Family books 'stripped down' Mexian cruise

February 18, 2008 9:49:06 PM PST
Few of us would hand over large amounts of money to a total stranger, but that's exactly what we all do when we buy something from a company we haven't researched.

When Fedora & Alan Holmes booked their cruise to the Mexican Riviera, they purchased it with a large and well known company. But sometimes, relying on name recognition alone isn't enough.

Fedora Holmes is an animal rescue volunteer and she has just found a home for an abandoned dog. The news brought a smile to her husband's face.

Unfortunately, memories of their cruise on Norwegian Cruise Lines two years ago, doesn't bring the same kind of joy. The couple had hoped to visit the Mayan Ruins in Cancun with their son, daughter in law, and grandchildren.

They booked a cruise to Cancun, Cozumel, Roatan, and Belize in October 2005, paid in full by January and set out to sail in April.

When they boarded, Norwegian Cruise Lines handed them a letter saying "Norwegian Dream will be unable to call in Cancun. For this reason, we have replaced Cancun with a day at sea."

This was the first time the Holmes had heard about the change.

"I was very disappointed. We all were. There were a lot of people disappointed," says Fedora Holmes.

The reason for the cancellation? Hurricane Wilma. The hurricane tore through the Mexican Riviera three days after the Holmes booked their cruise.

The port in Cancun could not be repaired in time for the trip. What bothered the Holmes was the lack of notice.

"They had plenty of time to let us know that because we probably would have canceled," says Fedora Holmes.

The letter passengers received when they boarded in April was dated in December. Yet, when they received the itinerary from Norwegian Cruise Lines in January, Cancun was still on it.

They received another itinerary in March, and again, Cancun was still on it. In a letter to the Holmes, Norwegian called the itinerary mistakes an oversight and said the final decision to change the itinerary wasn't made until February.

"I know it's big business. I know they have lots of cruises, but still, they should be more honest with their customers," says Alan Holmes.

For two years, the Holmes have been fighting for a partial refund for the lost port of call. Norwegian Cruise Lines has refused any compensation. If the Holmes had researched the cruise company prior to booking, they may have seen the ratings it received from the Better Business Bureau. The non-profit gives the company its worst rating.

"That means we strongly question the company's reliability," says Carol Venello, Better Business Bureau.

Norwegian cruise lines declined an on camera interview, but in an e-mail, it said it wasn't sure why the Holmes didn't receive notice of the itinerary change earlier. It also pointed out its contract gives it the right to cancel or change the itinerary without prior notice.

Travel attorney Al Anolik sees it differently.

"The cruise line messed up. They should have notified her. They didn't. They're responsible," says Anolik.

Norwegian Cruise Line's response to 7 On Your Side

Better Business Bureau report on Norwegian Cruise Line

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