Keep a Eye on your Cruise Tab!

Once on board a cruise ship, they issue you a card or medallion to use for all of your onboard purchases. This makes it nice since you then don’t have to carry around a debit or credit card. The cruise line keeps a running total and your card is charged at the end of the cruise.

The only issue with this is that often there are mistakes. The cruise line will usually correct the mistake if it’s reported immediately, but as I learned the hard way, the longer the mistake goes unreported the more difficult it may be to get your money back.

Recently, I was on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship and I ordered sparkling water for about $2. I was lounging by the pool and I gave the waiter my card and he wrote down what I wanted. Several minutes later, he comes back with my drink, card, and the bill to sign. The paper I signed had the correct amount on it. However, later that day when I went to unlock my cabin door, I realized he had given me someone else’s card.

I promptly went to the customer relations desk to let them know I was given the incorrect card and she apologized and printed a new card for me. I then asked her to make sure that no illegitimate charges were put on my account, and she assured me that would not happen because there was a picture associated with it. However, later that day a $9 charge for a beer was on my account instead of the $2 sparkling water. Frustrated, I returned to the desk and they happily refunded me the $9. Thankfully, they also never charged me for the $2 which I think was right since I had to make two trips to customer relations on one day of my cruise.

A very pretty fruity orange drink with a lemon on top in a small jar
Photo by Lisa Fotios on

I don’t purchase a lot of drinks while cruising as I guzzle mostly the free water, coffee and tea, but on this particular day in Haiti, it was extremely hot and the frozen drink special sounded really refreshing. I walked up to the bar to order making sure the price for the special was only $11. He took my card and started to ring it up and make my drink when two other customers walked up to order. He then took their cards as well, instead of finishing my order first. He now had three different cards in his hand with three different orders to fill. This is not going to end well, I thought to myself. Sure enough, he gave me the wrong bill to sign. This isn’t mine, I said, and he replied It doesn’t matter, they are all the same price. But they weren’t the same price, this tab was $12 instead of $11. I just shook my head and signed the thing because I was hot and thirsty and didn’t feel like standing there while he canceled everything out and recharged me over $1.

Months later and still waiting for this refund

On Princess, they use a medallion instead of a cruise card. You wear the medallion around your neck or on your wrist and you never have to take it off as they can scan it from a distance. We were recently on a 14-day cruise and I checked my account often because I’ve learned there can be mistakes. I even went to the desk a couple of times and had them print out our bill to make sure it matched what was online. However, unfortunately, I didn’t check it on the last day of the cruise and was surprised when I got home to learn my husband had been charged $96 for a bottle of wine we didn’t order. Strangely, we weren’t even in the dining room that day where the charge occurred.

A lady holding papers in one hand and a cell phone in the other obviously making a call about something on the paper
Photo by Mikhail Nilov on

I called the 800 number thinking I would dispute the charge and they would fix it immediately. Not so! The agent told me that I would receive a refund in the form of a check in about four weeks. I thought that was strange because they just incorrectly charged my debit card. Shouldn’t they credit it back the same way? At the company I previously worked at, if someone’s bank account was accidentally charged, we fixed it that day. It became a top priority. But I left it at that and painfully said to myself, Now I’ve got to keep a lookout for that check in the mail.

Four weeks went by and I still had not received a check so I called them back. It was then that the agent informed me that they had declined my request for a refund. Her reason was that it was because we didn’t purchase a drink package. That had nothing to do with us being charged for a bottle of wine we didn’t order. She told me there was nothing she could do and that I could e-mail customer relations about the issue, I sent an e-mail to the address she gave me and got zero response. Crickets! I emailed them again a few weeks later and to this date, still no response.

My old boss used to say that if there is no communication when there is a problem, people will start making up things in their head. That’s what’s going through my mind now concerning Princess.

We have sailed with them more than any other cruise line and are platinum members and have never experienced anything like this. So I’m starting to wonder. Are they financially in trouble and having to scrape together every dollar to the point that they can’t even issue a $96 legitimate refund?

Or do they not want us to cruise with them any longer? We’re not big spenders when we cruise. We don’t gamble, eat at specialty restaurants, or purchase a lot of alcohol. Maybe they decided they lose money on us and they would rather we go someplace else and this is their way of running us off. If that’s the case, I’m okay with that as there are plenty of other cruise lines. Maybe it’s nothing like that but they are just short-staffed and have never even seen my e-mails.

I’m probably going to keep calling until I have an answer though because I’m just like that. It’s not even so much about the $96 any longer. I just want to know what’s going on with them before I sign up for another cruise. After all, what if it’s a $500 charge next time and they refuse to rectify it.

The moral of the story for me and for you is to never disembark a ship until you have a printed invoice in hand that is correct. If you don’t, sadly, you may never see that money again, at least not without a lot of hassle.

Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds.

Proverbs 27:23

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