Conservative media figures Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly are among the defendants in a proposed class action that alleges consumers who bought tickets to the “Glenn Beck Cruise Through History” were wrongfully denied refunds after the pricey charter cruise was effectively canceled in early 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The 17-page lawsuit accuses Beck; O’Reilly; Beck’s network, Blaze Media; Bill O’Reilly Productions; Carnival Corporation and Costa Cruise Lines of wrongfully altering the terms and conditions of the 14-day cruise, for which tickets reportedly ranged from $4,999 to $9,395 per person, in February 2020 to ensure that no refunds would be issued should the trip not take place.
According to the complaint, the defendants’ original terms and conditions stated, “If a vacation is canceled prior to departure, [now-defunct marketing company] CruiseBuilder’s only responsibility will be to refund the amount received for the reservation.” In contrast, the altered version of the terms and conditions “unilaterally and wrongfully favored Defendants,” as it stated that should the trip be canceled by CruiseBuilder prior to departure, “[the company’s] only responsibility will be to refund any unused funds from the reservation payments and any amounts refunded back from other travel vendors,” the filing says.
According to the suit, the defendants initially “postponed” the cruise instead of canceling it entirely, “aware that all travel insurance policies sold through Travel Guard, a subsidiary of AIG, would only pay out if the Cruise was officially cancelled and not merely postponed.”
The “Glenn Beck Cruise Through History” was touted as a “family friendly” trip through several historic locations where passengers would receive political and religious commentary from Beck, O’Reilly and other purported influencers, the filing states. The suit adds that the cruise was marketed in a purposeful manner to ensure ticket buyers that “everybody on board the ship was a like-minded fan of Glenn Beck.”
Scheduled to depart on March 24, 2020, the cruise was to stop at ports in Italy, Croatia, Israel and Greece before returning on April 7 of that year, according to the complaint. In advertising the trip, Beck “focused on the religious and political nature of the locations,” with passengers offered excursion options at the locations “based on their individual religious beliefs,” the suit says.
On February 23, 2020, however, CruiseBuilder, which marketed the trip alongside Carnival and Costa Cruise Lines, informed all ticket buyers that the trip was “postponed” and would have to be rescheduled due to the pandemic, the lawsuit shares. Though ticket buyers soon began to request refunds, the defendants stood behind their altered terms and conditions, claiming that all vendors for the cruise had been paid and that the cruise organizers did not get refunded from those third parties, the complaint says.
Per the case, the refund options offered to proposed class members by CruiseBuilder were credits toward a different cruise that did not include flights, hotels, Beck or the ports initially promised on the Glenn Beck Cruise Through History.
“CruiseBuilder’s contention that vendors did not issue it refunds was a misrepresentation,” the lawsuit alleges. “Several vendors, including Lufthansa Airlines, did issue refunds to CruiseBuilder.”
CruiseBuilder also received more than $435,000 in Paycheck Protection Program loans that were ultimately forgiven, the case notes.
In February 2023, two years after the initial trip postponement, CruiseBuilder canceled the replacement trips offered in lieu of a refund, citing “significant financial pressure” from inflation and travel services costs, the suit continues. The cancellation all but ensured that no one who bought Travel Guard insurance would receive the benefit of the insurance they paid for, the case claims.
“This cancellation was also the end of any hope that ticket purchasers had of obtaining a replacement cruise, or any value for the extraordinary amounts they paid to Defendants,” the complaint asserts.
Though Beck publicly stated that he encouraged the cruise lines, airlines and hotels to accommodate proposed class members, the lawsuit alleges he has “absolved himself of any responsibility to his fans, who bought tickets for his Cruise based on his advertisements.”
“To date, Glenn Beck and the other Defendants have retained all funds paid to them for the Cruise,” the suit summarizes.
The lawsuit looks to cover all persons who bought tickets for the Glenn Beck Cruise Through History scheduled for March 24, 2020 to April 7, 2020, including those who bought “Insider Package,” “VIP Package” and “Inner Circle Package” tickets.
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