Company denies refund after Buckeye couple’s $25,000 cruise cancellation

Didn’t share vaccination requirements until weeks before departure
CJ and Bill got news that they couldn't go on the cruise because CJ was never vaccinated for COVID-19.
Published: Mar. 2, 2023 at 5:00 PM MST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2023 at 7:47 PM MST
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BUCKEYE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — A Buckeye couple says they’re out $25,000 for an 18-day cruise they purchased. They claim they were forced to cancel the entire trip after the cruise line failed to pass on one crucial piece of information. Instead, they only found out weeks before they were set to sail. As a result, they were forced to give up their money.

CJ Karas and her husband Bill love to travel, and they booked what they call a “bucket list” trip on Oceania Cruises. The cost — over $25,000. It was an 18-day voyage starting in Sydney that would take them through the South Pacific. But recently, CJ and Bill got bad news from Oceania. “About three weeks ago, I received an email on a Friday afternoon,” CJ says. “It said, you know, these are the requirements for your trip. And it was ‘You have to be vaccinated in order to embark on a cruise in Sydney.’”

The problem — CJ was never vaccinated for COVID-19, as she has an auto-immune disease, and her doctor recommended she not get the shot. The couple says Oceania’s website never mentioned anything about being vaccinated. “I had been looking online because Oceania had left it up to us to figure out what the requirements were for the COVID restrictions,” she says.

CJ discovered Australia has no COVID restrictions. However, the cruise ships would dock in New South Wales, a state that does require COVID vaccinations for people embarking on cruises. However, Oceania never told the couple about that rule. As a result, CJ and Bill were forced to cancel and Oceania refused to refund the couple their $25,000. “It’s a multi-billion dollar company and we’re just the little people,” CJ says. “And they don’t care.”

On Your Side looked at Oceania’s website and there was no mention at all about having to be vaccinated. In fact, we realized that their website hasn’t been updated since 2018. So On Your Side reached out to Oceania. They told us Australia has a “well-known, well-publicized, and well-documented policy of requiring vaccinations for all travelers embarking cruise ships.” They say that post-pandemic, Oceania has “shifted the responsibility back to the traveler for ALL requirements — passports, visas, vaccinations, etc.”

Still, after On Your Side got involved, the cruise line had a change of heart and agreed to credit CJ and Bill with $25,000 in travel vouchers to use towards a future cruise. The couple says they owe it all to On Your Side and can’t wait to take a cruise somewhere other than Australia. “It’s a great way to travel,” CJ says. “Cruising is just a great way to travel.”

It’s a good reminder — it may seem like the pandemic is over, but if you’re traveling internationally, you can still run into restrictions that you don’t expect. Thanks to Oceania for making things right in this case.