Elaine Chan never had the choice to leave her Holland America tour early. He says the captain called her husband and her to his office while their ship was docked in Helsinki and accused them of assaulting one of the crew.
“The captain gave us an envelope with tickets back to San Francisco,” recalls Chan, an accountant from San Jose. “He forced us to leave the trip at 10 in the morning to catch our flight. If we didn’t leave on time, he said we would miss our flight. So we didn’t have time to argue our case.”
Chan says it was a matter of anonymity. When they were disembarking in St. Petersburg, says that a group of people had an argument with the workers. But they did not belong to the group.
Riders leave a trip for all kinds of reasons – some voluntarily, some not. But with the travel season just beginning, it’s a good time to ask: Should I leave my trip early? Also, what are my rights if someone makes you (excuse me!) walk the plank?
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Holland America would not comment on Chan’s case. But in the email to the couple, the trip was focused on what he wanted and there is no reason to change the decision to expel them. It regretted that the results of its investigation “could not be positive.” It added, “We hope you will continue to include Holland America Line in your travel plans.”
I doubt they will.
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Do lines have the right to start your journey?
Let’s start with Chan’s unlikely descent. It turns out that the cruise line has the right to exclude you from the cruise, at least according to the ticket contract, a legal agreement between the passenger and the cruise line. I have some information about your rights to travel on my journey free travel guide.
Holland America’s charter states that the carrier may “disembark or refuse to board you, put you in a stateroom, seat you alone, restrict you…” Well, you get the idea.
Other cruise lines have similar policies. They give the company the broad right to remove you from the trip at any time and for any reason. They don’t even have to give you proof of wrongdoing, that’s what Chan said happened to him.
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I have dealt with a lot of other issues going down without acting as a customer service representative. They just hurt like Chan. I remember a woman who experienced kidney pain after a trip to Mexico. Carnival asked him to leave the ship in Long Beach, California. A woman was kicked out of her Holland America trip after her brain-damaged husband went into the bathroom. True story.
In each of these cases, the cruise failed to refund the cost of the trip until I inquired about them. And that raises the most important issue when it comes to leaving a cruise: You won’t get any of your money back, even if you ask, and maybe – maybe! – if I ask.
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What to do if you leave the cruise early
Before you get off the ship, talk to your cruise line. There are restrictions on carrying passengers under Passenger Vessel Services Act which can result in fines for your cruise line. Also, it’s polite to let the cruise line know you’re leaving your vacation early.
So when should you consider going?
► If someone tells you. Mr. Chan had to comply with the captain’s request. Furthermore, the tour contract was clear about their obligation. Right or wrong, they had to abandon ship.
► If the service is sub-par. Ben Taylor and his wife left their cruise in Barcelona, at their first port of call, after a series of misunderstandings. First, a casino employee claimed that Taylor was overpaid by the dealer, sparking a long and painful dispute. “We went back to our house and found it full of sewage – not good at all but not very desirable for my wife, who was pregnant at the time,” said Taylor, who writes blog about working from home. NCL gave the couple a travel loan, which they never used. “It was our first and probably last trip,” he added.
► If you have an emergency. That’s what Holly Haskins’ husband, Ben, did. He fell ill shortly after a Royal Caribbean cruise but encouraged her to go on a vacation planned by her family. “I kept getting sick,” recalled Haskins, a charity worker from Lansdale, Pennsylvania. “He decided to skip the trip on the fourth day, to St. Thomas, and fly home. He told the crew what was going on and they helped him get off and arrange the flight. They were very helpful and kind.”
► In case of disruption of essential services. Under the Cruise Industry Passenger Bill of Rights, adopted by the major shipping lines, you have the right to disembark a moored boat if “necessary things such as food, water, toilets and access to medical care cannot be adequately provided on board.” There are exceptions to the security and migration requirements of the port.
► Some trips are not meant to be completed. If you think you are on one, remember to follow the rules and instructions of the staff. If the cruise line tries to push you off the boat, you can always fight to get back on dry land.
How to prevent early travel breakouts
► Ask yourself: Is sailing good for you? If you’re prone to motion sickness or don’t want to be stuck in a container for days at a time, you can try an all-inclusive vacation on Earth instead. You’ll never have to worry about voluntarily leaving a trip early – or being kicked out of one.
► Carefully review your trip. Cruises come in all shapes and sizes. Choose your floating holiday with care. For example, your average octogenarian might choose the Caribbean over the Antarctic. And some cruise lines do not accept minor guests. Shop around.
► Hire an expert. A travel agent can help guide you in the right direction when it comes to the perfect trip. Check out the CIA.org site for ideal travel agent. Note: Agents take a commission, so they work for you. This means you can call or email your travel agent at any time to get advice on how to leave your trip early.
Christopher Elliott writer, consumer advocate, and journalist. He started it Elliott Advocacy, a non-profit organization that helps solve consumer problems. He brings it out Elliott Confidentialtravel letter, and Elliott Report, a news site about customer service. If you need help with a customer problem, you can come here or send him an email at email@example.com.