NEW YORK -- A California court denied a motion by Norwegian Cruise
Line to dismiss a class-action complaint filed by 38 senior
citizens who contend they missed a July 2000 Alaska cruise because
NCL booked their air and cut it too close on the arrival time. The
would-be vacationers also allege NCL refused to refund their money.
The group's travel agency, VIP Travel, a Vacation.com agency
in Rialto, Calif., is a party to the suit.
denial of NCL's motion means the case will proceed in California,
said Linda Platisha, an attorney for the plaintiffs. NCL had asked
the San Bernadino County Superior Court to dismiss the original
complaint because it was filed outside of Florida, where NCL is
Cruise contracts routinely include "forum selection" clauses
that seek to restrict legal proceedings to the cruise line's home
The San Bernadino judge ruled that NCL's forum selection clause
"could not be rejected without a substantial penalty and so was
fundamentally unfair," Platisha said.
VIP Travel owner Barbara Ott said her agency booked the group on
a seven-day cruise on the Norwegian Sky and bought air tickets for
travel between Ontario, Calif., and Seattle from NCL's air/sea
program in 1999.
Ott's group also bought NCL's passenger and baggage protection
insurance plan. The cruise was scheduled to depart July 2.
Ott soon learned the flight from Ontario to Seattle left her
group with only a two-hour window to travel from the airport and
board the ship.
When she told NCL's air/sea representatives she feared her group
would not make the ship in time, Ott was told NCL "reserves the
right to choose the air carrier, routing and city airport" and
would not reissue or exchange the air tickets.
Ott's group arrived at Ontario airport on the day of departure
to find their Alaska Airlines flight canceled. The plaintiffs
missed the cruise after attempts to accommodate them failed.
NCL, according to the complaint, promised the group refunds but
never issued them. The company also told the group that the
insurance they purchased did not cover their situation.
NCL did offer to put the plaintiffs on another cruise within a
year of the original sailing, said Ott, but would only reimburse
them after they embarked on the new departure.
"It has been the biggest nightmare I've ever had as an agent. It
was disastrous," said Ott, whose been an agent for 11 years. "My
agency is a small one, and I take my job seriously. It's understood
in this business that if you buy cruise line air, you are
protected, and that's clearly not the case," Ott added.