Reader success story: How a credit card enabled a $40,000 refund from a canceled cruise

Feb 5, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Throughout the past year, the pandemic has created somewhat of a nightmare for travelers looking to get refunds from canceled trips. All parts of the travel industry have been affected, but cruisegoers have been particularly hit hard.

Although many cruise lines have been slow to process refunds, one of the more egregious offenders has been luxury line Crystal Cruises. In 2020, numerous TPG readers emailed us citing delays and overall lack of communication from the company.

Related: Cruisers cry foul as Crystal Cruises refunds fail to arrive

Well, there is at least one happy ending when it comes to the refund department — and it’s all thanks to a successful dispute on The Platinum Card® from American Express. Today, we wanted to share TPG reader Sharon Heath’s success story and how she received more than $40,000 back from a canceled Crystal cruise itinerary.

Crystal historically has boasted a strong reputation with its customers, known for its top-notch service, luxurious accommodations and unique itineraries around the world. Heath was no stranger to Crystal as she sailed in Australia with the cruise line in 2017.

“[It’s] an excellent upscale cruise line with two gorgeous ocean cruise ships. We previously sailed on the Symphony. The Crystal Symphony is an impressive cruise ship that has well-laid-out and designed decks with excellent dining options and activity centers. We were most impressed with the high professional quality of their entertainment, lectures, and excursions,” Heath told TPG.

After her 2017 trip, she recommended the cruise line to many of her friends. “Our previous Crystal Cruises experience was outstanding,” Heath added.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Sharon Heath and her husband, Steve, during their last Crystal trip in 2017. (Photo by Sharon Heath)

Related: When will cruises resume? A line-by-line guide

Heath had plans to sail on the Crystal Symphony once again in 2021, this time on a 31-day itinerary from Singapore to Cape Town, South Africa.

“We were so looking forward to our February 2021 cruise [which was] a combination of two cruise legs that started in Singapore and ended in Cape Town. The first leg included ports in Malaysia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Seychelles and Mombasa, Kenya. The second leg included ports in Zanzibar, Mayotte, Maputo Mozambique, Richards Bay, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Mossel Bay, and Cape Town in South Africa.”

As expected, Crystal canceled the journey due to the pandemic. Now it was time to secure a refund and Heath wasn’t looking forward to the process after hearing from fellow Crystal passengers of their troubles getting their money back.

Related: TPG readers weigh in on which cards offer the best chargeback protection

After radio silence from Crystal Cruises, Heath went about contacting American Express to file a dispute on the charges to her Amex Platinum.

The total? More than $40,000 across two transactions: an initial $10,995.50 deposit from July 2019 and the remaining charge of $29,800.50 from May 2020.

(Screenshot courtesy of Crystal)

Related: How (and when) to dispute a credit card charge

Because Amex typically has a 120-day policy from the transaction date to file a chargeback, Heath initially received pushback from the Amex agent over the phone.

“Both payments were way past the allotted Amex deadline for filing disputes, but those types of deadlines make no sense for cruise payments that are required a significant number of days or months in advance of sailing. Initially, the customer service person was hesitant to file a dispute for my 2019 deposit, because this payment was made so very long ago. However, he did file both disputes – the deposit made in July 2019 and the final payment made in May 2020.”

(Screenshot courtesy of Amex)

Much to Heath’s relief, approximately two weeks after filing the dispute, she received an email from Amex informing her of a refund for the July 2019 deposit. Then, a week later, she received a second notification about a credit for the final payment from May 2020. Shortly thereafter, Heath received a notification from Crystal directly acknowledging the refund.

“It is a real shame that Crystal Cruises has ruined its excellent reputation by their very poor handling of cruise cancellations and requested refunds. We had a significant amount of money tied up on this once-in-a-lifetime month-long cruise so receiving these credits was a huge relief for us.”

If you’d like to share your personal travel stories to be published on our site, we would love to hear them. Simply email your story to and put “Reader Success Story” or “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line.

Featured photo courtesy of Crystal Cruises. 

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.