In a unique mistake, a passenger aboard Royal Caribbean Symphony of the seas Nearly $100,000 was mistakenly charged for a meal at the ship’s custom restaurant, Jamie’s Italian by Jamie Oliver. While the charge was quickly reversed, financial bookings and poor communication created a bad taste about the incident.
$100,000 dinner fee
After enjoying dinner at Jamie’s Italian—crunchy calamari and garlic bread, followed by a penne pomodoro, arugula and Parmesan salad, and finished with a lemon cheesecake and hot chocolate with vanilla ice cream—Alex and his wife Alicia were shocked to discover that $98,638.93 had been credited to their boarding account.
The couple had already purchased the ship’s “unlimited dining package” which includes several appetizers and multiple specialty restaurants each night of sailing, and can offer up to 40% off depending on venues.
Jamie’s Italian is a favorite of the couple, who are both big fans of Italian food, and this wasn’t the first time they had dined at the restaurant on this cruise.
“Lemon cheesecake is probably my favorite restaurant dessert from any restaurant on land or on a boat,” Alex told Cruise Hive.
After their meal, the couple—delighted with the excellent service and delicious food—allowed an extra bonus to their account, but they never expected the fee to be around $100,000 on the list.
The accident occurred on September 5, while the couple were enjoying a 7-night Eastern Caribbean sailing trip back and forth on the ship. Class Oasis Symphony of the seas.
The ship had departed from Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, September 3, and had spent Sunday and Monday at sea before the startling charge emerged.
How can such an error happen?
The fee was an unintentional error – an ID number was written into the reward box instead of the appropriate dollar amount.
Royal Caribbean reversed the fee, but the difficulty continued for guests as authorization remained on their American Express card, effectively tying the card and prohibiting it from being used for the rest of their cruise.
“I was very disappointed that even though Royal Caribbean has canceled the fee, the authorization on my card is still there.” Alex said in an exclusive call with Cruise Hive.
“This was a very stressful thing to deal with while on vacation. Our card was declined while we were sailing the boat on an island, probably because that authorization was locking the balance on the card.”
The couple maintain, however, that this was not the fault of their server, who was hard-working, kind and attentive during the meal. This is a technical problem and communication failure, not the ship’s crew fault.
While on the plane, Alex tried to work with Guest Services to remove the authorization, but was told that the authorization would eventually bring down the account – due to the fee being removed – there was no more to do.
Unfortunately, it can take 5-7 days after the cruise ends before this authorization is removed from the credit card, meanwhile, the affected funds remain locked and forgotten.
“This was a huge stressor on our vacation that we didn’t cause,” Alex said. “This was not an accidental mandate of $20 or $100, that’s a small house amount in some parts of the United States”
Alex has not been told whether or not anyone from the cruise line has approached American Express to resolve the situation during the cruise, and there has been no communication about any additional steps Royal Caribbean may have taken to remove the authorization.
After the cruise ended on September 10, Alex spent hours on the phone with Royal Caribbean customer service, to no avail, and with no further solution.
Avoid embarrassing mistakes in the future
The only good point about this incident is that Alex and Alicia are grateful that they used a credit card rather than a debit card to fund their purchases on the ships.
Had they used a debit card, “real” money would have been credited in this bug, which could affect other non-cruise related charges, such as regular bill payments or other transactions through that account.
Since this happened with a credit card, the authorization would eventually be dropped, although dealing with it was stressful and difficult while on vacation.
Alex’s frustration comes because there would be an easy way to avoid these types of errors altogether. “I can’t see in any scenario where someone would drop $100,000 in Jamie’s Italian, or for that matter, who would leave a $100,000 tip anywhere on the boat?” He said.
“This could have been an easy technical fix. There should be some checking of numbers over a certain dollar amount which gets flagged if they look disproportionate based on the total check amount.”
While this situation is certainly unique because of its size, all cruise passengers can learn a lesson from the accident. Using a credit card instead of a debit card is a reasonable precaution, especially if the card in question is for travel only and is not associated with any other pre-authorized billing.
Cruisers must also keep a close eye on their onboard accounts, checking charges during each sailing for accuracy.
Most cruise ships have ATM-like kiosks for checking accounts on board, or travelers can access their accounts through their televisions, cruise apps, or by visiting guest services.