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IT MATTERS TO MARIA – Cruise dream turns into horror

marciadottin, [email protected]

IT MATTERS TO MARIA – Cruise dream turns into horror

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MICHAEL ATHERLEY wants to know why the operators of the Carnival Cruise Lines have refused to allow him to reschedule a cruise he booked on their ship Carnival Victory.After purchasing two tickets for over $4 000 for a one-week Caribbean cruise that sailed on March 29 last year, Atherley was denied boarding because he did not have the required United States visa to enter Puerto Rico.The upset man says he has been trying for over a year to get Carnival Cruise Lines to give him a new date to travel; but to no avail. All he has received is a refund of $744.48 – which represents Government fees, Port charges and fuel surcharge.A disappointed Atherley said he could not understand why he was being penalised by the cruise line, because it was an innocent misunderstanding that led to his not having his United States visa on the day he was to sail.He explained that the cruise, which was supposed to be a celebration of his birthday, had been organised by a friend.“When she booked the cruise I told her that my visa had expired and that my date to obtain a new visa was after the cruise; but she told me that was not a problem because a paper was issued by the ship for persons who wanted to get off in Puerto Rico.”Atherley said he took her word, but learned on the day he was to sail that this was no longer the practice.“I took out a loan from the credit union and gave her the money to purchase two tickets. She made the booking with Going Places Travel Agency. On March 29 when we went to board the cruise, I was asked if I had a US visa; and when I said no, they told me that I could not travel on the ship, and escorted me off.” Though he was shocked, Atherley said he felt that all he would have to do was to reschedule for another date – but that was not to be.“This is over a year that I have been back and forth with Going Places and Carnival Cruises about this situation. I even got my lawyer to write Going Places; but all I have received is a small refund. “They told me that a new date was not an option. I still have to pay back the credit union for this loan – and all I was asking for was another date, even if I had to pay a penalty fee. But it is hard to be paying for a cruise which I never took,” he lamented.Hanif Bham-Moore, vice-president (operations) at Going Places referred us to correspondence which he sent to Atherly’s attorney and the person who booked the cruise on Atherley’s behalf.In a letter Bham-Moore noted: “We have on numerous occasions spoken to Carnival Cruise Lines and have escalated the issue as high as possible in an effort to assist Mr Atherley with reinstating his booking. Unfortunately all attempts have been unsuccessful. “The policy of Carnival Cruise Lines and Going Places Travel is clear; it is the traveller’s responsibility to ensure that travel documents, including passports, entry visas, etc. are valid and in place as required. Carnival Cruise Lines does not accept responsibility for the traveller not having the necessary documents.”Carnival’s website also states: “Proper travel documentation is required at embarkation and throughout the cruise . . . . Any guest without proper documents will not be allowed to board the vessel and no refund of the cruise fare will be issued. Carnival assumes no responsibility for advising guests of proper travel documentation.”In response to an email questioning if a guest would be able to reschedule a cruise, Carnival stated: “Our policy states that any guest travelling without proper documentation will be denied boarding the ship and will be under full penalty, and therefore, will not be offered a refund or a replacement cruise.”