Impressed with Grand Circle’s refund

By: Doug Miller
This article appears on page 22 of the February 2018 issue.

My wife and I decided to take our first river cruise ever, the 15-day “Great Rivers of Europe” cruise from Amsterdam to Vienna, with Grand Circle Travel (Boston, MA; 800/221-2610, www.gct.com). 

We chose Grand Circle Travel (GCT) because of friends’ recommendations, and we loved our two previous trips with their sister company Overseas Adventure Travel, or OAT (Boston, MA; 800/955-1925, www.oattravel.com).

The price of our cruise was $4,795 for each of us. Travel insurance cost $799 each, and our flights in business class and first class cost $2,262 each. We paid a total of $15,712 for the cruise.

We boarded GCT’s River Harmony in Amsterdam, Sept. 16, 2017. We had purchased the cruise, flights and travel insurance through GCT. We discovered that their rates were competitive, and we wanted to use only one company to help cover any possible trip issues.

On a previous trip, OAT had responded well in a last-minute flight change, making the decision to use one company for the bookings easier. As it turned out, we were glad we consolidated our costs with Grand Circle.

We loved our first five cruise days, but as we neared Koblenz, Germany, one of the ship’s two engines was no longer working. After determining the cruise would have to be terminated for dry dock repairs, Grand Circle decided to cancel the cruise. They gave travelers an option to return home on the next available flight from Frankfurt or to continue their trip independently.

Most of the group chose to return home. We chose not to go home but rented a car and switched to a road trip through Germany and Austria, ending in Vienna on Sept. 30 as was initially planned with the cruise.

We had planned our own Vienna Airbnb extension after the cruise and wanted to keep those reservations.

GCT makes it easy to extend a trip on both the front end and back end of a tour. We flew to Paris 12 days early to spend time with our daughter before we started the cruise, after which she returned home.

Grand Circle was wonderful with their reimbursement. We expected to receive only a portion of the cruise cost back (covering two-thirds of the 15 days). Instead, 100% of our trip costs were refunded! 

This included the cost of the cruise and of our travel insurance and the airfare for all of our flights (Portland [Oregon]-Amsterdam, Amsterdam-Paris, Paris-Amsterdam, Vienna-Amsterdam and Amsterdam-Portland), even though we took all of those flights.

Essentially, our only costs for this trip were our car and living expenses incurred on the impromptu road trip. 

In addition, we each were given a $500 credit toward a future GCT or OAT trip. We have subsequently booked another OAT trip and will continue to use both Grand Circle Travel and Overseas Adventure Travel in the future.

We take about two trips per year and always expect an unplanned travel change. On this cruise, we met a couple who were on their 26th GCT or OAT trip and had never had an issue like this occur, so having a ship break down was very unusual.

Trip interruptions happen with all companies, but I doubt other companies would be so generous.

DOUG MILLER

Richland, WA