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B.C. cruise ship passenger hits rough waters seeking refund amid coronavirus pandemic

B.C. senior fights for cruise refund after COVID-19 cancellation
A B.C. senior who cancelled a scheduled cruise when COVID-19 hit in order to receive a credit turned to Consumer Matters for help after he learned the cruise line officially cancelled the voyage days later and offered guests the choice of a full refund or larger credit. Anne Drewa reports.

A B.C. senior with underlying health conditions is sharing his story after he cancelled a cruise amid the coronavirus pandemic in exchange for a full credit, only to learn days later that the company was offering even better compensation.

Gerry Smith admitted he cancelled the cruise to the Middle East on his own and agreed to the credit, but was shocked to later learn that the company had officially cancelled the trip and was instead offering full refunds.

“I was pretty upset,” said Smith.

READ MORE: Cruise ship bookings jump 600% as Carnival reveals plans to resume trips in August

Back in November, Smith and his wife booked a 17-day cruise with the company Azamara, departing from Dubai, UAE, on March 28, 2020 and ending in Athens, Greece.

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Smith said he became increasingly concerned as the trip drew closer and news of the coronavirus became more and more dire.

The 71-year-old is a pancreatic cancer survivor. He is also a type one diabetic and suffers from hemochromatosis, a chronic condition that causes the body to absorb too much iron.

“We were really concerned about COVID-19 and the chances of contracting it on the trip,” he said. “I thought it would be a fool’s journey to go.”

B.C. cruise ship season sunk with extension of federal COVID-19 order
B.C. cruise ship season sunk with extension of federal COVID-19 order

In January, he said he reached out to Azamara several times to cancel, but was told no compensation was being offered for cancellations.

On March 10, he received an email from the company, stating it was closely monitoring the pandemic and to expect an update on March 16.

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The email also included information on the company’s new cancellation policy, which allowed all guests booked on sailings on or before July 31, 2020, to cancel up to 48 hours before their departure to receive a full credit valid through Dec. 31, 2021.

Thinking it was the best offer at the time, Smith said he scrapped the trip on March 11 and agreed to the credit.

But on March 13, Azamara sent another email informing guests that in light of the United Arab Emirates closing its ports to all cruise ships, it was cancelling the upcoming voyage, and all booked guests would have the option to receive a full refund or a 125-per-cent credit.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Large cruise ships banned from Canadian waters until Oct. 31

Smith said he reached out to the company and was told he wasn’t on the list and didn’t qualify.

“’That’s for passengers on the ship when the cruise cancels and you cancelled yourself two days ago,’” said Smith he was told.

He was out more than $9,700 and reached out to Consumer Matters for help.

B.C. health officials advise against cruise ship travel this summer
B.C. health officials advise against cruise ship travel this summer

Consumer Matters reached out to parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises on Smith’s behalf and asked if the company would reconsider his case.

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Royal Caribbean acknowledged our email, saying it was looking into the matter, but did not respond further.

However, days later, Smith said he had received all of his money back.

“The fact you got me a cash refund in place of a future cruise credit is just outstanding,” he said.