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Cruise West Goes Belly Up

Written by: Paul Motter

If you  paid cash  for a future cruise booked with Cruise West you may be just out of luck when it comes to getting a refund. The line has notified the Federal Maritime Commission that all cruises scheduled to begin Sept. 18 or later are now cancelled. Oregon-based cruises on the Spirit of ’98 and Spirit of Endeavour that are already under way are scheduled to end in Portland and Seattle on Sept. 18.

People who either paid by credit card or have third-party travel insurance are advised to contact those entities first to request a refund. The Federal Maritime Commission said that third-party insurers and credit-card issuers generally provide speedier reimbursement to passengers than claims against bonds issued under commission regulations. Under commission regulations those bonds only cover cruises that have a U.S. port in the itinerary.

Passengers who paid by credit card should immediately contact their credit-card issuer. People who had cruises booked the embarked in U.S. ports may be eligible for a refund through the Federal Maritime Commission bond. For other cruisers, there is a bond being held by the USTOA, but it is only $1,000,000. Crusers have until December to submit for a refund with USTOA. We advise you to act quickly since the total liability for Cruise West in unfulfilled cruises could easily end up being several million dollars. We don’t have an exact figure, but we are estimating based on the fact the line had nine ships, most of the carrying between 100-200 passengers, and that cruises averaged $400/day per person.

Cruise West stopped accepting new bookings and payments as of Sept. 1, and on Sept. 8 it terminated its “Voyage of the Great Explorers” world cruise on the Spirit of Oceanus in Newfoundland, Canada.  In the last year Cruise West had been deploying more and more of its ships to foreign itineraries including European river cruising, a world cruise, Mexico’s Sea of Cortes and Central America. If the world cruise, which began in Singapore, had made just one U.S. port (its next scheduled stop) the situation for people booked on future cruises on that vessel could have been covered by the Maritime Commission bond, but it did not.

Cruise West’s surety bonds are only applicable to passenger fares and deposits and do not provide reimbursement payments for air travel, shore-side hotel expenses, or other expenses that do not constitute water transportation or its related services.

Those who purchased third-party travel insurance should also contact their insurer to claim reimbursement under their insurance policy if it covers such cancellations. Cruise West recommends the following options for making inquiries and requesting claim forms to passengers who do not have insurance or did not pay by credit card:

• Send an email to dara.meade@wellsfargo.com. The email should specify that the claim is for cruise fare reimbursement.

• Mail inquiries or requests to Cruise Claims c/o Wells Fargo Disability Management, P.O. Box 1567, Abingdon, VA, 24212.

• Call a Wells Fargo Disability Management agent at 877-371-9700, ext. 6059.

• Fax inquiries or requests to Wells Fargo Disability Management at 276-676-0152.

In addition, the commission’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Dispute Resolution Services is available to assist passengers and can be contacted by email at cruisewestinfo@fmc.gov or by calling 866-448-9586. For more information, visit www.fmc.gov.

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