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‘Safety comes first’: Local couple seeks refund for cruise they booked to the Middle East

THE VILLAGES, Fla. — With military action continuing in the Middle East, some cruise passengers from central Florida feared for their safety after booking a vacation to the region.

For Jeff and Jenean Monasch the cruise life is the good life. They like the idea of seeing the world on a ship and one of the favorite cruise lines has been Norwegian.

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Earlier this year, the couple from The Villages, started searching for another destination.

“We saw this great cruise to the Middle East, right? It was doing Egypt, it was doing Jordan, it was making two stops in Israel,” Jeff Monasch told Action 9.

They booked it, shelled out $7,000 and were set to sail for the 19-day cruise leaving just after Thanksgiving. But they made the reservations well before tensions in the Middle East escalated.

The Israel-Hamas conflict resulted in travel warnings in the region. Some cruise lines pulled their ships out.

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Monasch said, “And I’m saying all right, everyone’s getting smart. Right? Let’s wait and see what NCL was going to do.”

Norwegian Cruise Line changed the itinerary a couple of times.

It wasn’t the same cruise the Monasch’s signed up for and they started to fear for their safety with all the fighting in the region. But their cruise was not cancelled and requests for refunds or even credit to use on a future cruise were denied by NCL.

“And the answer back was, ‘Well, our policy is no, you’re not getting a refund,’” Monasch said.

John Breyault, Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud with the National Consumers League said it’s clear they are not alone.

“There are lots of people who are in a similar situation to this couple,” he said.

Breyault pointed out even if the couple had cancelled the day the war started in October, based on Norwegian Cruise Line’s cancellation policy, they still would have lost a large portion of their money.

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He said with that policy, the couple is stuck between a rock and a hard place, but he was surprised that in a situation like this, Norwegian didn’t offer future cruise credit.

“A consumer, through no fault of their own, is in a situation where they can lose a substantial amount of money. That says something about the state of consumer protection in the cruise industry,” Breyault said.

Action 9 contacted Norwegian Cruise Line about the Monasch’s concerns. The cruise line said, the couple was ineligible for a refund because they did not purchase travel insurance, which the cruise line recommends.

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A company spokesperson also sent this statement about how it’s handling the war in the Middle East:

“We are deeply saddened by the tragic situation. Our thoughts are with all those impacted during this time. As always, the safety and security of our guests, crew and communities we visit is our top priority. As a result, we have made the decision to cancel all calls to Israel for the remainder of 2023 and in 2024. We are also canceling and redirecting certain calls to the surrounding region for the remainder of 2023. We are currently working through alterations for affected itineraries and will communicate changes to impacted guests and travel partners as they are confirmed. We will continue to monitor and make adjustments to both current and upcoming cruise itineraries, as needed, and thank our guests for their patience and flexibility during this fluid situation.”

Still, for Jeff and Jenean Monasch, they were left to make a decision to lose out of the trip of a lifetime and their $7,000.

“Safety comes first to me, you know, and I could understand them maybe not wanting to refund the money, but future cruise credit would be fine,” Monasch said.

Consumers in this situation can file complaints with the U.S. Department of Transportation and Florida’s Attorney General. If the cruise leaves from a U.S. port they can also make a complaint with the Federal Maritime Commission.

Jeff Deal

Jeff Deal, WFTV.com

I joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in 2006.