SINGAPORE: The Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) has received 36 enquiries since Tuesday (Mar 1) from individuals seeking advice on how to get refunds for their pre-paid cruise trips or packages from Dream Cruises.
They were advised to file their claims with the company's liquidator, the consumer watchdog said on Thursday, adding it was not aware of the current status of these claims.
This comes after Genting Hong Kong announced on Tuesday that its World Dream vessel - one of two ships authorised to offer cruises to nowhere from Singapore during the COVID-19 pandemic - would cease operations after returning to shore on Wednesday.
Genting Hong Kong said that customers who have paid deposits for cruises after Mar 2 can submit their claims for refunds. Both Dream Cruises and Genting Hong Kong had filed to be wound up earlier this year.
"As Dream Cruise’s parent company Genting Hong Kong is currently under liquidation, consumers seeking refunds from Dream Cruises should first file a proof of debt with the liquidator," CASE president Melvin Yong said on Wednesday, responding to queries from CNA.
"CASE empathises with consumers who are affected by the cessation of Dream Cruises’ World Dream."
Mr Yong, who is also the Member of Parliament for Radin Mas, added that the incident highlights "the risks of prepayment losses due to sudden business insolvency".
"In view of the uncertain economic and geopolitical climate, consumers should be mindful of the risks of making prepayments for cruises or travel packages, as they may not be able to get back their prepayments in the event the cruise liner or travel agent becomes insolvent."
He added that it is also challenging for consumers to seek recourse when the business goes into liquidation.
"CASE would like to renew our call on the Government to review sectors where consumers are susceptible to prepayment losses, and consider mandating prepayment protection in these sectors," said Mr Yong, noting consumers here had reported more than S$3 million in prepayment losses since 2019.
Consumers who have paid by credit card and wish to get back their prepayments or deposits can file a chargeback request with their banks within 120 days of the transaction. Mr Yong said these consumers will need to provide supporting documents such as booking details and payment receipt to support the request.
"We strongly urge Dream Cruises to prioritise the interests of all affected customers, who should reach out to the company, their respective travel agents or booking platforms regarding the status of their booking," said Singapore Tourism Board cruise director Annie Chang.
Ms Chang added that consumers with applicable travel insurance should also approach their insurance providers for assistance, while those without such insurance can consider approaching CASE.
CNA has contacted Genting Hong Kong for more information.
Genting Hong Kong, which is part of Malaysia's Genting Group, reported in May a net loss of US$1.7 billion in 2020 amid travel restrictions put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Genting Hong Kong owns the Star Cruises and Dream Cruises lines, which serve the Asia Pacific region, as well as the Miami-based luxury Crystal Cruises line.
The cruise operator said in January that it faced potential cross-default amounting to US$2.78 billion, following the insolvency of its German shipbuilding subsidiary.
Both chairman and CEO Lim Kok Thay, as well as deputy CEO Au Fook Yew, resigned in January.