Hands tied as credit limit exceeded

This item appears on page 26 of the September 2010 issue.
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My wife and I took a world cruise with Cunard Line, the first leg of which was from New York City to Southampton, England, on the Queen Victoria, Jan. 12-April 22, 2010. At the end, we sailed from Southampton to New York aboard the Queen Mary 2, April 22-29.

We had also cruised with Cunard in January 2004, March-April 2006, January-April 2007 and March-April 2008. Each time, our bills were settled when the cruise terminated; the company put all of its charges through at the end of the voyage. This enabled us enough time to pay our bills upon our return home.

Much to my despair, however, on our 2010 cruise, and unbeknownst to us, Cunard opted to bill our credit card after each of the five segments of the voyage. Although I had left a comfortable credit balance on the card to take care of incidental purchases along the way, it was insufficient for our larger charges from the ship.

I learned of this situation only when, somewhere in India, my Visa card, mysteriously, was not honored. When this happened a second time later on, I phoned our credit card company from the ship and learned that I had an unpaid outstanding balance — something which has never happened in all the years I have used credit cards.

I went to the purser’s office at 8:30 a.m. wishing to speak with the chief cashier but was told he was not in yet. I tried an hour later and was told he was on the bridge. I was able to speak with the junior cashier officer, who told me there was nothing they could do about it.

My wife was not satisfied with that answer, so she went to the purser’s office and asked that the chief cashier phone us at his convenience for an appointment to discuss the matter in person. We received a phone call from the purser’s office with the message that since I had already spoken with the junior officer cashier, the chief cashier saw no reason why he would have to speak with us. We never were able to meet with the chief cashier.

The junior cashier officer had kept insisting that, prior to and at the time of embarkation, all passengers had been informed in writing of Cunard’s new billing policy. For us, at least, this was not the case. I have looked through all the brochures we received and found nothing stating this new payment policy.

He also said that this was a document that each passenger had to sign when checking in. I do not recollect acquiescing to anything of the sort upon boarding.

Under the circumstances, all I was asking was that they reverse one of their charges to clear my overdue account, which was then being fined and charged interest. I was told they couldn’t do anything until they reached Southampton. We had no way to rectify the matter with the credit card company while on the high seas.

Nevertheless, we do enjoy traveling by Cunard liners, and the cruise was fine in every other respect.

DONALD R. TREMBLAY

Santa Monica, CA

ITN wrote to Cunard Line (24303 Town Center Dr., Ste. 200, Valencia, CA 91355-0908) about Mr. Tremblay and received the following reply.

We offer our sincere apologies for the inconvenience Mr. and Mrs. Tremblay experienced as a result of the shipboard accounting process for passenger folio charges during the World Cruise.

We understand that this sailing was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Tremblay as a full World Cruise of 107 days and that, consequently, they were expecting to be charged at the end of their time on board. However, our World Cruises are made up of individual segments, each of which may be purchased as a separate and complete sailing. Therefore, at any given time, guests on board the ship may be sailing for any number of segments within the full World Cruise.

At the beginning of any segment, embarking passengers will present credit card information for the purposes of onboard charges settlement. As Mr. and Mrs. Tremblay embarked Jan. 12 in New York City and would not be disembarking until April 22, again in New York City, they needed to provide their credit card information only once.

Typically, shipboard personnel will run credit card authorizations at the start of a voyage to secure funds for folio charges. These authorized holds are only valid, however, for up to 30 days. Therefore, as the Tremblays would be sailing for 107 days, subsequent authorization holds would need to have been placed in order to ensure that full payment of charges would be valid.

If we were to process only one charge at the end of the sailing, only the last authorization hold 30 days prior to the end of the cruise would be valid. All the other prior authorizations would have already expired. Charging a card without sufficient preauthorizations could result in a declined charge or a possible increase in credit card fees.

For these reasons, shipboard personnel will place credit card authorization holds every 30 days on all sailings lasting more than that amount of time or, in the instance of the World Cruise, charge the credit card with total charges incurred for each segment.

We understand that Mr. Tremblay did not receive the notification that was sent to all staterooms at the start of his sailing describing these procedures or the document advising guests that they could choose to pay either after each segment or one time at the end of their voyage.

As per the information on the document, guests needed to sign indicating their choice and return the signed document to the Pursers Desk. Guests who did not return the signed document noting their payment preference would automatically be billed at the close of each segment.

We are sorry that this important information was not received by Mr. and Mrs. Tremblay. Further, we extend our apologies for the manner in which our Pursers handled this matter in their discussions with Mr. Tremblay. We truly regret any inappropriate and unprofessional actions displayed by any staff member.

We believe Mr. Tremblay was able to reverse any charges incurred as a result of the authorization holds/charges. However, if this matter remains unsettled, we ask that he contact our office, and we will be pleased to review and refund outstanding fees placed during this period.

LORRI LANNING, Specialist, Guest Relations, Cunard

In a follow-up to ITN, Mr. Tremblay wrote, “Regarding the penalty charges on our Visa account, I was able to have most of them reversed. However, when I recently reviewed my credit report with Experian, the following notation appeared: “Potentially Negative Items or items for further review. This information is generally removed seven years from the initial missed payment that led to the delinquency.”

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My wife and I took a world cruise with Cunard Line, the first leg of which was from New York City to Southampton, England, on the Queen Victoria, Jan. 12-April 22, 2010. At the end, we sailed from Southampton to New York aboard the Queen Mary 2, April 22-29.

We had also cruised with Cunard in January 2004, March-April 2006, January-April 2007 and March-April 2008. Each time, our bills were settled when the cruise terminated; the company put all of its charges through at the end of the voyage. This enabled us enough time to pay our bills upon our return home.

Much to my despair, however, on our 2010 cruise, and unbeknownst to us, Cunard opted to bill our credit card after each of the five segments of the voyage. Although I had left a comfortable credit balance on the card to take care of incidental purchases along the way, it was insufficient for our larger charges from the ship.

I learned of this situation only when, somewhere in India, my Visa card, mysteriously, was not honored. When this happened a second time later on, I phoned our credit card company from the ship and learned that I had an unpaid outstanding balance — something which has never happened in all the years I have used credit cards.

I went to the purser’s office at 8:30 a.m. wishing to speak with the chief cashier but was told he was not in yet. I tried an hour later and was told he was on the bridge. I was able to speak with the junior cashier officer, who told me there was nothing they could do about it.

My wife was not satisfied with that answer, so she went to the purser’s office and asked that the chief cashier phone us at his convenience for an appointment to discuss the matter in person. We received a phone call from the purser’s office with the message that since I had already spoken with the junior officer cashier, the chief cashier saw no reason why he would have to speak with us. We never were able to meet with the chief cashier.

The junior cashier officer had kept insisting that, prior to and at the time of embarkation, all passengers had been informed in writing of Cunard’s new billing policy. For us, at least, this was not the case. I have looked through all the brochures we received and found nothing stating this new payment policy.

He also said that this was a document that each passenger had to sign when checking in. I do not recollect acquiescing to anything of the sort upon boarding.

Under the circumstances, all I was asking was that they reverse one of their charges to clear my overdue account, which was then being fined and charged interest. I was told they couldn’t do anything until they reached Southampton. We had no way to rectify the matter with the credit card company while on the high seas.

Nevertheless, we do enjoy traveling by Cunard liners, and the cruise was fine in every other respect.

DONALD R. TREMBLAY

Santa Monica, CA

ITN wrote to Cunard Line (24303 Town Center Dr., Ste. 200, Valencia, CA 91355-0908) about Mr. Tremblay and received the following reply.

We offer our sincere apologies for the inconvenience Mr. and Mrs. Tremblay experienced as a result of the shipboard accounting process for passenger folio charges during the World Cruise.

We understand that this sailing was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Tremblay as a full World Cruise of 107 days and that, consequently, they were expecting to be charged at the end of their time on board. However, our World Cruises are made up of individual segments, each of which may be purchased as a separate and complete sailing. Therefore, at any given time, guests on board the ship may be sailing for any number of segments within the full World Cruise.

At the beginning of any segment, embarking passengers will present credit card information for the purposes of onboard charges settlement. As Mr. and Mrs. Tremblay embarked Jan. 12 in New York City and would not be disembarking until April 22, again in New York City, they needed to provide their credit card information only once.

Typically, shipboard personnel will run credit card authorizations at the start of a voyage to secure funds for folio charges. These authorized holds are only valid, however, for up to 30 days. Therefore, as the Tremblays would be sailing for 107 days, subsequent authorization holds would need to have been placed in order to ensure that full payment of charges would be valid.

If we were to process only one charge at the end of the sailing, only the last authorization hold 30 days prior to the end of the cruise would be valid. All the other prior authorizations would have already expired. Charging a card without sufficient preauthorizations could result in a declined charge or a possible increase in credit card fees.

For these reasons, shipboard personnel will place credit card authorization holds every 30 days on all sailings lasting more than that amount of time or, in the instance of the World Cruise, charge the credit card with total charges incurred for each segment.

We understand that Mr. Tremblay did not receive the notification that was sent to all staterooms at the start of his sailing describing these procedures or the document advising guests that they could choose to pay either after each segment or one time at the end of their voyage.

As per the information on the document, guests needed to sign indicating their choice and return the signed document to the Pursers Desk. Guests who did not return the signed document noting their payment preference would automatically be billed at the close of each segment.

We are sorry that this important information was not received by Mr. and Mrs. Tremblay. Further, we extend our apologies for the manner in which our Pursers handled this matter in their discussions with Mr. Tremblay. We truly regret any inappropriate and unprofessional actions displayed by any staff member.

We believe Mr. Tremblay was able to reverse any charges incurred as a result of the authorization holds/charges. However, if this matter remains unsettled, we ask that he contact our office, and we will be pleased to review and refund outstanding fees placed during this period.

LORRI LANNING, Specialist, Guest Relations, Cunard

In a follow-up to ITN, Mr. Tremblay wrote, “Regarding the penalty charges on our Visa account, I was able to have most of them reversed. However, when I recently reviewed my credit report with Experian, the following notation appeared: “Potentially Negative Items or items for further review. This information is generally removed seven years from the initial missed payment that led to the delinquency.”