Kasia Hein-Peters and her husband are what you’d call avid cruisers.
“We usually go on a cruise at least twice a year. We really like it,” she told Fox31.
They were excited to go on their next one this upcoming March—a Royal Caribbean cruise around the Caribbean… until recently, as they closely followed the coronavirus outbreak on a cruise ship in Japan.
“This outbreak is already causing a lot of cases outside of China,” said Hein-Peters, a Denver-based doctor, who has been tracking the outbreak for her medical device company.
“I started to realize that going on a cruise during a growing epidemic, even though the probability of having a person with an infection is relatively low, it’s actually not a smart move,” she said.
“I really don’t want to come across as if I am spreading panic. But I think that unfortunately cruises are a good ground for infection, because you have a lot of people in a small location,” Hein-Peters added.
She and her husband tried to change the dates of their cruise.
“We just asked to reschedule for later this year when we believe the outbreak will be declining, or the situation will be more under control, or drugs will be available.”
It’s an option Royal Caribbean doesn’t offer, though.
“At first, we had a conversation about how unlikely it is, and how there are no registered cases in the Caribbean. And I said, ‘I understand., And I’m not concerned about how many cases are in the Caribbean—and at this point, there are none. I’m more concerned about people who are going to be on the cruise,” she explained.
Royal Caribbean told her, per their policy, they would not allow the couple to pick a different date.
“I think the major message was, ‘This is our policy, and we stand by it. And by the way, you should have bought insurance.’”
They paid over $5,000 for their cruise, but declined travel insurance—which Hein-Peters says they’ve never purchased for any of the 20+ cruises they’ve been on.
Had they cancelled their trip in early December (before the coronavirus outbreak), they could have gotten a full refund—minus a non-refundable deposit.
But cancelling this close to the cruise, without insurance, meant getting only 25% of their money back—leaving the couple with a tough decision.
“Probability may be low. But because consequences for us may be high, we decided to cut our losses—because we cannot sit on a ship or CDC-facility for weeks, after one week as a cruises. Our jobs don’t allow it.”
They were refunded about $1,700, and caution other travelers to invest in travel insurance if they book a cruise in the near future.
Hein-Peters says they plan to go on more cruises, but won’t be going through Royal Caribbean next time they book one.
“I would really encourage the cruise lines to rethink their polices under the circumstances. I know that airlines are becoming more flexible in the face of this epidemic, and I really don’t understand why another travel agency can’t do that.”