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Cruising for trouble? Reader responses

May 03, 2010|From The Los Angeles Times

Imagine this: If those who chose not to purchase travel insurance were to expect to receive a credit or compensation for their decision, how would it impact on those who did buy the nonrefundable coverage? Would they feel they were played for suckers?

-- Bruce Scottow, Los Angeles

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As someone who has booked a Princess Cruise and has purchased insurance, I'd be unhappy to find out that Princess gave refunds to folks who did not incur the cost of insurance.

-- George Schulman, Los Angeles

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As you say, "If you can't afford to pay twice for the trip you're going to take only once, you need insurance."

People don't prepare and then want others to bail them out.

-- William Besse, Indio

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I was surprised to read that this cruise traveler believes that Princess Cruise Line should "provide some credit" for his having missed a Star Princess sailing. In his letter, he states he did not buy travel insurance.

I sailed the Star Princess on her maiden voyage from Singapore to Los Angeles a few years ago. It carries thousands of passengers. I find it hard to understand how anyone could expect a cruise line or any travel industry carrier to automatically provide a refund when things go awry due to circumstances beyond its control, then expect it to remain in business.

Travel insurance exists precisely for those times when the unexpected occurs, and in the case of cruise travel insurance, I believe premiums are based on the cost of one's cabin. I consider travel insurance to be reasonably priced. It would never occur to me not to purchase insurance. I consider the premium part of my cruise cost.

I have cruised more than 90 times since 1969, on many different cruise lines. I'm not an official spokesperson for Princess, but I can say that few passenger programs compare with the expressions of appreciation extended to members of Princess' Captain's Circle, and one becomes a member after sailing Princess just once. My last dozen or more cruises have been on Princess, because Princess Cruises continues to make me offers I find hard to resist. They do value their customers, and they enjoy a high level of our loyalty as a result.

I believe Julie Benson, Princess' vice president of public relations, responded in reasonable language when she stated, "It's not our custom to provide refunds to passengers in circumstances that are out of our control....We rely on the fact that the large majority of our passengers (about two-thirds) purchase some sort of travel coverage to protect their vacations."

The uninsured one-third are playing Russian roulette with a substantial amount of money. As the column said, paying twice for a trip I'm going to take only once is not an option for me.

There are those of us who need the security of being insured when we travel, and, as with home and auto coverage, we always hope all will go well, and we won't need to file a claim.

-- Esther Spencer, Palm Desert

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Don't leave home without it.

We travel throughout the world, always purchasing insurance, and have filed several claims. Once, because of tornadoes near Dallas-Fort Worth, we missed a connecting flight to Zurich, Switzerland and were stuck overnight in New York, forfeiting our paid hotel room in Switzerland. Another trip to Peru our grandson became very ill in the remote Sacred Valley. A village doctor came to the lodge, examined him and the local pharmacy delivered the prescriptions. Full reimbursement was received on every occasion.

-- Ron and Sherril White, Glendora

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Princess should have let the couple rebook, based on availability, a future cruise paying any difference in cost. If for some reason they needed to cancel the new cruise, then charge them the original penalties. Princess' inflexibility not only lost this customer but maybe others who read this article.

In this economy and with the behemoth cruise ships going out not quite full, a little compassion goes a long way.

-- Rita Brown, San Pedro

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I, too, have had trouble with Princess. Though I agree that travel businesses cannot be responsible for "acts of God" from a legal standpoint, as a publicist and marketer, I believe Princess has shown a lack of service to its customers — the Pebsworths and others.

The column alludes to a gesture that looks like "Get off my back already." I would say that Princess and other travel entities are more likely to create that attitude if they have already shown a lack of service or caring before the offer is made. That is simple public relations 101.

If a business is immediately forthcoming with an explanation of its position, accompanied by even a nominal gift of goodwill, it's less likely it will alienate a customer.

Princess needs someone to handle difficult passenger relations and needs to put her front and center.

At the very least, it should be obvious to Princess that the offer of a credit toward another trip would be inexpensive compared with the bad press the line gets when it leaves customers to founder.

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