Ordeal continues for Carnival cruise customers

January 23, 2011 6:05:16 PM PST
The passengers recently stranded aboard the Carnival "Splendor" when a fire broke out in the ship's engine roomare home safe now, but the ordeal is far from over for others. The cancellation left many people scrambling to book alternate vacations and get their money back.

Christine Larson and her mother were booked for the vacation of a lifetime. 23 members of their family were all set to sail together to celebrate a milestone with Christine's husband.

"What better way than to have as many people that love him go on a cruise together, to celebrate his 30th birthday," she said.

However, the fire aboard the Splendor changed everything. The Larsons are one of thousands of families to receive word their voyage had been cancelled.

"I was devastated, literally," she recalled.

"To be with all my kids and my grandkids, going on the same vacation and actually on a cruise, it's a big deal," said Christine's mother Mary Jo Larson.

The Larsons say efforts to rebook a cruise have been unsuccessful and attempts at getting a promised refund have been confusing.

"They always say different things. They're never on the same page on stuff with our dealings with it," Mary Jo told 7 On Your Side.

Other families have emailed us with similar concerns. Patricia of San Jose says Carnival is stating she would have to pay extra because her cabin is not price protected. Christine of Sunnyvale says she would have to pay well over $1,300 more per person to rebook their cruise.

Travel attorney Al Anolik says he's not surprised at the difficulty these families are having.

"People are so excited to go on their cruise they don't know they are basically giving up their constitutional rights, their contract rights, their ability as a consumer to go up against the big guy," he says.

Anolik says Carnival's standard contract prohibits the filing of class action suits, the right to a jury trial, and even the right to sue in California. He says courts could rule the contract unconstitutional.

"California courts may not accept these heinous provisions," he says.

Carnival told 7 On Your Side that it understands peoples' frustrations and it sincerely apologizes to all Carnival guests who were scheduled to sail on the cancelled cruise. They say two of the families 7 On Your Side discussed with them will get expedited refunds. The third family has been re-booked in a different cabin at the same price.

The company says higher prices were quoted because of higher demand. We asked why that couldn't be waived given the circumstances and we're still waiting for a response. Carnival would not say whether or not more cruises could be cancelled.

You can find the contract with any cruise line or airline on the company's website under "Contract of Carriage."