Created: Nov 09, 2022 07:55
Adventure of the Seas (Photo from Royal Caribbean website)
A couple whose Bermuda cruise was canceled due to a tropical storm had to wait five months to get their travel authorization fees reimbursed by the government.
Rob Butler, who was due to visit the island with his wife, Jean, in June, said their $80 payment was only refunded by the Department of Health after The Royal Gazette intervened.
Other tourists who were due to travel on the same trip, which was suspended due to Tropical Storm Alex, told the newspaper they were still waiting for their TA refunds.
But a spokeswoman for the health department insisted that all passengers due to travel here on the ship have been reimbursed.
Mr Butler, a New Jersey government employee, said: ‘My wife and I are still frustrated that we need someone else’s help, but glad the situation has been resolved.
“I have the feeling that [the RG] had not been involved, I would still be waiting for a refund.
“I never had that experience, just having a ride like that. It was a situation that I thought was stereotypical for small governments. Just not a good look. “
He said he appreciated the government’s offer to return the money after negotiations with the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, but criticized it for delaying reimbursement of the fee.
“I work for a government agency here in the United States, the New York State Thruway Authority,” Mr. Butler said.
“I understand how bureaucracy works; we have our rules and regulations that we have to abide by. But sometimes it’s enough to shake things up for all stakeholders. »
The Adventure of the seaswhich can accommodate nearly 4,000 guests, was due to arrive in Bermuda on June 6.
Storm Alex, which passed about 115 miles north-northwest of the island, ended the tour.
On June 16, the cruise line emailed passengers to tell them that the Bermuda government had informed it that it had “begun its process to fully refund payments” for tech support costs.
“These refunds will be sent back to the original form of payment and you can expect to see them appear in your account within the next few days,” Royal Caribbean wrote.
“Since the refund is already in progress, you don’t have to do anything else!”
Mr. Butler contacted TheOfficial newspaper last week after sending numerous emails to the health department.
He wrote: “It has been 21 weeks…and every attempt to work with the health service is met with obstruction and dragging feet.”
The Gazette asked the government what the cause of the delay was, how many other refunds were outstanding and how many had been processed.
Mr Butler then received his payment on Saturday morning but others were still waiting.
Debbie Conti, of Atlanta, said she paid $160 in fees for her family of four and had “repeatedly” asked for the money back since June, with no success.
“After sending an e-mail [the health department] several times I filed a claim with my credit card only for them to decline it and charge it,” she said.
“I was rebilled through my credit card company on August 31 – they had provided credit during research.”
She told the Covid-19 Response Unit in an email last month that she would be contacting a lawyer over the lack of payment.
Melissa Dunne, another passenger, told the Gazette“I haven’t received a refund either.”
She shared an email from the health department’s Covid-19 response team in August, telling her she was among the “remaining” 1,000 passengers who would be reimbursed in September.
“That never happened,” she said. “I called on November 1 [and] I spoke with someone who told me I would get another email explaining the refund, but that didn’t happen either.
The health department spokeswoman said: “Although there have been delays, our records confirm that all passengers on this Adventure of the seas cruise on June 4, 2022, have been reimbursed for their technical assistance costs.
She asked the Gazette to share the names of those who are still awaiting a refund but did not provide further comment.
The heavily criticized AT forms and $40 per person fee were introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic to provide the government with travelers’ test results, vaccination status and medical insurance information.
A government senator later admitted that it was also a much-needed revenue-raising exercise.
The TA process was managed by resQwest, a private company co-owned by government fintech adviser Denis Pitcher, who was reward the multi-million dollar contract without a competitive bidding process.
The government announced last week that it would remove the travel authorization form and fee on November 13, earlier than originally planned.