MSC Cruise 'refuses' to refund Kimberley family

Child (12) barred from ship for ‘lack of proper papers’

Precious Thebe and her son Kgosi, who was barred from going inside MSC Splendida.
Precious Thebe and her son Kgosi, who was barred from going inside MSC Splendida.
Image: Supplied

A Northern Cape father is livid after a cruise company denied his son entry to the ship because of his parents’ failure to produce his unabridged birth certificate. 

Tebogo Thebe, from Kimberley, now wants MSC Cruises to reimburse him the more than R25,000 he spent to book a four-day cruise for his wife Precious, son Kgosi, 12, and his parents-in-law for a trip from Cape Town to Walvis Bay in Namibia last month.

The company, however, said it can only refund him R2,876 for service fee and port charges. Thebe said he has lost about R23,000. 

Precious and Kgosi were barred from going inside MSC Splendida when officials told her that the abridged birth certificate she produced for her son was not sufficient and that she needed the unabridged one.

According to the immigration regulations, travelling parents departing or arriving in SA accompanied by children under 18 years are required to produce an unabridged birth certificate together with a valid passport for each child travelling.

Thebe said after he made the bookings in December, he went to the department of home affairs to apply for an unabridged certificate but was told it would take about six months. 

“When my wife called me from the ship I explained this to the officials and they asked for my passport and consent forms which I sent immediately. My mother, who was travelling with my three nephews in the boat, was allowed into the ship even though she had the same documents as my wife.

"I found this to be inconsistent and I told the officials. At some point my wife and child were allowed to proceed and had their passport stamped but at the last moment they were told to disembark because of the unabridged certificate issue,” said Thebe. 

Stuck at the Cape Town port with nobody to turn to for help, Precious called Thebe, who had to quickly arrange a transport for them to go back home to Kimberley, some 950km away.

“After spending so much money booking the cruise and almost R7,000 for flights to Cape Town, now I have to suddenly try and find a bus for my wife and son at 6pm. I managed to find a bus for them.

"The entire thing has left a bad taste in my mouth, especially for my son who was looking forward to the trip with his cousins. It hit him too hard. My child was very disappointed,” said Thebe.

He said it took him months to save the money for the cruise and had to delay some of the renovation projects he had planned for his house. 

“MSC are law unto themselves. I don’t necessary want a refund, I just want them to credit my name for the next cruise my family will take. I understand no business wants to make a loss by paying a refund,” said Thebe. 

Thango Gombiza, spokesperson for MSC Cruises, said they were aware of Thebe’s complaint and said the company was not responsible for his loss which was a result of incorrect or incomplete travel documents. 

“And the decision not to refund the guest aligns with our refund policy and the standard terms and conditions. These are shared with guests with the booking confirmation and are also available on our website.

"It is important to note that the requirement to have the unabridged birth certificate for children travelling is not just an MSC Cruises requirement but a department of home affairs requirement,” said Gombiza.

On how Thebe’s allegations that his other family members were allowed to proceed into the ship without producing unabridged certificates, Gombiza said: “It is crucial that we be mindful of the fact that burden of proof to substantiate claims like these is on the guest making the claim and we currently do not have any proof of this claim in our records.”

Thebe said he would escalate his complaint to the office of the Consumer Goods and Service Ombudsman.

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