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Royal Caribbean overbooked one of its giant cruise ships and left a group of travelers stuck at port

Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas in Brisbane, Australia.
Demand for Royal Caribbean's Tuesday Quantum of the Seas sailing surpassed the number of available staterooms, leaving groups of would-be travelers unable to embark.Royal Caribbean International
  • Several guests weren't allowed to board a Royal Caribbean cruise because the ship was overbooked.

  • One would-be traveler called it "one of the worst days" he'd recently experienced.

  • Royal Caribbean has had a history of overbooking its mega cruise ships.

On Tuesday, Jai Raynor and his wife packed their bags and made their way to the Port of Brisbane for the belated honeymoon vacation they had been looking forward to for years: a Royal Caribbean cruise.

But instead of spending their next nine days lounging by the Quantum of the Seas' pool and exploring destinations such as Nouméa, New Caledonia, the couple was confronted with a vacation nightmare. Just hours after arriving at the Brisbane International Cruise Terminal, the couple was sent back home because Royal Caribbean had overbooked its 4,905-guest ship.

In past overbooking incidents, Royal Caribbean has notified impacted travelers in advance of the sailing. But this time, these would-be cruisers say they weren't made aware until they arrived at the embarkation port.

Noumea, New Caledonia
The Quantum of the Seas' itinerary included a stop at Nouméa, New Caledonia.Southern Lightscapes-Australia/Getty Images

"It was probably one of the worst days I've recently experienced," Raynor, a 23-year-old local of Brisbane, Australia, told Business Insider. As a would-be first-time cruiser, he said, he was particularly excited about the "luxury experience" of sailing on a megaship such as the Quantum of the Seas.

"I've never been so crushed before," he said.

Raynor had booked an interior "GYT" (guarantee) stateroom, which leaves the specific cabin assignment up to the cruise line. But ahead of their expected embarkation, Royal Caribbean said it was "unable to allocate a stateroom number for their reservation" in a letter reviewed by Business Insider that the couple says the cruise line gave them when they arrived at the port.

aerial view of Quantum of the Seas
The Quantum of the Seas has amenities such as an "observation vessel" that can hang over 300 feet above the water.Royal Caribbean International

"While disruptions to plans can occasionally happen, we do our best to minimize those chances," a Royal Caribbean spokesperson told Business Insider, referring to its guests' vacation plans, adding that demand for this November 28 cruise "went beyond the rooms that were available."

"We take these disruptions seriously, and we apologize for the inconvenience this has caused," the spokesperson said. "We have worked with each guest that was affected to rectify the inconvenience this has caused."

Alongside groups of other impacted travelers, the couple then spent several hours waiting in the terminal in hopes of receiving a last-minute stateroom assignment. But when the time came, only two families were allowed to board the ship, Raynor recalled. Everyone else was told there were no rooms left.

Their highly anticipated vacation was suddenly cut short

aerial view of the surf simulator on Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas in Brisbane, Australia.
The 168,666 gross-ton Quantum of the Seas has 16 decks and 2,094 guest staterooms.Royal Caribbean International

Given these circumstances, the duo was lucky: They said their drive back home was about one-and-a-half hours long. But Raynor said some of the other families who had traveled out of state "were left abandoned" with no backup accommodations, flights, or plans for the next eight nights.

In its letter to travelers, Royal Caribbean offered alternatives such as the ship's nine-night cruise in late January 2024, another seven or eight-night sailing "with price protection," or a full refund with 25% future cruise credit. Raynor called the latter a "measly compensation for destroying people's vacations and leaving them stranded."

He says the cruise line later offered him a "much more reasonable" offer of a full refund, 100% future cruise credit, and a deluxe beverage package for their next sailing. He said he planned to use this on a 2024 vacation. But if it weren't for this option, Raynor said, he would "absolutely not" be inclined to go on another Royal Caribbean cruise.

Royal Caribbean has a history of overbooking its giant cruise ships

Royal Caribbean Quantum of the Seas.
Royal Caribbean Quantum of the Seas.Royal Caribbean

Like airlines, cruise lines may oversell cabins in anticipation of cancellations and no-shows. While inconvenient, rebooking a flight is generally easy enough to do.

But overbooked cruises may pose more of a complication, especially for travelers who had planned to be at sea for days at a time. When cruise lines' overbooking gamble doesn't pay off, "they just abandon you and leave you hung out to dry," Raynor said of his Royal Caribbean experience.

In Raynor's case, rebooking may not be an easy task. He said his wife, a soon-to-be teacher, was restricted to her school's vacation days when "it's a lot harder to get any cruises." (In 2024, the Quantum of the Seas is scheduled for 37 Australia and 263 US cruises.)

"I know Royal Caribbean generally has a good reputation, but it's certainly left a bad sour taste in our mouths," Raynor said. "It sucks we have to wait a year for our vacation. We're hoping that the next experience will make up for it."

Read the original article on Business Insider