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

Feb 5, 2021

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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.

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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. 

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