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My mother-in-law purchased a cruise vacation for 7 family members, spanning 4 generations (4 of whom include veterans). We drove 6 hours from Tampa to Miami to catch the Majesty of the Seas for a cruise from 12/13/2010 to 12/17/2010.

Both the deposit and remainder of the balance were paid ahead of schedule. This was her first experience with Royal Caribbean, whom she booked with on a referral. Myself, my fiance, and his 7 year old son had never been on a cruise, and we were so excited and had been looking forward to this trip for months. We had issues with our GPS, and were running behind schedule, but we finally arrived at the dock at 4:40, and the departure time was 5pm.

We were already checked in (we had done so 2 days before online) and had our luggage tags on our bags. Our documentation failed to stress that if we were not at the port a minimum of 1 hour before departure, we would not be allowed on the ship. The security supervisor explained this regulation, and without much outward sympathy suggested we call customer service. In a state of disbelief that they could do nothing to help us, we got back in the car and drove another 6 hours back home, not getting in the door until midnight.

When my mother-in-law called customer service the next day, she was told that not only was she not eligible for a refund, she also was not eligible for a credit to use towards a future cruise. The only thing she can do apparently, is call for a refund of the taxes she paid, once the ship docks back in Miami on the 17th. The customer service agent would not refer her to a supervisor, even though she requested to speak with one. I have worked in customer service for over 10 years, and I have never heard of such a shocking lack of empathy from a company, especially around the holidays, and towards a family of veterans.

We were not looking for a refund of the more than $2,000 she spent, we were asking for credit with the company to be used for a future trip.

I do not believe it is right that Royal Caribbean should be allowed to keep so much money without providing any services, and such appalling customer service. Neglecting to inform the customer of the importance of the deadline for boarding is one thing, but then refusing to work with that customer to rectify the situation by at least honoring the money they have spent is reprehensible.

Review about: Royal Caribbean Cruise.

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Oh my, Deanna G.,

Royal Caribbean, like other major cruise lines, close and deny embarkation 90 minutes prior to the ship's published sailing time. Passengers who arrive late will very likely be denied boarding and given no refund. Even passengers who arrive after the deadline through no fault of their own, like those caught up in a traffic wreck, get denied boarding and lose all the money they paid for the cruise.

Royal Caribbean often excuses that they are just following government regulations. Readers need to know that is a half truth. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security regulations for cruises departing from U.S. ports does obligate the US Customs and Boarder Patrol (CBP) to require a final departure manifest of passengers and crew 60 minutes prior to sailing in a report called the electronic Notice of Departure (eNOD). To repeat, the government requirement is 60 minutes prior to departure; theCaribbean sets 90 minute check-in deadline before a published departure time.

There is nothing in the CBP regulations requiring or permitting cruise lines to refuse refunds to passengers. A passenger's right to a refund is actually surrendered to Royal Caribbean whenever a passenger signs their ticket. The "fine print" of my RCCL ticket states, "Carrier shall not be required to refund any portion of the fare paid by any Passenger who fails for any reason to be onboard the Vessel... "

What Royal Caribbean is not telling passengers is that the CBP actually DOES allow cruise lines to submit an amended eNOD making it possible to add so-called "tardy" passengers. However, an amended eNOD resets the 60 minute clock for departure time. In your case that would have delayed departure to 5:40 at the earliest and RCCL didn't want to do that.

Royal Caribbean argues that port traffic, costs (fuel, port rent, landside labor, etc), and itinerary schedule demands adherence to the published departure time unless "very extenuating circumstances" oblige a cruise operator to submit an amended eNOD report less than 60 minutes prior to scheduled departure. Just what is considered a "very extenuating circumstance" remains undefined but apparently your situation was not. More enlightening is the case when a traffic delayed bus load of passengers from the airport terminal were denied boarding because they arrived to the port terminal "late". It should come as no surprise that minimizing corporate expenses has priority to even legitimate needs of a Passenger. The truth is Royal Caribbean could check-in and board a tardy passenger if they wanted to and the government regulations even allows for it. Any company that takes a customer's money with providing a service or product just because they can does a rip-off in my book.

Just make it a priority to arrive at Royal Caribbean's - or any cruise ship's - port terminal about 2 hours ahead of the published departure time. Caveat emptor: If one gives Royal Caribbean an opprtunity to screw them - they will!


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