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Help! I’m 93, My Postponed Cruise Has Been Postponed Again, and I’d Like My Money Back.


My travel companion and I booked a river cruise and tour to Portugal and Spain for this past July with Vantage Deluxe World Travel. We paid in full, and purchased insurance against trip interruption or cancellation through Vantage from TripMate. About three months before departure, Vantage notified us the trip had been “postponed” for over a yr and would depart in August 2023. I turn 93 in September so by the point the cruise comes I’ll be one month in need of 94 — if I’m still here. So we agreed to make use of the travel credits they offered to vary to a British Isles cruise for this summer. Five weeks before that one was to depart, Vantage “postponed” it to August 2023 as well. As there are few other trips whose physical requirements we’re capable of meet now, let alone in 2023, we would like a refund. They are saying we’re stuck with the credits — in my case price nearly $20,000. Are you able to help? — Bernice, Latest York

I’m not a health care provider or a palm reader, but after our long, entertaining phone conversation and the dozen emails we’ve exchanged because you wrote in, I think the one reason you wouldn’t be available to board that cruise next August is in case you finagled a last-minute spot to climb Mount Everest.

That said, a yr’s delay may need seemed reasonable when the cruising world shut down in 2020. But in travel-crazy 2022, Vantage’s claim that pushing off your sailing date by greater than a yr is a “postponement” quite than a “cancellation” strains the bounds of semantic rationality.

If we call a spade a spade and a cancellation a cancellation, then each logic and Massachusetts law — Vantage is Boston-based — indicate that it’s best to get your a refund.

If only it were that easy. I attempted to succeed in Vantage — and by that I mean I sent emails to the C.E.O., to 3 customer support email addresses on its website and to all its social media accounts, including direct messages to 2 C-suite executives via LinkedIn. Finally, I braved the long hold times on its corporate headquarters number, finally chatting with a reservation specialist who eventually gave me the e-mail of a Vantage paralegal. That eventually led to an email from Mira Delgado, a concierge services manager, who asked me to send along details about your situation, but then didn’t get back to me once I did.

So it’s left to me to attempt to divine the corporate’s pondering and give you alternative ideas for you.

The second task is less complicated: You need to file a grievance with the Latest York State Attorney General’s office. Which may just work: The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office has received nearly 600 complaints about Vantage, most related to Covid-era cancellations, and recovered $1.1 million for consumers. But they urge nonresidents to file with their very own attorney general’s office. Your case is, alas, too big to file a claim in Latest York County’s Small Claims Court, which I might otherwise recommend.

So, what’s Vantage pondering? In response to its current policy, updated in October 2021, Vantage reserves the appropriate to “cancel a cruise” or “change the date or time of sailing or arrival” after which to either substitute one other cruise or “provide a full refund of the fare actually paid by you for such cruise.”

In a maddening little bit of irony, in the identical policy document, Vantage notes that if passengers substitute one product for an additional, they’re “considered reservation cancellations and are subject to cancellation fees.”

I don’t know what the policy was before October 2021 if you made your reservation. I do know that like so many other travel providers, cruise firms were very hard hit within the pandemic and have struggled to get well. But unlike the most important business cruise lines — who were ineligible for federal loans because they’re largely based overseas — Vantage received $2 million in federal loans under the Paycheck Protection Program in early 2021. (Like most firms, it didn’t repay the loan.) The incontrovertible fact that the corporate continues to cancel — er, “postpone” — cruises may mean they’re having trouble ramping up again, but after all I don’t know needless to say.

I discussed your case at length with Ashley Kosciolek, a longtime cruise author I spoke with over several days last week from different ports in Kentucky, where she was on a river cruise. (She is currently the senior cruise author for The Points Guy.)

“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 refund,” Ms. Kosciolek told 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 policy “makes it sound prefer it’s their alternative whether to provide you the refund or not,” she added.

And there’s yet one more confounding factor, she said. Vantage could claim it doesn’t owe you a money refund for the British Isles cruise, since you paid for it in credits — the credits you accepted when the Spain and Portugal trip was delay to 2023. So when the brand new cruise was also, er, adjourned for a later date, it would argue that any refund should are available credits as well. Ms. Kosciolek has seen other cruise lines refuse to provide money back once passengers initially accepted credits.

It’s also price noting — again, from my imagined Vantage perspective — that after we talked you told me you probably did not pay for the Spain-Portugal trip in money either, as an alternative using credits rolled over from three prior Vantage excursions you canceled using a cancel-for-any-reason insurance policy you bought. After all, you made the nice point that your travel companion paid for the Spain/Portugal trip in money and in addition has been refused a refund.

Still, Ms. Kosciolek was surprised Vantage wouldn’t have given you a refund (even before you wrote to me). “Most lines will make good on it to avoid the bad press,” she said — not specifically referring to this text but to the negative coverage some firms, including Vantage itself, have gotten previously within the pandemic.

As you noted, you obtain travel insurance from TripMate. It enables you to “cancel for any reason” and get a credit or, in case you cancel due to certain circumstances, including being unable to travel for medical reasons, get a refund. But I’m not even sure a health care provider’s note without delay would get you out of traveling in a yr unless you had a condition that had no probability of improving. I attempted to ascertain with the insurance company, but they didn’t reply to my emails.

Gaming this out, I suppose that when next August comes around, you might use your insurance policy to cancel, get a credit and proceed rolling it over until you ultimately develop a health condition that might keep you from cruising — after which receive your a refund. That, after all, doesn’t make it easier to if you must spend — or invest — that cash now. Ms. Kosciolek suggests writing a polite letter to the corporate explaining your situation and specifically requesting a refund. We each agree, though, that this may occasionally not do much good. Nevertheless it could be a helpful piece of supporting evidence if you file a grievance with the A.G.

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