
Tukel said that Carnival’s rates have dropped 25 percent since the Triumph’s problems.
“Three-night cruises are as little as $149. They were already affordable. It’s been phenomenal for the consumer,” Tukel said.
Other cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean cut their rates for last-minute bookings to as low as $549 for a seven-day cruise that previously ran $999, Tukel said.
Facebook followers of John Heald, Carnival’s senior cruise director, had a mixed reaction to the promotion. While some lauded the vacation guarantee as great customer service, others worried that it will be abused by those looking for a free cruise. Several pointed out that cruise that begins with a couple sea days before reaching a port could net a complainer a free three-day cruise, a 10 percent return on his initial investment and future cruise credit.
As for possible abuse of the program, Cahill said, “We have confidence that very few will take us up on it. We will take that risk.”