Feds investigating Tampa travel agency that offered BOGO cruises
TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Norwegian Cruise Lines has canceled cruises booked through Tampa-based Hopkins Travel Services and advised thousands of passengers to contact the FBI.
Cruise customers around the country have reached out to Better Call Behnken to get answers about where their money went.
Norwegian Cruise Lines sent us this statement:
This matter is currently under investigation by the federal authorities. It would be inappropriate for us to comment. However, please know that we are actively working with those guests affected.”
Customers say they feared the trip was too good to be true but believed Diana Hopkins, the owner of Hopkins. The trip was sold as a buy-one-get-one-free, seven-day cruise out of Venice, Italy to the Greek Isles.
“It was a two-for-one deal, it came with an unlimited drink package and airfare,” said customer Austin Thomas.
At $2,700 for two people, Thomas said he and his group of six friends couldn’t resist. Their trip was planned for May 2021, but he says he felt pressured to lock in the amazing deal and pay upfront.
Customer Robert Dorbit says a Norwegian spokesperson told him his cruise alone should have cost $5,300 for him and his wife – not $2,700. And get this: Dorbit’s card was charged and Norwegian received money, but it was to pay for someone else’s trip.
“It was actually paying for someone to leave for Hawaii on Oct. 6,” Dorbit said a Norwegian spokesman told him. “So I had paid for somebody else’s trip to leave Oct. 6. So he had to call that person and tell them, ‘Sorry, you can’t go on your trip. I have to give Mr. Dorbit back his money.’”
Dorbit was told he would receive a refund from Norwegian, but it would take weeks to process.
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Others, on a Facebook page set up for the trip, claim their credit cards were used improperly. Some cite multiple charges and say part of the refund seemed to disappear and is unaccounted for.
Better Call Behnken went to the home of the travel agency for answers. Diana Hopkins lists her Riverview home as her business address in public records.
No one came to the door, although there were two cars in the driveway. Investigative Reporter Shannon Behnken left a business card and a video message on the security camera at the home. Then someone inside closed the garage door.
When reached by telephone, Hopkins identified herself and then hung up the phone. Hopkins did notify customers on Facebook this week saying their trips were canceled due to circumstances out of her control.
Customers tell Better Call Behnken that Hopkins is offering to book other cruises and is changing to another cruise line.
Hopkins also responded to some comments on Facebook. When a customer mentioned Norwegian cited fraudulent charges and said they were canceling trips, Hopkins responded, “Since I canceled that is funny.”
A spokeswoman for the Tampa field office of the FBI said she cannot comment on investigations but advised anyone who feels they are a victim of fraud to file a complaint with their local FBI office or online.
Meanwhile, some customers are frustrated with the response from Norwegian and feel the cruise line should have rebooked them since they already had thousands of dollars each in reservations.
“How does one particular agent book so many rooms on not one, not two, but three cruise ships in a matter of two weeks and it doesn’t throw up a red flag with Norwegian to reach out to this agent and say, “Hey, What’s going on? Where’s the money for these trips?’” Dorbit said.
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