Customer Service Fail - Why the Colucci Family Shouldn't HAVE to Have Travel Insurance
I went back to work today after a taking a week-long cruise with my 10 year-old son to the Western Caribbean - Cozumel, Belize, Roatan, and Grand Cayman. It was a wonderful cruise, far exceeding my expectations considering all the trouble Carnival has had recently.
So I went into work and about mid-morning, the GM of the hotel where I work says, "If I were a cruise person, I'd boycott that cruise line that refused to refund that family." What? I was all kinds of confusion because...well...I'd been incommunicado in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean for a week.
Aghast, I looked at him and said, "OMG (I actually said the words though), it wasn't Carnival, was it? I had so much fun on this cruise, I'd hate to have to boycott them now!" Well, he didn't remember so I filed it away until I was in the car coming home then Googled it.
It seems Norwegian Cruise Lines has made a huge customer service and PR blunder. If you haven't heard yet, NCL has refused to give a refund to the Colucci family who's 5 year old son was diagnosed with cancer in May and had to undergo emergency surgery. The boy is still going through chemo. The cruise sailed June 1, without the Colucci family. The sad thing is that the family didn't even want a refund, they simply want to re-book when their son is well enough to travel. Seems okay, right? Not if you're NCL and have a 100% cancellation fee. Not even for a family with a sick child. Not even for a child with cancer.
Do you purchase travel insurance when you travel?
The comments on this story across the internet fall into two categories: 1) I'm never cruising with NCL again, or 2) that's what travel insurance is for. So, let's break down this "that's what travel insurance is for" argument. Though I would agree in most cases, this isn't one of them. Why? It's an extremely extenuating circumstance. Yes, I understand travel insurance can be inexpensive. I also understand it's easy to "not qualify" when you put in a claim. Many people simply don't buy into the need for travel insurance (I'm one of them) and many people really don't need it. Here's the situation, as I understand it, in this case.
Nicolas Colucci was diagnosed with cancer on May 19 and had to undergo emergency surgery. The cruise sailed on June 1, less than 2 weeks later. NCL's cancellation policy states that there is a 100% cancellation fee if cancelled within 14 days of the cruise start date.
Should the family have purchased travel insurance? Probably. It's not expensive, but it really can be a nightmare navigating the claims process if you have to. Many people choose to take the risk. Many people don't cancel for the flu, or a cold, or even a broken leg.
What Do You Think?
Was Norwegian Cruise Lines in the right?
Irregardless of whether or not the Colucci family should have gotten the insurance, Norwegian Cruise Lines should definitely step up to the plate and offer either a full refund or a guaranteed future booking. I understand cancellation policies and why we have them. Sometimes I'm even one of those people who has to say to a guest over the phone, "I'm sorry. I can't waive the no-show/cancellation/early departure fee. This is hotel policy." It sucks to have to have to say that, but these policies are in place because (unfortunately) people try to take advantage and businesses have to protect themselves too.
However, I can guarantee you that I (and anyone on my team) would refund and/or waive the cancellation fee for a circumstance such as this. It's simply good customer service, and even more important, it's the kind, right and humanitarian thing to do. Shame on NCL for thinking of their bottom line before thinking of the welfare of their customers. They can count me as one of the lost customers. I will be one of those boycotting their cruise ships.