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Beware of booking a cruise with Crystal Cruises. They are not honoring their refund policy.


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On 8/23/2020 at 6:05 AM, Elizabethbea said:

Nice  yr ceo  replied, Tom Wolber CEO of Crystal , did not even give me the courtesy of any reply to my e mail. I wrote respectfully asking for my refund.  No reply.  Says it all. 

 

We're in the same boat.  Wolber must think being CEO just means attending gala sales events and collecting big paychecks.  Someone at Crystal has to be accountable for the company's deplorable refund performance. 

 

We think Crystal has a great product on the seas, but its "shoreside team" is inept.  At some point down the line that surely will cost Crystal.

Edited by seattleskibums
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29 minutes ago, seattleskibums said:

 

 Wolber must think being CEO just means attending gala sales events and collecting big paychecks.  Someone at Crystal has to be accountable for the company's deplorable refund performance. 

 

I really think it is unfair to beat up on Wolber -- or on any one person.  I imagine that the issue is that they don't have the funds to make refunds in a timely manner, and for various compliance reasons they cannot say that.  I suspect that Wolber is agonized over the situation, a situation over which he has very limited control.  He can't print money.  And he is constrained on what he can say.

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...adding onto what Observer mentioned, I’d add that most travel industry CEOs at this point are also not “collecting big paychecks”.  Most have (rightly) been working without salary for most of this year — I know my company’s has, and I’ve read of many others.

 

Vince

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 I disagree, respectfully. 

 

The reason that he is the esteemed CEO, and gets paid extremely handsomely for it with free cruises to boot, means that the buck stops with him. Period. 

 

If he was the slightest bit 'agonised" as you say he would at least reply to e mails or resign. But no, he stays put, gets his money and does absolutely nothing to assist Crystal's extremely loyal customers who have now , relying on Crystals refund assurances, been waiting for SIX months for their refund.

 

 Amazing--if a local tradesman failed to refund the poor guy would be in court within a month, if a huge multi national company renages we are told to "understand" and " be patient". 

 

Observer might like to remember that Crstal is still taking other people's money for future cruises....

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15 minutes ago, Elizabethbea said:

 I disagree, respectfully. 

 

The reason that he is the esteemed CEO, and gets paid extremely handsomely for it with free cruises to boot, means that the buck stops with him. Period. 

 

If he was the slightest bit 'agonised" as you say he would at least reply to e mails or resign. But no, he stays put, gets his money and does absolutely nothing to assist Crystal's extremely loyal customers who have now , relying on Crystals refund assurances, been waiting for SIX months for their refund.

 

 Amazing--if a local tradesman failed to refund the poor guy would be in court within a month, if a huge multi national company renages we are told to "understand" and " be patient". 

 

Observer might like to remember that Crstal is still taking other people's money for future cruises....


I certainly don’t disagree with your feelings about the refunds, but Crystal is NOT taking other people’s money for future cruises.  Also, I’m pretty sure the CEO isn’t allowed to cruise for free on Crystal when he’s not working — that’s usually prohibited.  

 

Vince

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 Er...it is still advertising cruises with immediate deposit. I do not understand your comment that it is no longer selling cruises--could you explain why you say categorically that they are not taking other peoples money. By my reckoninh taking deposits = taking money, no??

 

CEOs are deemed to be "working" by their very presence( often along with family)--one "Meet the CEO" cocktail party lasting 3 hours on a 2 week cruise is working enough. It is a selling point. That's "working". 

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 Regarding the upcoming event at which TW will be speaking --I would certainly be interested to hear "Crystals strategy underpinning Crystal's response to Covid-19". 

 

 Which appears to be blatently lying to its customers-- in March  2020 after Covid had hit it was promising " refund safety" in the event of a cancellation. I paid the last trench then for a cruise Crystal  cancelled a month later . It is now   using my money as an interest  free loan, continuing its business of selling future cruises, paying marketing personel ,the CEO talking the Company up etc--in complete disregard of the decent and legal  thing to do. 

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32 minutes ago, Elizabethbea said:

 Er...it is still advertising cruises with immediate deposit. I do not understand your comment that it is no longer selling cruises--could you explain why you say categorically that they are not taking other peoples money. By my reckoninh taking deposits = taking money, no??

 

CEOs are deemed to be "working" by their very presence( often along with family)--one "Meet the CEO" cocktail party lasting 3 hours on a 2 week cruise is working enough. It is a selling point. That's "working". 


In other threads here it’s been reported that they’ve stopped taking payments until they get a better grasp on what’s going on with future sailings.  Keep in mind they’re paying hefty charges on all the money they’re cycling (4-6% between charges and refunds) every time they have to charge and then refund the same booking, and many bookings have now been cycled more than once...  Not to mention whatever may be going on with their merchant account relevant to the pending refunds.

 

Professionally, I manage teams that plan and execute events like Crystal’s presidents cruise.  Onsite, I work 14-16 hour days, and I work right beside presidents and CEOs of different organizations, as we run their various receptions and presentations.  I assure you, their work onboard is NOTHING like you describe.  First, you overlook that they are not off the clock when they’re onboard — they still have to do all of the work and attend (virtually) all the meetings that they would normally attend that day, it just gets shuffled in between their appearances.  Second, just because they only have public appearances scheduled for certain times of the day, the rest of the day (not counting their “office work”) is taken up with rehearsals for the presentations and guest forums, inspections, meetings with department heads that don’t normally get face time with the execs, etc..  I’ve avoided doing this at sea and have stuck to land events, but I’ve been “lucky” enough to do this at fancy resorts equivalent to Crystal for some of the assignments for the past 20+ years, and the nice venue really doesn’t make much of a difference when you’re working all day and shadowing a CEO.  I’ve also been onboard for cruises with two past Crystal leaders, and I’ve seen their schedule.

 

Vince

Edited by BWIVince
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15 minutes ago, BWIVince said:

I assure you, their work onboard is NOTHING like you describe.  First, you overlook that they are not off the clock when they’re onboard


Yes and it’s not like they can even head out for a relaxing 18 holes of golf when at sea ☹️ 

 

I think different Presidents would have different priorities - the current incumbent seems to have a very different approach than their predecessor 

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I know I've said I am leaving this board but certain facts need to be posted so incorrect opinions do not become facts.

We cancelled a Seabourn cruise this Feb before they did and were thus offered FCC. However, certain expenses needed to be refunded to the CC used - shore excursions and taxes.

We got the excursions refunded but Seabourn wanted to give us the taxes back in FCC (like the cruise fare). This was unacceptable to me and I had several exchanges on the subject with Seabour (through myself & my TA) and they would not budge.

Seabourn had a new President just starting. I wrote an email to him and received an answer signed by HIM the same day. He said they would look into it and a couple of days later his associate agreed with me and said the checks for the taxes are in the mail (they arrived 2 weeks later).

Now here is the cherry on top. Without me ever mentioning anything about the FCC as compensation for the cancelled cruise (which was done correctly) the President decided that we should get all of our money back in cash to the CC used (over $23K). A few weeks later we had unexpectedly received a cash refund on our CC in place of the FCC.

Now that is what I would call a proactive response from a cruise line President interested in satisfying and hoping to retain a customer.

In the future when I'll be making a decision whether to cruise on Crystal or Seabourn, guess which one I'll choose.

Bottom line, not all cruise lines or their directors have acted the same during this crisis as many here claim.

And the way I was treated by Seabourn vs Crystal will be remembered by me and will guide my future decisions.

PS Seabourn also offered compensation for expenses with airfare changes which were over $2k in my case,. The office was again playing hard ball but the President's office took care of that as well.

Edited by Paulchili
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Since this topic is BEWARE OF BOOKING A FUTURE CRUISE WITH CRYSTAL, does anyone think use of an escrow account could provide the type of assurance needed for future bookings, especially cruises  planned for 2022 and 2023?

 

For some types of  business transactions it has been customary to place deposits in an escrow account held by a third party.  Funds are released when agreed conditions are met. 

 

If cruise lines, such as Crystal, chose to do so, they could have future deposits held in escrow until the day a a cruise begins. Thus, new money would not be used to support current cash outlays.

 

Customers have learned that the travel industry has been using deposits to cover current outlays, which puts their new deposits at risk.

 

 

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27 minutes ago, KenzSailing said:

 

"Get leavin'"

 

Couldn't resist.

Many people are not comfortable with the truth that doesn’t fit their perception of reality and would rather I just leave so they don’t have to hear it.

Relax, I am leaving.

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49 minutes ago, Jim9310 said:

Since this topic is BEWARE OF BOOKING A FUTURE CRUISE WITH CRYSTAL, does anyone think use of an escrow account could provide the type of assurance needed for future bookings, especially cruises  planned for 2022 and 2023?

 

For some types of  business transactions it has been customary to place deposits in an escrow account held by a third party.  Funds are released when agreed conditions are met. 

 

If cruise lines, such as Crystal, chose to do so, they could have future deposits held in escrow until the day a a cruise begins. Thus, new money would not be used to support current cash outlays.

 

Customers have learned that the travel industry has been using deposits to cover current outlays, which puts their new deposits at risk.

 

 

I do not know much about this  but the escrow account seems a good idea. 
Also a reassurance that the cruiseline is insured at a large insurance company in case of default. When we book an all inclusive trip in Germany (and a cruise will come under this category) we get kind of a certificate of assurance issued by the insurer of the service provider, which protects us in case of their default. This is a law to protect costumers.

Ivi
 


 

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6 hours ago, Observer said:

 

I really think it is unfair to beat up on Wolber -- or on any one person.  I imagine that the issue is that they don't have the funds to make refunds in a timely manner, and for various compliance reasons they cannot say that. ..

 

But they can say "all credit card processors are in a similar place and are affected by the sheer volume of refunds"?  That is not true.  We have received refunds from four different airlines in recent months.  One took about three weeks and the three others took 2 or 3 days!  You might have heard that the airlines also aren't exactly flush with cash right now.

 

So Crystal can't tell us the truth "for various compliance reasons," but they can lie all they want, eh?  The fact is that we have received refunds from 24 travel-related companies for cancellations made after Crystal canceled our cruises.  Crystal is the only company that has not processed our refund.

 

Another lie: :We continue working through our queue to address each guest's claim in the order it was received."  Just check out SusieQft's Crystal Refund Roll Call and you'll quickly see that is not true.  The truth seems to be that Crystal is making refunds only to customers who file disputes with their credit card companies.  

 

The biggest whopper is that "we are currently working toward the 90-day mark as mentioned and on occasion exceptions to this timeline may exceed 90 days."   Really????  Exceptions????  Has there been anyone who has received a Crystal refund within 90 days?  Today was Day 181 for us.  Crystal canceled our two river cruises on March 13.

 

No, we don't expect Wolber to print money, but we do expect him to show a little responsibility and leadership in correcting the deceitful information his company is putting out about refunds.  You call it "beating up" on Wolber.  We call it demanding accountability.

Edited by seattleskibums
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3 hours ago, seattleskibums said:

 

But they can say "all credit card processors are in a similar place and are affected by the sheer volume of refunds"?  That is not true.  We have received refunds from four different airlines in recent months.  One took about three weeks and the three others took 2 or 3 days!  You might have heard that the airlines also aren't exactly flush with cash right now.


When it comes to refund processing, it’s fairer to compare cruise lines to cruise lines than any cruise line to an airline.  In terms of process, US airlines process millions of dollars in refunds and hundreds of thousands of ticket changes a day — pre-COVID they had entire teams and automated systems to help expedite these changes because their highest margin tickets are last minute tickets with volatile plans.  Cruise lines were never set up for that because their business needs were quite the opposite (until one day...).
 

In terms of money, cruise lines also require a lot more outlay than a flight, so a higher percentage of a passenger’s money ends up in various vendors hands prior to travel, so the percentage of money an airline is waiting to come back so they can refund it to the customer can also look very different between cruise lines and airlines.

 

6 hours ago, Jim9310 said:

Since this topic is BEWARE OF BOOKING A FUTURE CRUISE WITH CRYSTAL, does anyone think use of an escrow account could provide the type of assurance needed for future bookings, especially cruises  planned for 2022 and 2023?

 

For some types of  business transactions it has been customary to place deposits in an escrow account held by a third party.  Funds are released when agreed conditions are met. 

 

If cruise lines, such as Crystal, chose to do so, they could have future deposits held in escrow until the day a a cruise begins. Thus, new money would not be used to support current cash outlays.

 

Customers have learned that the travel industry has been using deposits to cover current outlays, which puts their new deposits at risk.

 

 


I think all cruise lines are required to keep passenger deposits in separate accounts by their accounting firms and auditors, they don’t get carte blanche access to that money, something that is common in most segments of the travel industry.  In my end of the industry we have to keep all monies separate, and define a disbursement schedule for those funds that the auditors keep us to.

 

The problem comes in where you mention the current outlays.  Even using a passenger’s money just for their cruise, a huge outlay for that sailing begins at 180 days and increases at 90 and 30 days as they have to pay all of the suppliers.  During many years of Crystal’s operation over the past 30 years, they’ve lost money just on the cruise operation alone, not even counting fixed costs, so they would literally be fronting 100% of their passenger revenue for all future sailings on a rolling basis, which I’m sure would be logistically impossible for just about any cruise line.  I think this is usually why we go the bonding route to mitigate the risk (more below).
 

Funny enough, I think some cruise lines play a little with how they claim this money is handled.  In another thread, I think it was a quote from Tauck that claimed something to the effect that they don’t use their passenger account money to fund their business operation.  In my segment of the industry that would be different from guest operations, and would be a claim that they don’t intermingle guest funds by paying for their fixed costs like office operation and administration.  Well that’s great, but I’m not really sure that’s different from other cruise lines, and it certainly doesn’t address the outlay problem that can be caused when vendors don’t return the deposits in a timely manner (or at all in some cases.)  Fortunately Tauck has a great diversity and scale that should help offset that issue, and great management, but I don’t think their quote really distinguishes them from anyone else. 

 

5 hours ago, travelberlin said:

I do not know much about this  but the escrow account seems a good idea. 
Also a reassurance that the cruiseline is insured at a large insurance company in case of default. When we book an all inclusive trip in Germany (and a cruise will come under this category) we get kind of a certificate of assurance issued by the insurer of the service provider, which protects us in case of their default. This is a law to protect costumers.

Ivi


Because the cash outlays for cruise lines are kind of unique in the travel industry, in the US we’ve gone the route of bonds to help offset that risk.  In true US style though, the government doesn’t burden the business with the whole risk but just a partial measure, so the goal isn’t to make every customer whole, just to ensure that all passengers get “something” back.  The idea is that with different layers of coverage, you lower the cost and spread the pain thinner and thinner.  I’m not saying that’s a good plan, it’s just how a lot of industries in the US work, including the cruise industry.

 

Two of those pieces of the puzzle include:

-  Federal Maritime Commissions surety bonds — partial coverage of passenger deposits.  If someone can figure out the formula from the FMC’s public info you might win a prize, but in summary it’s partial coverage.
-  Merchant Account escrow/bonds — most US merchant services banks no longer allow merchants to amass large sums of money (transactions over $1000) for services to be delivered more than a few months ahead of the transaction without some kind of escrow or surety bond based on their volume.  (For the most part this changed in 2007.)  Just like the FMC this doesn’t cover all monies processed, but gives the credit card processor a very good cushion on chargebacks in case they need it.

 

I think it would be nice if an insurer covered all bookings for a cruise line as a blanket policy, but I fear with the uncertainty about if/when cruise lines will be able to start full-scale operations globally again, I’m not sure any insurer would actually ever accept that big of a risk on any line.  I think they’d rather spread it out on on certain types of individual policies among a portfolio.  🙁. That’s just my gut feeling though.

 

Vince

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Vince
in Germany we receive a so called Sicherungsschein which covers for insolvency of the service provider. I think that if cruiselines will request final payments so far in advance then they should be able to provide that certification. 
 

We have received such a certification for a cruise booked for 2021 with another company. More than ever the cruiselines need to build confidence again. After Coronavirus very few people will be willing to commit large sums of money again with cruiselines without having the confidence that they would get their money back in case of insolvency. On the other hand it is almost impossible to insure your cruise as individual against insolvency. My cruises with Crystal were not booked through German agents. No insurance is attached to those cruises.
 

Ivi
 

 

  
    

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, BWIVince said:

RE:  Alternatives to escrowed funds:

 

Two of those pieces of the puzzle include:

-  Federal Maritime Commissions surety bonds — partial coverage of passenger deposits.  If someone can figure out the formula from the FMC’s public info you might win a prize, but in summary it’s partial coverage.
-  Merchant Account escrow/bonds — most US merchant services banks no longer allow merchants to amass large sums of money (transactions over $1000) for services to be delivered more than a few months ahead of the transaction without some kind of escrow or surety bond based on their volume.  (For the most part this changed in 2007.)  Just like the FMC this doesn’t cover all monies processed, but gives the credit card processor a very good cushion on chargebacks in case they need it.

 

Vince

 

Vince,

The average traveler does not know about these protections.

Since they exist to protect cruise deposits, when and how does one apply for feimbursement in situations where people waited so long that their credit card disputes have been rejected?

Any advice will be appreciated.  Thanks.

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While the delay in refunds is certainly disconcerting, this just seems like the old adage of squeezing blood out of a turnip.
 

Maybe I’m oversimplifying - but it seems obvious this is a cash flow problem. The parent corporation has announced they are seeking investors and working on debt restructuring. They are trying to stay viable so Crystal can sail again. 
 

It’s a business. Of course they want new bookings. The CEO can only say we’re working through this as best we can. He can’t really come out and say we have no money to pay you back right now. It is what it is. 
 

 

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5 minutes ago, Jim9310 said:

 

Vince,

The average traveler does not know about these protections.

Since they exist to protect cruise deposits, when and how does one apply for feimbursement in situations where people waited so long that their credit card disputes have been rejected?

Any advice will be appreciated.  Thanks.


Jim,

 

Regarding the merchant account escrows, just work with your credit card company on a dispute (after the line’s 90 day or whatever refund period they specify).  That is the money they  basically earmark to protect that process, so it’s basically their money to manage.

 

Regarding the FMC bonds, my understanding is that the line has to file for some chapter of bankruptcy first.  One of the reasons suppliers are supposed to keep separate accounts is because passenger deposits are YOUR money while the company is a going concern.   Unless something has changed recently (I’m definitely not a lawyer and defer to those on the board that are), the way it’s worked in the past is that all accounts and assets (even the passenger deposits) come under the control of the court once bankrupt, so things get much muddier.  It’s at this point that depending on what the court decides that the FMC or local jurisdictions that provide coverage would normally come in to help fill any gap created by the court ruling.

 

The FMC has more info on their website, including contact info if you’d like to reach out to them with questions or for more info:  https://www.fmc.gov/resources-services/passenger-vessel-operators/  There’s a link on that page for cruise passenger assistance that tries to break off people who need help with various service issues not related by financial performance, but if you follow the direction for financial responsibility it should take you to the Bureau of Licensing and Certification.
 

Hope that adds a little more insight...

 

Vince

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1 hour ago, BWIVince said:


Jim,

 

Regarding the merchant account escrows, just work with your credit card company on a dispute (after the line’s 90 day or whatever refund period they specify).  That is the money they  basically earmark to protect that process, so it’s basically their money to manage.

 

Regarding the FMC bonds, my understanding is that the line has to file for some chapter of bankruptcy first.  One of the reasons suppliers are supposed to keep separate accounts is because passenger deposits are YOUR money while the company is a going concern.   Unless something has changed recently (I’m definitely not a lawyer and defer to those on the board that are), the way it’s worked in the past is that all accounts and assets (even the passenger deposits) come under the control of the court once bankrupt, so things get much muddier.  It’s at this point that depending on what the court decides that the FMC or local jurisdictions that provide coverage would normally come in to help fill any gap created by the court ruling.

 

The FMC has more info on their website, including contact info if you’d like to reach out to them with questions or for more info:  https://www.fmc.gov/resources-services/passenger-vessel-operators/  There’s a link on that page for cruise passenger assistance that tries to break off people who need help with various service issues not related by financial performance, but if you follow the direction for financial responsibility it should take you to the Bureau of Licensing and Certification.
 

Hope that adds a little more insight...

 

Vince

I know that in practice, cruise lines are deciding how long the refunds will take, but is there a legal protection to the consumer that disallows cruise lines to unilaterally determine how long they can hold on to our money?  Or are US laws already been written to the cruise lines' favor?  I find the practice of a cruise line saying...it will take xxx days for your refunds to process, and the consumers being encouraged to wait that xxx days before disputing the charges to be pure nonsense. 

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5 hours ago, BWIVince said:


When it comes to refund processing, it’s fairer to compare cruise lines to cruise lines than any cruise line to an airline.

 

A fair point, but our 24 refunds to date also include trains, hotels, condos, theaters and a couple of small tour groups.  It does seem odd that Crystal is the only company we've dealt with that has failed so miserably in making refunds.

 

That said, are other cruise lines taking six months or more to make refunds?  We have a Regent cruise coming up in December that has not been canceled yet, so we may find out firsthand how they stack up against Crystal.  We do have friends who have received full refunds for two NCL cruises within 60 days, so it still sounds like Crystal might not fare well in a cruise line to cruise line comparison. Today is Day 182 since Crystal canceled our river cruises on March 13 and still no sign of a refund.

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