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News 5 Investigates: How to get travel and cruise agencies to refund your money faster

Posted at 5:25 PM, Apr 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-14 19:36:01-04

In the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, many of us have had to cancel our plans.

One family says Carnival Cruise Lines didn't want to give them a full refund, so they contacted Chief Investigative Reporter Eric Ross for help.

Imagine saving up for more than a year to take a dream vacation---only to have the Coronavirus pandemic put a dent in those plans. It's an unfortunate situation no one expected.

Alice Valdez and Tenisha Gonzales reached out to News 5 after they said they were getting the run around from Carnival when they tried to get their trip refunded.

"We've been paying on it for 487 days or something like that," Gonzales said. "We all struggled to make our payments."

Just when the cruise was paid for in full, the Coronavirus became a global pandemic. The family's upcoming spring time getaway was put on hold, along with tens of thousands of other travelers.

Gonzales gave us receipts showing her family paid thousands of dollars for a 6 day cruise. They purchased trip insurance, but getting a full refund hasn't been easy when they called their cruise line agent.

"She (the travel agent) is saying we won't get any insurance money back," Gonzales said. "They want to keep $1,082 per room for an additional cruise. They will refund money back but will keep $1,082 for both rooms."

The family reached to to News 5 after they say they feel they were treated unfairly.

"It has just been a nightmare," Gonzales said. "We've been really cool to be like, 'Just give us another cruise.' In a couple of months when it's better we'll be more than happy to take that and they wanted $2,000 more to be able to do that and we've had enough of this."

Gonzales mother, Alice, shares the frustration.

"We won't cruise with them anymore probably," she said.

Carnival Cruise announced this week that all North American travel itineraries are canceled through June 26. Trips out of New York have been canceled through the end of the year.

I reached out directly to Carnival to better understand Gonzales' case. After researching their trip, a spokesman promptly responded by saying the family is entitled to a full refund or travel voucher, whichever they prefer.

I relayed the information back to the Gonzales family after receiving the good news.

"Thank you so much," Alice said. "We're good to go. Thank you for your help."

Carnival Cruise also released a statement to its travelers on Twitter regarding impacted travel.

If your sailing has been impacted, you will have received an email direct from Carnival or your Travel Advisor. This email will have all the instructions you need to claim your cancellation offer or refund. Our call center continues to experience very high volumes of calls, so the quickest way to claim is by using the link in the email. As always, we want to extend our thanks to all our guests and Travel Agent partners for continuing to support us. Stay safe and well everyone.

Tips for getting your refund processed quickly:

1) Avoid calling 1-800 lines right now. Many companies have reduced staff for safety reasons. Call centers are flooded with phone messages right now.

2) Visit the company's web site directly. Many have posted instructions and updated policies concerning re-booking, cancellations and refunds.

3) Some companies have already sent out emails to impacted travelers, but please make sure the email is coming from a legitimate source. Check the email address that sent you a message and do not click on unknown links.

4) Emails asking you for personal information such as credit card numbers and social security numbers are not legitimate. The only information you may be required to enter is your booking confirmation number.

5) If you must contact a hotel, cruise line or airline for support, be patient and polite. Many people will find themselves waiting on hold for quite a while. Be nice to the travel agents and customer care representatives. Many are doing the best they can with limited resources. If you're unable to get your problem resolved directly through them, ask to speak with a supervisor.

6) If you paid for your trip through a credit card, many credit card companies offer travel protection benefits as a courtesy. Review your card member agreement and you may be able to work with them by disputing a charge if the merchant isn't willing to refund your money.

7) Some travel agencies will first offer you a voucher or option to re-book your trip, but that may not be your only option. You may be eligible for a full refund, or travel voucher plus a courtesy credit. Ask for all available options before making a decision.

8) If you booked travel through a third party site and not direct with an airline or hotel, you'll need to review that company's policy on refunds and cancellations.

If you believe a business is not adhering to proper business practices or violating its own policies, you can report those businesses to the Better Business Bureau or file a complaint through the Colorado Attorney General's Office.

Want us to look into an issue for you? Email a brief summary of your problem to and we'll do our best to respond as soon as possible.