Famous nurse postpones cruise, leaving frontline workers frustrated and demanding refunds

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- It was supposed to be a cruise to relax, learn and connect with other nurses from around the country, but instead, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it's turned into a frustrating ordeal for some Triangle nurses.

"They've had my money for all this time and I have not received any service at all," said nurse Jennifer Perkins.

The cruise planned for the spring of 2020 was called NurseCon at Sea. It was billed as the ultimate nursing conference and was hosted by Nurse Blake, a famous social media influencer. However, the inaugural cruise never set sail due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Perkins, along with three other friends paid in full for the cruise, so they were disappointed when it was delayed and wanted a refund. "I have a lot of bills. I'm the only source of income for a family of four so it's undeniable that it would be helpful right now," Perkins said.

Also out money is Raleigh emergency room nurse Julie Walker. "For me, they've had my money since 2019, and with no services rendered," Walker said.

Instead of refunds, the cruise was rescheduled for spring 2021. However, now the 2021 NurseCon cruise was delayed again due to the pandemic and pushed to April 2022.

"A lot of us were like have asked for refunds, and we've been told absolutely not. There are no refunds we can sail in 2022," Walker said.

Adding to these nurses' frustrations, the cruise line is offering refunds to its customers that booked directly through them. But these frontline workers booked through the third party NurseCon site and not directly with the cruise line, and NurseCon's policy is no refunds.

"The most disheartening part is that Nurse Blake is a nurse," Perkins said. "2020 was the year of the nurse and one of our own is refusing to acknowledge that this is a pandemic, we don't know when it's going to end and continuing to keep our money without rendering any type of service."

More than 63 complaints involving cancellations have been filed with the Florida Attorney General's office.

NurseCon said in part, "NurseCon at Sea is a small business created by a registered nurse, to bring nurses together and celebrate our profession as frontline healthcare workers. Like so many small businesses, ours has been tremendously impacted by the unprecedented and unforeseen effects of this global pandemic."

They added their event is directly linked to the cruise line's ability to sail; unfortunately, they had no choice but to again reschedule the conference. The company also added, "It is important to know that our refund policies have always been clearly explained on our website and during the registration process and they require confirmation from the participant at the time of purchase. Participants who do not wish to sail next year may request a full credit, and we have also waived the fee for participants who seek to transfer their registration to someone else. As nurses and a small business, we are like everyone else; we are just trying to survive this global health crisis. We remain grateful for the support we continue to receive from our nursing colleagues."

Those are options that neither Walker nor Perkins think are fair.

"I really just want my money back because we don't know," Perkins said. "There's just no way to say, 'ok, we're going to go in April of 2022'. Well that was the plan this year and the cases started going down and now we're in the middle of another surge so who's to say even with the vaccine that there is not going to be another surge. It's just so unpredictable."

Troubleshooter Takeaways:
This is a good reminder if you're booking any type of travel in the future, read the small print. If you use a third-party company, as opposed to booking directly with the cruise line, airlines, or hotel, know that the refund and cancellation policy is sometimes different. It is also a wise idea to look into travel insurance, and make sure it covers the COVID-19 pandemic.
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