November 27, 2021

ilpuntontc

Just Do Travel

River cruise refund drifts sideways |

3 min read

When Scenic River Cruises cancels Winston Bateman’s Danube River cruise vacation, his travel agent offers a refund. But it’s been months and he’s still waiting.

Q: My wife and I have been trying to get a refund from Scenic River Cruises for more than eight months.

We paid $14,910 for a Danube River cruise from Bucharest to Budapest scheduled for May 2020. That included airfare and an upgrade. We also bought a travel insurance policy.

Scenic River Cruises canceled the cruise in early May of 2020. We received an option via email for a cruise credit or refund from Member Travel Privileges, our travel agency. We have this email.

In a follow-up email, our travel agent advised us we would receive a refund of $13,338 for the cruise and an additional $1,572 travel credit. However, they also advised that the refund may take up to 90 days.

After 90 days, we filed a claim with our insurance company. Our claim was denied. The reason for the denial was that COVID-19 was not a covered reason for cancellation.

Since then, we have gone back and forth with Scenic Cruises in our efforts to get a refund. We get cut off each time we call. In one of the emails from Scenic Cruises, they wrote that we would have to work with the booking agent. We would like to get the promised refund. Can you help? — Winston Bateman, Roseville, Minn.

A: So much went wrong with your cruise, it’s hard to know where to begin. But maybe we should start here: If your travel agent promised you a refund, you should get one. Period.

But there were other unfortunate circumstances, and I’m not just talking about COVID.

You booked a trip with a reputable cruise line and took out a travel insurance policy. When a travel company cancels a tour, a cruise — really, anything — it should offer either a full refund or a credit.

Your travel agent said you could get a credit or refund. You chose the refund. But when the money wasn’t forthcoming, you filed a travel insurance claim.

I would have contacted your travel insurance company as soon as your cruise line canceled your trip. Ask if you are covered at that point. You probably aren’t, since most travel insurance assumes you’ll receive a full refund if your cruise line cancels.

You kept a great paper trail between yourself, your travel agent, and Scenic River Cruises. You could have also escalated your complaint to a company executive. I publish the names, numbers and email addresses of the Scenic River Cruises executives on my nonprofit consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org.

I contacted Scenic River Cruises on your behalf. It said that its policy after the pandemic was to offer a credit, not a refund. “It seems their agency gave out incorrect information regarding refunds,” a spokesman for Scenic River Cruises told me. “If the agency offered a refund, it falls on the agency to make such a refund.”

I contacted your agency, which reviewed your case. “We sent out a communication to you asking if you preferred a cash refund or a future cruise credit for your canceled booking, only to later find out that Scenic would only be able to offer future cruise credits to its passengers,” your agency said in a letter to you.

Your agency agreed to issue a full refund of $14,910. That’s the total of the refund and credit you were offered in the follow-up email.

Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer for Elliott Advocacy. Email him at [email protected] or get help with any consumer problem by contacting him at http://www.elliott.org/help