(CNN) – When he got home after weeks stranded at sea aboard the Pacific Princess cruise ship, passenger CJ Hayden, a San Francisco-based author and business coach, immediately filed for a refund.
According to their calculations, she and her partner Dave Herninko owed around $ 37,500.
"They weren't going to charge us for the days we spent floating around the Indian Ocean with nowhere to go," Hayden told CNN.
The Pacific Princess set sail in January for a 111-day round-the-world trip that was curtailed in mid-March when the Covid-19 pandemic closed the cruise industry.
Hayden and other Pacific Princess passengers say they were able to request 100% of their cash refund, plus an equivalent amount of credit against future travel, known as Future Cruise Credit (FCC). Alternatively, they were offered 250% credit on future trips.
Hayden chose the first option. She and Herninko say they were also owed for return air tickets home, excess baggage fees, money for prepaid land excursions that never occurred, and port taxes and fees.
Hayden says he chased the cruise line three weeks after the refund request as he had heard nothing and Princess Cruises told him he would wait 30 days.
A month later Hayden had heard nothing else. She re-registered and was told 60 days.
Fast forward to the end of June, and Hayden says it has been 99 days and counting. She received her credit, but her cash is nowhere to be seen.
Long delays in processing refunds
CJ Hayden, pictured, next to the Pacific Princess cruise ship.
Courtesy of CJ Hayden.
And she is not the only one who has been affected.
While trapped at sea, Hayden and Herninko formed close ties with other stranded travelers. Back home, the former shipmates kept in touch and these other Pacific Princess passengers told Hayden that they were also waiting to receive refunds.
While browsing online cruise message boards and social media, Hayden realized that the problem extended beyond Pacific Princess. Other Princess Cruises passengers and passengers from other cruise companies also spoke about long waits.
Frustratingly, as they waited for refunds, they saw cruise operators announce new excursions. Some of those trips were canceled after the industry's International Association of Cruise Lines extended an "order not to sail" until September 15.
Hayden says he has complained to the California Attorney General, the US Federal Trade Commission, and the Federal Maritime Commission.
Princess Cruises' public relations director Negin Kamali told CNN that the guests had been updated on the refund process via social media and email.
CJ Hayden with partner Dave Herninko on the Pacific Princess cruise ship.
Courtesy of CJ Hayden.
"Because we respect our guests' money and time, refund processing has remained one of our top priorities since our company stopped operations," the statement read.
Princess Cruises said it had had to "increase the capabilities of our systems" to handle the volume and complexity of refunds.
The cruise line said that almost 60% of the refunds had been completed and that the refunds and credit were handled separately.
"Therefore, it is normal to receive one at a different time than the other. In many circumstances, the total amount of your Future Cruise Credit will be made up of two or three separate FCCs," the statement read.
Cash refunds can also come in a series of payments, the cruise line added.
Kamali told CNN that Hayden's refund was processed on June 19 and that he should receive it within five to seven business days.
A widespread problem with delayed refunds
Other cruise ship passengers who spoke to CNN said they had also faced long waiting times with no sign of money. Others have received some, but not all, of their cash or credit owed.
David Hidding, who canceled a Princess Cruises family trip to Alaska in March, received a refund last week.
He says he is frustrated with how the situation was handled.
"I explained to him that in over 90 days, we had not received any communication from anyone with Princess, which was unacceptable," Hidding told CNN. "I do not apologize, but (a Princess Cruises adviser) reiterated that they have been overwhelmed with the issuance of refunds."
Retired business analyst Judy Schmitz of Iowa was also aboard the Pacific Princess. She chose to receive 100% of her cash refund, plus the corresponding amount in credit.
She received the credit, Schmitz says, but is still waiting for her cash refund, which she estimates is about $ 33,500.
When she returned home from being stranded at sea, Schmitz was busy caring for her sick father, who later passed away.
"Until I get all the money back, I won't be able to breathe out," she says.
Christina Golston, with her family aboard a cruise ship last fall.
Courtesy of Christina Golston.
Iowa-based nurse Christina Golston, who is awaiting a refund from Carnival Cruise Line, created a Facebook page to connect passengers awaiting refunds from Carnival Corporation, which owns Princess Cruises, along with Carnival Cruise Line, Holland. America and Costa Cruises.
"There are a lot of people like me who love to sail, but now we need our money to pay the bills, due to job loss or reduced hours worked," says Golston.
Carnival Cruise Line representative Vance Gulliksen told CNN that at the start of the break in service, the "large volume" of refunds had caused delays.
"But we continue to automate and streamline the process and collaborate with our bank processor to work more efficiently," added Gulliksen. "For the most part, we have worked through backlog and feel that we can now process and issue refunds in a much more timely manner. We certainly appreciate the patience of our guests in this unprecedented disruption to our business."
& # 39; Much higher than normal volume of refund requests & # 39;
New York official Julie Huang says she is waiting for a refund from Norwegian Cruise Line.
Huang filed her claim for reimbursement in March, a claim for $ 9,100 on behalf of herself and several family members. You received an automated response informing you that you should wait 90 days for the request to be processed.
The 90th day came and went in the penultimate week of June, but Huang had received no updates. After failing to communicate by phone, Norwegian tweeted.
Judy Schmitz, cruise passenger
"There are 90 days of missed opportunities for them to proactively let me know they need more time," says Huang. "I'm fine with that, I think our money will come back eventually. But I'm going to lose a bit of faith right now, if they respond like that, and I didn't appreciate it."
"I am more obsessed with his response than with money," she adds.
Norwegian Cruise Line told CNN that the cruise line had a much higher "volume of refund requests to process" than normal due to the unprecedented situation.
"Refunds are handled on the date of trip departure and in accordance with the date the refunds were originally requested. Our team is working tirelessly to finalize these refunds to the original form of payment as soon as possible," reads in a statement provided to CNN.
"Unfortunately, we are experiencing delays with our delivery capabilities within the 90-day period originally communicated and we want to set appropriate expectations with our delivery capabilities. We greatly appreciate our guests for their understanding and patience."
The Pacific Princess in Los Angeles in April, her last port of call after most passengers landed in Australia.
Mario Tama / Getty Images
Still, although many cruises are frustrated, some travelers, such as Robert Sohns, have not been discouraged by the experience of stranded at sea or waiting for money.
Sohns was also aboard the Pacific Princess, but unlike Hayden and Schmitz, she opted for a full refund on credit against future cruises.
He had to wait 90 days, but the credit of approximately $ 36,500 is now in his Princess Cruises account, and another $ 36,500 of credit is in his wife's account.
"We just hoped they wouldn't go bankrupt," says Sohns. "We just await our time, knowing that they would eventually catch up with us."
Sohns and his wife have attributed their credit to a Pacific Princess 2022 world cruise, aiming to replicate the 2020 journey that it should have been.
"We have probably been on about 100 cruises in the last 50 years, and half of them have been on Princess and we have always known that there is a possibility of things happening on ships, but this is so untypical." "