Sunday, January 15, 2017

When travel plans are about to sink

When S.W. booked a trip for her first ocean liner cruise, she was excited. Now retired, S.W. had been looking forward to traveling and a trip on a large ship that was on her travel wish list. She'd even convinced a friend to book the same cruise so they could share a stateroom. 

The cruise is scheduled to depart five months from now. S.W. and her friend left a small deposit two months ago, which they knew they'd lose if they'd canceled the trip.

In the two months since she left the deposit, S.W. has been having second thoughts about the trip. The recent death of a close family member as well as some health issues of her own had caused S.W. to think that she might want to use her travel budget to go see family rather than be on a ship for a couple of weeks. 

S.W. thinks she might be able to tell the cruise line that she's canceling her trip because of a death in the family, although providing a death certificate as proof would likely be a challenge since the family member's death would have been more than a half-year before her cruise is set to embark. If she cancels, she figures she'll lose about $100. But she'd also be leaving her friend and ship roommate in the lurch, forcing her to decide to either find a new roommate to book the cruise or to cancel the trip herself. 

S.W. asks if it would be wrong to cancel her trip and leave her friend without a roommate, and also whether it would be wrong to tell the cruise line that her family member's death is the reason she plans to cancel. 

If S.W. no longer wants to go on the cruise, she shouldn't feel obligated to take the cruise. No one should feel obligated to travel when they don't want to, particularly on a large vessel in the middle of an ocean. She should feel no guilt whatsoever about changing her mind. 

If she does decide to cancel, however, particularly because she convinced her friend to go on the trip with her, she should let her friend know that she's no longer planning to go on the journey. She should do this soon so that her friend has as much time as possible to decide whether she still wants to go without S.W. 

If the reason for her decision to cancel was to attend a family funeral, then it would be fine for S.W. to let the cruise line know that that was her reason. But since there is no memorial service planned for when the cruise would take place, the death in S.W.'s family doesn't present an obstacle for her to go if she wants to. Misrepresenting the facts to the cruise line as a reason for the cancellation would be wrong, even if it mean S.W. might also get her $100 back after canceling. 

The right thing is for S.W. to decide whether she wants to go on this cruise or not, and then to be honest with her friend and the cruise line about her decision to cancel. 

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, is a lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of, a blog focused on ethical issues. 

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is an old saying "Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive". This old saying perfectly describes what is involved if a financial transaction is avoided by less than honest means. Solution, take the loss and hold your head up proudly for your honesty!

Charlie Seng