Q We recently cruised with a leading cruise line. Unfortunately, we had quite a few sleepless nights due to being given a noisy room which impacted quite badly on our holiday. We complained on board ship, but were told no other rooms were available. We contacted the company upon our return, who offered their apologies and £250 each in compensation – but only as a voucher valid on any further cruises with them before 2020.
We have no intention of cruising with them again, and asked for the sum in cash. They have refused. Can they offer compensation but then limit how we can use it?
A Travel firms don’t like paying compensation, of course, but when they do have to shell out they much prefer vouchers. It’s not as painful as handing out real money. Also it locks the recipient into future travel with the same company – or simply having to forfeit the value if they can’t or won’t use it.
Some vouchers are transferable, allowing the beneficiary to sell it on. For example, if a leading airline gives you a £300 voucher that can be used by anyone you nominate, you might be able to sell it on for £200 or £250 to a friend, colleague or family member who intends to fly with the carrier.
But a £250 cruise voucher is not in the same league. With a cruise typically costing upwards of £1,000, it requires the recipient to stump up a lot of cash in order to benefit from the compensation. Indeed, a cynic might speculate that the cruise line knows that people who get vouchers either don’t use them or spend thousands of pounds more in the process of redeeming them.
I would regard the offer as nothing more than an opening gambit. I suggest you calculate what might be a reasonable sum – perhaps one-quarter of the cost of the cruise – and ask for this in cash. If that is met with a flat refusal, I suggest you write a “Letter Before Action”. This spells out what you believe you are due (you might want to cite the Consumer Rights Act), and warns that you will take legal action if you do not get a positive response within two weeks. Then follow it up, if necessary, through Money Claim Online.
Finally: if you booked through a travel agent, they should really be fighting your corner.
Every day our travel correspondent Simon Calder tackles a reader’s question. Just email yours to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @simoncalder