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After initially expressing interest in a last-minute cruise offer through Seascanner, I mistakenly believed that the inquiry process involved a preliminary step rather than a binding contract. I had been in contact with various travel agencies and cruise companies, and the booking process with one agency had been clear, with a deadline for confirmation. However, on Seascanner's website, I inadvertently filled out a booking form for an Aida Cruises cruise, assuming it would follow a similar procedure.

Due to the German language of Aida Cruises' website and terms and conditions (available only in PDF format), I did not fully engage with the details. My focus was on identifying a suitable cruise option, and I expected the next step to involve formal confirmation and payment.

Subsequently, I chose a different cruise with another agency, signed a contract, and paid the agreed-upon amount. However, when I informed Seascanner that I no longer wished to proceed with their offer, they demanded a 90% cancellation fee, claiming that they were merely an intermediary agency.

Seascanner's website had prominently advertised cancellation insurance, which I initially considered. However, upon further inquiry, I discovered that the insurance was only valid up to one month before the cruise departure date, which was only two weeks away.

The idea that filling out a form on an intermediary agency's website could constitute a binding contract with a third party had never crossed my mind. I contacted Aida Cruises directly, but they informed me that since I had not booked directly with them, I had to deal with Seascanner.

Seascanner has insisted that I accept the cancellation fee and only then will they be able to cancel the cruise on my behalf. I have repeatedly maintained that this was a genuine misunderstanding and that my intention was not to make a binding booking but rather to explore the possibility of securing a cruise.

As I have not paid any money or provided any credit card details, I am concerned about Seascanner's insistence on a substantial cancellation fee for a service I never intended to purchase. I am seeking guidance on how to resolve this issue and avoid being penalized for something I did not intentionally do.

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  • 5
    IANAL, but in my generic consumer knowledge, I believe it is part of German consumer protection law that any contract, especially "remote contracts" like this, can be annulled without reason within 14 days (or 7 days)? How long after booking did you (try to) cancel? However, that would probably also include flight tickets and such, and I'm pretty sure that's not how flight tickets work… so there may be some exceptions there.
    – deceze
    Jan 12 at 1:08
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    Are you sure it was you that actually filled in the form, and not someone just using your details? How would the company go about proving that it was you...
    – Doc
    Jan 12 at 1:28
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    Did you click this button when booking? If yes, it seems pretty clear to me that it's binding.
    – JonathanReez
    Jan 12 at 1:46
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    What mechanism might they use to penalize you if they don't have your money or payment details? Would they actually try to sue you? Threaten/annoy you into paying? I'd argue that you should pay if, in fact, you did agree to a binding booking with the knowledge that confirmation fees apply and no relevant consumer protection law applies, but understanding the repercussions of not paying seems important. Jan 12 at 13:19
  • 7
    I keep misreading that as SeaScammer. Must be subliminal...
    – FreeMan
    Jan 12 at 13:40

1 Answer 1

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If you are referencing seascanner.com, on the booking request page for some cruise I randomly selected I see this:

Booking request: Please book in my name with P&O Cruises: - an optional booking without obligation; - a direct and binding confirmed booking (cancellation fees apply immediately)

It also includes a link to more details about the booking process:

Booking process

Your option booking: In three simple steps, you first book an option by yourself. There are no obligations for you at this point. The option guarantees you the cabin and price for a few days. The steps to your option booking are:

  1. Adjust the number of travelers according to your wishes.
  2. Select the desired cabin category.
  3. Enter your personal information and select - if available for selection - your desired stateroom in the deck plan (not possible with guaranteed cabins or not with all tour operators).

You receive a confirm by e-mail. If you wish to make a definite booking, just write a short e-mail to us. We settle all the details, like travel insurance or transportation, and make the booking for you.

You can also request to directly make a confirmed booking instead of an optional booking. We will then directly confirm the booking towards the cruise line and send you a booking confirm shortly afterwards.

So it looks like in this case you need to explicitly make a selection to make "a direct and binding confirmed booking".

On another random cruise I did not have the choice:

Booking request: Please book an option with MSC Cruises in my name for the following voyage

So in that case it's still only an option. The booking process link basically says the same thing, including "There are no obligations for you at this point.". It just doesn't include the "You can also request to directly make a confirmed booking..." paragraph.

However, on a third less random cruise (from AIDA Cruises), it says:

enter image description here

The booking process pop-in says:

Direct, final booking: Your chosen cruise can not be reserved with an optional booking (cabin on hold) with the cruise line. You can only make a direct, binding booking.

In that case, the summary page states:

enter image description here

You can move to the next page without ticking the checkbox, but the summary then states:

On this cruise, no optional booking is possible. You can only make a direct, definite booking. The approval of a direct, binding booking has NOT been given, thus the request cannot be processed further.

So, either:

  • You selected a binding booking request AND checked the box on the summary page and it's difficult to see how you could get out of this, it's difficult to allege that they did not make things clear with all the red and bold and confirmation checkbox.
  • Or you selected a binding booking request BUT DID NOT check the box and then it's not your problem
  • Or you did select an optional booking request AND DID NOT confirm the booking after that and it's not your problem either.

Do you have any screenshots/copies of your booking? Did you receive any e-mails?

I'm still quite surprised that in this day and age they take binding booking requests without a credit card or other payment...

Edit

After submitting my firm booking request, but without having ticket the "YES, I would like to make a definite, binding booking", I received an e-mail this morning telling me:

It is not possible to make a non-binding option booking for this cruise in the Vario fare, only an immediate firm booking. As you have not given your consent for a firm booking, we cannot process your enquiry any further.

Please let us know if you would like to make a firm booking for this cruise. We will then take care of everything else for you and request a firm booking from the AIDA Cruises.

So unless something went terribly wrong, it looks like you must have explicitly requested and confirmed that you wanted to make a firm booking.

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