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Coronavirus: Travel Counsellors founder David Speakman calls for clarity on balance payments

David-Speakman, travel counsellors, cruise, coronavirus, travel

Travel Counsellors founder David Speakman explains to Cruise Trade News the need for agents to reassure their clients during the coronavirus pandemic and why more clarity is needed on the issue of balance of payments.

I cannot remember a time like this in travel and in particular the cruise industry. We – my other half and I – love cruising and this year with a clear diary we booked three.

There’s one in May, which we have already paid for and as yet is not officially cancelled, and another in June, which we should have paid the balance for many weeks ago. The cruise company wants me to pay and assures me if I do and they cancel they will issue a credit note for a future cruise. This is not the message I want to hear.

Of course, I can accept the credit note and I might have to, but like most people, we would like to feel we’ve made that decision rather than it being made for us.

The third cruise in September we cancelled last week. The T&Cs allowed us to cancel with only a $50 cancellation fee and the balance of our deposit will be returned. We await with interest.

If the cruise company cannot fulfil its contract with me, it has to refund my money in full. Of course they can offer an alternative but it is for me to accept that counter-offer. My rights – and that of those in the same boat – of a refund are clear. If the cruise company refuses a refund then they are in breach of contract.

However, as I stated above these are unique times and I suspect that cruise lines do not have the money, but that’s an altogether different issue.

Reassure your clients

Travel agents can only do what they do best, and that is, reassure the customer, build a trusting relationship and be assertive and fearless in keeping the customer informed of the position.

Most agents believe they represent the customer, while in law they are agents of the cruise company but at times like these they have to be empathetic with the customer and keep them updated.

Cruise companies are fighting for their lives and as travel agents, you can only watch from the sidelines.

The cruise industry, which is operated mainly from the US, needs to raise money to continue and looked to be included in the Relief Bill passed by the US Senate. Problems have arisen as most ships, for tax reasons, are not registered in US and for now, no US government relief is forthcoming.

At times like this, clarity is needed from the cruise companies, as customers like us are caught between a rock and a hard place.

Do I pay my balance that is now due and breach my contract with increased cancellation charges or do I pay up and if the cruise is cancelled will I be offered a credit note rather than a cash refund? I understand the cruise lines’ position but clarification of this uncertainty is urgent.

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