Leo Corradini and his wife did not want a big bash to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. They wanted to go on a cruise with their immediate family.
“She said, ‘look, I’m going to squirrel away money to take the entire family on a cruise to Hawaii,’” Leo said his wife told him.
They reserved five staterooms aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America, paying over $40,000 in February 2020 for the seven-day cruise.
“We did it about five years ago with some friends and it’s just a phenomenal cruise,” Leo said.
Get South Florida local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC South Florida newsletters.
Then, the pandemic picked up steam and the June 2020 sailing was canceled.
“And that’s when they (Norwegian) said to me, we will rebook you for next year,” Leo said. “I didn’t ask for a refund at that particular time. I said, ‘OK, you’re going to rebook me for next year, I said that’s good.’”
But in March 2021, Leo said the cruise his family had been rebooked on was also canceled.
Responding to every consumer complaint
Leo said he asked a new agent for a refund. But he said she told him he could not get one because he had used “future cruise credits” for the second reservation.
“I said this is ridiculous,” Leo said. “And she said, ‘you can send an email with a form to our company then we will look into it.’”
The 81-year-old said he did just that and eventually received an email response that said in part, “Regrettably we are unable to provide you with a refund once you have opted to receive future cruise credits.” The email also said the credits would be returned to Leo’s account for use on a future cruise before Dec. 31, 2022.
“I didn’t know what future cruise credits were until this year when they canceled and said, well, we’re using your future cruise credits,” Leo said. “I gave you $40,000 last year.”
When asked what he wanted to see happen, his response was simple: “I want my Mastercard account recredited for the money I paid,” Leo said.
Michael Winkleman, a maritime attorney, said his law firm has received dozens of calls related to refund issues since the start of the pandemic.
Winkleman said each cruise line is going to have its own nuance in how they deal with COVID-related cancelations, but policies tend to be similar.
“It’s relatively uniform,” he said. “They’ll give you an opportunity to get a refund. If you take a credit, they’re going to want to keep that credit and put it in their future sailings.”
Still, he said you should consider the perks you’re being offered before you ask for your money back.
“If that was money that you spent that was your vacation fund and you don’t need it back, take advantage of what they’re offering you – huge discounts, free stuff on board, etc.,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to even try to negotiate a little bit beyond that because they want to keep happy customers continuing to sail with them.”
NBC 6 Responds reached out to Norwegian several times to ask about Leo’s request and their refund policies. They did not answer our specific questions but told us in a statement, “…this matter is being resolved directly with the guest.”
On the company’s suspended sailing’s FAQs, which were last updated on April 6, it said, “…many who hold outstanding Future Cruise Credits (FCC) may now submit a request to convert their FCC to a monetary refund.” You can read more about their policy on suspended sailings here.
After NBC 6 Responds’ inquiry, Leo said he heard from a Norwegian representative who asked him to submit another refund request. He said he did and eventually received an email saying his request preliminarily meets “the refund criteria” and was under “final review.”
At last check, Leo was still waiting to hear whether his refund request had been approved in that final review.
The email he shared with NBC 6 Responds said if approved, refunds would be issued to the original form of payment within 90 days of the request submission date.