Pricey Tripped Up,
My journey companion and I booked a river cruise and tour to Portugal and Spain for this previous July with Vantage Deluxe World Journey. We paid in full, and purchased insurance coverage in opposition to journey interruption or cancellation by means of Vantage from TripMate. About three months earlier than departure, Vantage notified us the journey had been “postponed” for over a yr and would depart in August 2023. I flip 93 in September so by the point the cruise comes I’ll be one month wanting 94 — if I’m nonetheless right here. So we agreed to make use of the journey credit they provided to alter to a British Isles cruise for this summer season. 5 weeks earlier than that one was to depart, Vantage “postponed” it to August 2023 as effectively. As there are few different journeys whose bodily necessities we’re in a position to meet now, not to mention in 2023, we would like a refund. They are saying we’re caught with the credit — in my case value almost $20,000. Are you able to assist? — Bernice, New York
I’m not a physician or a palm reader, however after our lengthy, entertaining cellphone dialog and the dozen emails we’ve exchanged because you wrote in, I think the one purpose you wouldn’t be accessible to board that cruise subsequent August is in case you finagled a last-minute spot to climb Mount Everest.
That mentioned, a yr’s delay may need appeared affordable when the cruising world shut down in 2020. However in travel-crazy 2022, Vantage’s declare that pushing off your crusing date by greater than a yr is a “postponement” relatively than a “cancellation” strains the boundaries of semantic rationality.
If we name a spade a spade and a cancellation a cancellation, then each logic and Massachusetts legislation — Vantage is Boston-based — point out that you need to get your a reimbursement.
If solely it have been that straightforward. I attempted to succeed in Vantage — and by that I imply I despatched emails to the C.E.O., to a few customer support electronic mail addresses on its web site and to all its social media accounts, together with direct messages to 2 C-suite executives by way of LinkedIn. Lastly, I braved the lengthy maintain occasions on its company headquarters quantity, lastly chatting with a reservation specialist who finally gave me the e-mail of a Vantage paralegal. That finally led to an electronic mail from Mira Delgado, a concierge companies supervisor, who requested me to ship alongside particulars about your state of affairs, however then didn’t get again to me once I did.
So it’s left to me to attempt to divine the corporate’s considering and give you different concepts for you.
The second activity is simpler: It’s best to file a grievance with the New York State Lawyer Basic’s workplace. That may simply work: The Massachusetts Lawyer Basic’s workplace has acquired almost 600 complaints about Vantage, most associated to Covid-era cancellations, and recovered $1.1 million for customers. However they urge nonresidents to file with their very own lawyer basic’s workplace. Your case is, alas, too large to file a declare in New York County’s Small Claims Courtroom, which I’d in any other case suggest.
So, what’s Vantage considering? In keeping with its present coverage, up to date in October 2021, Vantage reserves the correct to “cancel a cruise” or “change the date or time of crusing or arrival” after which to both substitute one other cruise or “present a full refund of the fare truly paid by you for such cruise.”
In a maddening little bit of irony, in the identical coverage doc, Vantage notes that if passengers substitute one product for an additional, they’re “thought-about reservation cancellations and are topic to cancellation charges.”
I don’t know what the coverage was earlier than October 2021 if you made your reservation. I do know that like so many different journey suppliers, cruise firms have been very arduous hit within the pandemic and have struggled to get well. However in contrast to the key industrial cruise strains — who have been ineligible for federal loans as a result of they’re largely primarily based abroad — Vantage acquired $2 million in federal loans beneath the Paycheck Safety Program in early 2021. (Like most firms, it didn’t repay the mortgage.) The truth that the corporate continues to cancel — er, “postpone” — cruises could imply they’re having bother ramping up once more, however in fact I don’t know for certain.
I mentioned your case at size with Ashley Kosciolek, a longtime cruise author I spoke with over a number of days final week from completely different ports in Kentucky, the place she was on a river cruise. (She is at present the senior cruise author for The Factors Man.)
“As a human being, in an ideal world, I need to say that if she paid for a service that she’s not getting, she must get her a reimbursement,” Ms. Kosciolek advised me. “It’s a drastic change within the sale dates. It’s not prefer it’s every week later, it’s a yr later.”
However the Vantage coverage “makes it sound prefer it’s their alternative whether or not to provide the refund or not,” she added.
And there’s another confounding issue, she mentioned. Vantage may declare it doesn’t owe you a money refund for the British Isles cruise, since you paid for it in credit — the credit you accepted when the Spain and Portugal journey was postpone to 2023. So when the brand new cruise was additionally, er, adjourned for a later date, it’d argue that any refund ought to are available in credit as effectively. Ms. Kosciolek has seen different cruise strains refuse to provide money again as soon as passengers initially accepted credit.
It’s additionally value noting — once more, from my imagined Vantage perspective — that after we talked you advised me you didn’t pay for the Spain-Portugal journey in money both, as a substitute utilizing credit rolled over from three prior Vantage excursions you canceled utilizing a cancel-for-any-reason insurance coverage coverage you bought. In fact, you made the nice level that your journey companion paid for the Spain/Portugal journey in money and likewise has been refused a refund.
Nonetheless, Ms. Kosciolek was shocked Vantage wouldn’t have given you a refund (even earlier than you wrote to me). “Most strains will make good on it to keep away from the dangerous press,” she mentioned — not particularly referring to this text however to the damaging protection some firms, together with Vantage itself, have gotten beforehand within the pandemic.
As you famous, you acquire journey insurance coverage from TripMate. It permits you to “cancel for any purpose” and get a credit score or, in case you cancel due to sure circumstances, together with being unable to journey for medical causes, get a refund. However I’m not even certain a physician’s notice proper now would get you out of touring in a yr except you had a situation that had no likelihood of bettering. I attempted to examine with the insurance coverage firm, however they didn’t reply to my emails.
Gaming this out, I suppose that when subsequent August comes round, you possibly can use your insurance coverage coverage to cancel, get a credit score and proceed rolling it over till you finally develop a well being situation that will hold you from cruising — after which obtain your a reimbursement. That, in fact, doesn’t assist you if you wish to spend — or make investments — that cash now. Ms. Kosciolek suggests writing a well mannered letter to the corporate explaining your state of affairs and particularly requesting a refund. We each agree, although, that this may increasingly not do a lot good. But it surely is likely to be a useful piece of supporting proof if you file a grievance with the A.G.