Collecting on a travel insurance claim

By Toni Benner
This item appears on page 16 of the January 2021 issue.

My husband, Alan, and I wanted to go to Romania and Bulgaria in April 2020, so in October 2019 we went onto and selected an Emerald Waterways ( river cruise from Bucharest to Budapest, planning an early arrival in Bucharest. We paid $11,970 for the two of us, purchasing our hotels and air separately.

We, being seniors, bought travel insurance, in this case with Generali Global Assistance (800/874-2442, through Vacations To Go.

In November, Alan fell ill and had a surgical procedure, spending eight days in the ICU. The result hospitalized him on and off until the end of December. After he began to recover, we thought we might be able to take the trip and did not cancel until after we had seen his doctor in March, who advised us against making the trip.

The pandemic had just started, but we did not cancel because of COVID-19 but because of illness. We have a letter from our doctor saying as much.

The Vacations To Go agent told us we would receive a full refund, and he proceeded to cancel our trip and our insurance. We informed him that we needed the insurance to cover air and hotels, so we got our insurance reinstated. We filed our insurance claim by email on April 29 and waited. Because of the pandemic, it took months to get any response.

Vacations To Go followed up by telling us that there would be no refund but they would offer us a future trip within 24 months of the original cruise.* We tried a dispute with our credit card company, and they recovered our cruise deposit but not the remaining cost of the cruise.

The airline, United Airlines (it was a code-share flight on Luft hansa), also offered us a future flight but no refund. They later reversed their position and offered us a refund but charged a fee of $150 each. We turned this charge over to our insurance company for reimbursement.

On or about July 29, Generali Global Assistance paid what we owed for canceling our hotel. However, they told us they treat credit for a future cruise as equal to a refund and have flatly denied to reimburse our cruise fare. Generali has also not paid the $300 it cost us to cancel our flight.

On Sept. 9, we signed a release with Generali waiving our cruise credit in exchange for full repayment from our insurance. We emailed that agreement to Generali, but as of Sept. 18 they have not acknowledged receiving it.

Like other seniors who may not be able to travel later, a travel credit has no value to us.

Toni Benner
Solana Beach, CA

ITN emailed copies of the above letter to Vacations To Go and Generali Global Assistance.

*According to Emerald Waterways’ Terms & Conditions (posted on their website), by canceling so close to the trip date, the Benners should have lost all of their money, with no credit offered. When writing to Vacations To Go regarding this matter, ITN asked why the Benners were given a credit for the cost of the cruise despite the terms of their cruise contract. ITN received no response from Vacations To Go.

ITN received the following reply on Oct. 6 from Kevin McGrath, Account Director for M Group Strategic Communications, a public relations firm for Generali Global Assistance: “We reviewed the matter internally and found that while it was initially delayed due to high volumes currently being processed, we have received and processed the form** you attached, and Toni should be receiving payment within 7 to 10 business days.”

The Benners informed ITN that the promised reimbursement was received from Generali, including the $300 in flight-cancellation fees.

**When contacting Generali, ITN attached a copy of the release signed by the Benners that waived their cruise credit in favor of a refund. It is not clear whether Generali had received that waiver before being contacted on Sept. 24 by ITN; however, the company’s response indicates that it was the copy sent by ITN that was used by Generali to approve the insurance claim.