MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – A Lowcountry couple says they’re being victimized by Celebrity Cruise Lines over a pair of tickets they bought to cruise back in 2020 before COVID-19 started. The couple has yet to cruise and has asked for their money to be refunded for the trip.
Amber and Josh Widener say they purchased their cruise with Celebrity Cruise Lines in February of 2020 just before the pandemic hit. COVID-19 forced the trip to be pushed back in 2020 and the couple was offered a later cruise date only for the cruise to be pushed back again in 2021. The couple asked for a refund in exchange of a future cruise credit which the couple says Celebrity Cruises has refused to give.
Celebrity Cruises says the Wideners opted to cancel their scheduled June 14, 2020 cruise and receive a 125% future cruise credit and made the decision before a December 31, 2020 deadline. A spokesperson with the company says the couple then requested a full refund on June 17, 2021 rather than the future cruise.
The couple says Celebrity Cruises declined the request before failing to return several emails. Celebrity Cruise says they reached out to the couple but never heard back.
The Wideners filed a complaint with the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs hoping to receive a refund.
Bailey Parker, Communications Director for SCDCA says the complaint was reviewed after making contact with the cruise line but says the agency can’t force cruise line carriers or others companies in the travel industry to repay consumers.
Celebrity Cruises says their case with SCDCA was closed after they turned correspondence with the Wideners over to the agency as ‘Adequate Business Response.”
The Wideners say they were looking forward to setting sail on their first cruise but COVID-19 had other plans.
“We were basically told that we were not going to cruise until 2021 and they actually gave us an incentive to keep that,” says Josh Widener.
COVID-19 continued to push plans for cruises and after taking a credit the first time the couple decided to ask for a refund from Celebrity Cruises.
“We were told by Celebrity Cruise that we would not be able to get our money back, that all they would do is give us a refund for a future cruise,” says Widener.
The Wideners continued to email Celebrity but say they got no response. They took the complaint to the SCDCA who says these cases have become popular since the onset of the pandemic.
“There are very few instances where you are going to get your money back,” says Parker.
Parker says there’s not much that can be done but says consumers should always file a complaint with a state agency. Parker also urges consumers to always read the fine print.
“File with the Better Business Bureau, come to us and file a complaint, try any avenue you can,” says Parker.
Parker says outside of filing a complaint, the Wideners best bet is hiring an attorney. Widener says it’s an experience he’ll likely never look to book again.
“The cruises are being put off again so I don’t see us being able to cruise and really and truly the way we’ve been treated – we just want our money back,” says Widener.
The Wideners say they are considering taking legal action against Celebrity Cruise Lines. The couple says they were told they have to use their cruise voucher by the end of the year or it will expire.