COVID-19 cancellations (Part 6)

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Driving through the mountains of northern Italy on a beautiful sunny day in August 2018, I came across this quaint mountain village with a glacier in the background. Photo by Liz Fischer

The closing of borders worldwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic led to the canceling and postponing of countless travel plans. In the interest of comparing how various tour operators, airlines, cruise lines, hotels, etc., handled the disruptions and travelers’ bookings, ITN asked subscribers to write in about their experiences. Many had stories to tell, the first printed in our September 2020 issue, and we are continuing to share their accounts.

As can be seen, not only do companies have contrasting policies, but travelers have different strategies in planning and booking trips as well as different outlooks.


My husband, Keith, and I were booked on a 15-day tour with Collette (Pawtucket, RI; 800/468-5955, www.gocollette.com), “Exploring Britain & Ireland,” scheduled to depart on Aug. 28, 2020. I had purchased flights and insurance through Collette, but I paid for the tour with Marriott Vacation Club Points.

About two months before the tour was to start, I called Collette with the intention of canceling because of the 14-day quarantine of US tourists in the British Isles. Collette suggested I wait until 45 days before the start date because if they canceled it, we wouldn’t have to use our insurance.

Exactly 45 days before the tour was to begin, I received a phone call from Collette canceling the tour. We were given three otptions:

1) Get a complete refund of my Marriott points and any cash I had prepaid.

2) Receive a Collette travel voucher using my points that were due to expire in order to make travel reservations up to one year after the issue date.

3) Rebook the same tour at a later date with the price, points, airfare and insurance rates the same as for the previously booked tour.

I thought this was a fair deal, and we rebooked exactly the same tour. It now departs on Aug. 27, 2021.

Ellen Holden
Signal Mountain, TN

 

 

My husband, Bill, and I were booked on a 15-day tour of Greece, “Exploring Greece and Its Islands,” with Collette (gocollette.com), scheduled for April 2020. In total for both of us, the tour cost $7,018.

After that tour, we had planned to fly to London to begin a 2-week driving tour of Wales and England on our own. All our plans, of course, were canceled because of COVID-19.

In March, Collette canceled the tour and offered us a full refund or a 105% credit for another trip. We decided to take the refund and received it in only about two weeks.

• Booked through American Airlines’ website, our flights on AA (Tampa-Philadelphia) and British Air (Philadelphia-London-Athens and London-Tampa), all in premium economy, cost a little under $1,770 each. (I actually prefer Delta Air Lines, but AA had a London-Tampa nonstop.)

At first, when we canceled, American was only going to give us vouchers for future travel, but eventually, with a little prodding, the full amount was refunded.

The first refund in late April was just for my ticket, apparently because I was the one who had talked to them. My husband’s transatlantic ticket was on the same reservation, so I had assumed AA would refund his ticket too, but it took several more calls and until mid-May to receive the money for his ticket. All of the refund for the transatlantic flights came directly from AA.

• For after the tour, directly from British Air, I had booked a one-way flight for us from Athens to London for about 392, including seat selection. British Air refunded the full amount in only three weeks, by mid-April.

• I canceled our rental car in England along with numerous hotels and B&Bs in Wales and northern England — all reservations made with no deposits.

Liz and Bill Fischer on one of the hanging bridges in the Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica, in January 2020.

• I had bought two tickets to the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show for about £75 each. I booked the tickets on their website, www.rhs.org.uk. I was going to receive the tickets by email closer to the time of the show, and I would have printed them and taken them with us.

We were offered tickets for the 2021 show, but, since we aren’t planning on going to England in 2021, we took the full refund. That refund, too, was very prompt.

• The most surprising full refund, one of $560.29, was from the Hampton by Hilton London Waterloo (157 Waterloo Rd.; www.hilton.com/en/hotels/lonwlhx-hampton-london-waterloo), where we had a non-refundable 3-night reservation.

Because the hotel was closing for the dates of our stay, in early April they refunded the full amount! I will definitely try booking this hotel again the next time we go to London.

• I had also booked a one-way flight for us from Santorini back to Athens on Aegean Air. The total for both of us was 303.54.

Aegean offered a refund, but there was a 45 fee for each ticket, so in May we accepted vouchers instead and hope to use them in April 2021.

The Aegean Air tickets are the only item for which we did not receive a full refund.

We have since rebooked the same tour with Collette for April 2021. Fingers crossed! I can hardly wait to travel again.

Liz Fischer
Tarpon Springs, FL

 

 
My wife and I wanted to go to Rome, Italy, so I went on American Airlines’ (AA’s) website and booked a round-trip flight departing from Newark, New Jersey, on April 23, 2020, and returning from Rome on May 15. However, when I tried to select seats, I was directed to the British Airways (BA) site because it was operating the flight.

Online, I paid BA $236 for seat selection on that flight.

Then everything started going on surrounding COVID-19 issues and travel, so when I saw, online, that American was allowing flights to Rome to be rescheduled without charging a change fee so long as the new flight was completed by June 30, I canceled our flight reservations on March 6 and rescheduled the round-trip flight for June 13-30.

For that rescheduled flight, I paid BA an additional $98 for seat selection. It certainly didn’t seem right to have to pay for that again, but I didn’t want to chance not getting acceptable seats, so I “bit the bullet” and paid.

However, as bad as things were in Italy in March when we canceled our April flight, they only got worse there and in the US through the spring. Since the primary purpose of our trip was to visit our daughter’s family and their 18-month-old toddler, traveling in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and risking their exposure didn’t seem prudent, so on May 17 I called American Airlines and canceled the rescheduled reservation. Instead of getting a refund, I chose to “bank” the value with the airline to use at a later date (up through Dec. 31, 2021).

The AA agent was very specific that since I had paid BA for seat selection, I could only be refunded for that by BA. AA could not assist me with that refund.

I emailed BA requesting a refund, but they responded saying they couldn’t help because I had purchased the flight through another airline.

On June 3, I called BA and spoke with a representative. After reviewing the situation at great length with him and after I was placed on hold several times while he checked with his people, he concluded our call by telling me that I would receive a refund to my credit card within 14 to 21 workdays.*

The 21-workday period was up on July 2 and no refund was processed. I waited until July 16 and called again. This time I was told that, while they had a record of my previous call, they had no idea when a refund would be processed.

Incidentally, after I canceled each reservation, I went online some time later and saw that, in both cases, the flights had been canceled.

Chris R. Dunlap
Elizabethtown, PA

ITN sent a copy of Mr. Dunlap’s letter to British Air and received the reply, “Our Customer team was able to locate the booking from Mr. Dunlap’s emails, and the seating fees have now been refunded to him. We have written to Mr. Dunlap expressing our sincere apologies for the delay in refunding those charges.”

On Sept. 12, Mr. Dunlap emailed ITN, “I am pleased to tell you that my Mastercard account has now been credited by British Airways with the full amount of the seat-assignment charges I have been asking to have refunded. Thank you.”

*According to British Airways’ Terms & Conditions for seat selection fees, if a passenger cancels his reservation or changes the flight date, he cannot make a claim for a refund of the seat-selection fee, but if the airline cancels the flight or there is an aircraft change, the passenger can apply for the refund.

 

 

My husband and I had to cancel three trips in 2020 due to COVID-19, but the only refund issues related to airlines. We could have canceled our land packages, but we rolled them over to 2021 trips and were able to adjust the trip insurance coverage accordingly.

• For a trip to Europe, and on the advice of a travel agent friend, we didn’t cancel our round-trip flight, Denver to Zürich, Switzerland. Instead, we waited for Icelandair to cancel due to COVID and then immediately requested a refund. This happened on Aug. 6; our departure would have been Sept. 9.

We got emails every few weeks assuring us we were in Icelandair’s system. The refund finally came through on Nov. 10.

• We also had to cancel an intra-European flight with SWISS that had been scheduled to take us from Zürich to Venice, Italy. SWISS notified us on Aug. 19 that we had been rebooked on a different flight, which would not have worked for us even if we could still get to Zürich. I requested a refund at that time.

I was told to expect the refund in two or three months, but it came through in a matter of days, on Aug. 22!

• On the US side, we had used miles to buy tickets on United Airlines and American Airlines. Both restored our miles. United also refunded the amounts paid for seat upgrades, but American would not.

Donna Pyle
Boulder, CO

 

 

I wanted to give a shout-out to one of ITN’s advertisers, Flo Tours (Lake Mary, FL; 800/417-3880, www.flotours.com).

I was booked with them to travel to the five ’Stans, Sept. 7-25, 2020. Due to COVID-19, they had to cancel the tour on Aug. 4. I was offered a credit to another of their tours anytime through 2022.

I requested a refund of my deposit instead, on Aug. 6, and they graciously credited my credit card the next day.

Mary Anderson
Littleton, CO

 

 

On Jan. 4, 2020, we left Los Angeles on the Viking Sun anticipating a 4-month, halfway-around-the-world trip terminating in London on May 2. We were on the “Wonders of the World” cruise with Viking Ocean Cruises (Los Angeles, CA; 855/338-4546, www.vikingcruises.com).

Almost from the onset, we were dogged by bad weather, including a category-3 cyclone in the South Pacific. Our captain had to adjust our route for our safety and comfort (many were seasick), and by the time we reached Sydney, Australia, we had been forced to miss five destinations, at Pacific islands and in New Zealand and Australia.

At that point, we weren’t paying much attention to the virus news that was beginning to come out of Wuhan, China, but our ship’s doctor definitely was. She was screening everyone coming aboard, including a dance group in the South Pacific boarding for a one-hour performance that was turned away (one member had a slight temperature) as well as a couple of harbor pilots later in the voyage who did not pass her screening.

By the time we got to Sydney, COVID-19 was beginning to be of concern, though new passengers and crew continued to board and others disembarked. Over the subsequent days, Viking began to announce ports that we would be unable to visit and began finding safe alternatives.

The ship’s doctor and her staff screened all 900-plus passengers and all crew members for temperature and symptoms, asking new arrivals about places visited. Everyone passed. (We were also screened by Australian and Indonesian national health services, the latter twice.) Then Viking announced that no additional passengers or crew would be allowed aboard.

Finally, Viking flew a representative from a main office to Bali, Indonesia, to tell us that we would not be making any more port stops and that those of us who chose to stay aboard should consider the Viking Sun our “own personal yacht.” The cruise became the “Magical & Mystical Cruise to Somewhere,” as Viking didn’t know where we would be able to stop next. Many elected to disembark and go home, but about 360 of us decided to stay in our wonderful bubble.

Thanks to the efforts of our ship’s doctor, we all stayed COVID-19 free. Not only that, but we had lectures and entertainment, the spa, fabulous meals, our staterooms serviced twice daily, our friends, and plenty of toilet paper. Then, to our delight, Viking announced that they would sail us back to the East Coast of the US. We were ecstatic. No trekking through foreign airports for multiple overcrowded flights!

Before we reached the Suez Canal, however, Hawaii closed its ports to all cruise ships, and it was expected that all US ports would close before we arrived. Viking again shifted into high gear and negotiated with the United Arab Emirates to allow passengers to fly home from Dubai over a 3-day period but only on the airline Emirates.

On day one, the non-US citizens, with the exception of eight Canadians, flew out without incident. On day two, all but 81 US citizens and the Canadians left, but then the UAE abruptly shut down their flights.

Viking stepped up and chartered a plane to fly the remaining passengers back to the East Coast of the US. When the UAE refused to issue exit visas, Viking got the US government involved and ultimately got exit visas for the US citizens but not for the Canadians, who, along with all the crew, had to remain on board.

What else did Viking do for us? We had completed 70% of our voyage (though we saw less than half of our destinations), yet Viking still refunded us 70% of what we had paid for the trip. (We chose not to take a voucher worth 125% of the 70% amount.) We also were refunded 100% of what we had paid for excursions that we missed plus any credit in our onboard account.

They also did all the rebooking from the ship to our front door at no additional cost. (Viking also covered the passengers’ flights on Emirates, for which we think the cruise line must have paid a premium.)

All this despite the fine print that said they weren’t responsible for any of the misfortunes that had occurred.

We are Viking travelers forever!

David & Susan Hirsch
Los Angeles, CA

 

 

On Dec. 7, 2019, I booked a cruise with Viking Ocean Cruises (vikingcruises.com) for my husband, Gerald, and myself. It was the “Southern Atlantic Crossing,” scheduled to leave Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 15, 2020, and end in Barcelona, Spain, on April 5.

We paid a total of $10,476, with the final payment being made on Dec. 26.

On March 11, three days before we were to fly to Buenos Aires, I called Viking to cancel our trip because not only was Gerald having some medical issues, but everyone in the world was saying that no one should get on a cruise ship because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I made my call at about 12:30 p.m., just after noon. By that very same evening, Viking announced that it was canceling all cruises.

Via three or four phone calls, I requested a refund from Viking but was told repeatedly that because we had canceled a few hours before Viking did, all we were eligible for were vouchers for the full amount. If I had waited a few hours to cancel, I would have been offered a full refund or a 120% voucher. Viking told me that they could not be flexible with their policy.

The vouchers, sent to us on March 28, had to be used within two years and only by my husband and myself. (My husband is 88 and now in very poor health. He cannot take a cruise anytime in the future.)

After giving up on receiving a cash refund, I filed a claim with my insurer for medical reasons.

Unexpectedly, around the week of Aug. 10, a representative from Viking called me and relayed the message that Viking had decided to give us a full refund.

I was told it could take 30 days or more before I would see the deposit made back into my checking account, so I was very surprised when, on Aug. 26, Viking deposited $10,476 into my account.

After receiving the refund, I withdrew my insurance claim.

Arlene Bond
Ft. Worth, TX

 

 

My companion, Debbie Geremia, and I had paid a deposit on a cruise with Viking Ocean Cruises (vikingcruises.com) that was to leave Sydney, Australia, on Nov. 11, 2020, and end in Auckland, New Zealand, on Nov. 25. Our ship was to be the Viking Orion.

Because of all the turmoil around COVID-19, including the fact that American Airlines had canceled our international flight, we decided to cancel our “Australia & New Zealand” cruise on July 11, one day before the cutoff for receiving a full refund for the cruise. We received all of our deposit back less $100 per person.

The problem is we did NOT get a refund on the cost of the insurance we purchased from Trip Mate (800/888-7292, www.tripmate.com), even though, in mid-August, Viking announced that they were canceling the cruise.

The cost of the insurance, $2,238, was part of the package. I understood that if I didn’t sign up for the insurance at the time of booking, I couldn’t order it at a subsequent date. I didn’t realize that if I canceled the trip, I couldn’t also cancel the insurance.

There are two reasons why I feel we should be refunded our insurance premium:

1) We canceled 120 days prior to sailing, before the cutoff date.

2) The cruise didn’t sail. If a cruise doesn’t happen, i.e., doesn’t exist, how can you be expected to pay for insurance on that cruise?*

From now on, I will be more cautious in getting insurance or, at least, will shop around.

Frank McGinity
Santa Barbara, CA

*In almost all cases, insurance companies do not refund travel insurance premiums on canceled trips. A major part of the reasoning behind that is that once someone purchases trip insurance, even six months out, they are then covered. If something for which the person is insured happens to the person five months before the trip and he can no longer take the trip, his insurance kicks in. There is value received in being covered even for a short period of time. — Editor

After reading that Editor’s note, Mr. McGinity wrote, “I agree that there was some value between the time I purchased the insurance and the time of cancellation. Still, a reasonable compromise would be to prorate the cost of the insurance and refund the cost of the unused portion of the policy.”

 

 

My husband and I are elderly, with underlying health conditions, and as the May 25 date came closer for our pre-cruise extension in Athens, preceding our May 27-June 10, 2020, “Italy, the Adriatic & Greece” cruise with Viking Ocean Cruises (vikingcruises.com), we did not feel comfortable about traveling, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our travel agent, Karen Beacon at Cruise Holidays of Woodinville (Kirkland, WA; 425/487-4001, woodinville.cruiseholidays.com), did not want us to cancel on our own, with a tremendous loss of money ($42,323), so she told us just to wait.

The first notification from Viking arrived via email at the beginning of May, stating that the cruise was canceled and we could get a future cruise voucher valued at 125%, which had to be used within 24 months, or a refund. We immediately requested a refund.

No further communication was had from Viking, but we did keep in touch with Karen, who told us to be patient, as Viking had a lot of customers.

In May, we got three refunds: a credit to our credit card account, an e-check and a personal check (alone, in an envelope). Though the methods by which we were refunded did not match the methods we used to pay, the refund was complete, covering our business-class airfare, the cruise, pre- and post-trip extensions, dining options and optional shore excursions. This we did not expect.

Yahoo for Viking!

And we congratulate Karen, who has just retired after being a travel agent for decades.

Gloria Kraft
Redmond, WA

 

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Driving through the mountains of northern Italy on a beautiful sunny day in August 2018, I came across this quaint mountain village with a glacier in the background. Photo by Liz Fischer

The closing of borders worldwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic led to the canceling and postponing of countless travel plans. In the interest of comparing how various tour operators, airlines, cruise lines, hotels, etc., handled the disruptions and travelers’ bookings, ITN asked subscribers to write in about their experiences. Many had stories to tell, the first printed in our September 2020 issue, and we are continuing to share their accounts.

As can be seen, not only do companies have contrasting policies, but travelers have different strategies in planning and booking trips as well as different outlooks.


My husband, Keith, and I were booked on a 15-day tour with Collette (Pawtucket, RI; 800/468-5955, www.gocollette.com), “Exploring Britain & Ireland,” scheduled to depart on Aug. 28, 2020. I had purchased flights and insurance through Collette, but I paid for the tour with Marriott Vacation Club Points.

About two months before the tour was to start, I called Collette with the intention of canceling because of the 14-day quarantine of US tourists in the British Isles. Collette suggested I wait until 45 days before the start date because if they canceled it, we wouldn’t have to use our insurance.

Exactly 45 days before the tour was to begin, I received a phone call from Collette canceling the tour. We were given three otptions:

1) Get a complete refund of my Marriott points and any cash I had prepaid.

2) Receive a Collette travel voucher using my points that were due to expire in order to make travel reservations up to one year after the issue date.

3) Rebook the same tour at a later date with the price, points, airfare and insurance rates the same as for the previously booked tour.

I thought this was a fair deal, and we rebooked exactly the same tour. It now departs on Aug. 27, 2021.

Ellen Holden
Signal Mountain, TN

 

 

My husband, Bill, and I were booked on a 15-day tour of Greece, “Exploring Greece and Its Islands,” with Collette (gocollette.com), scheduled for April 2020. In total for both of us, the tour cost $7,018.

After that tour, we had planned to fly to London to begin a 2-week driving tour of Wales and England on our own. All our plans, of course, were canceled because of COVID-19.

In March, Collette canceled the tour and offered us a full refund or a 105% credit for another trip. We decided to take the refund and received it in only about two weeks.

• Booked through American Airlines’ website, our flights on AA (Tampa-Philadelphia) and British Air (Philadelphia-London-Athens and London-Tampa), all in premium economy, cost a little under $1,770 each. (I actually prefer Delta Air Lines, but AA had a London-Tampa nonstop.)

At first, when we canceled, American was only going to give us vouchers for future travel, but eventually, with a little prodding, the full amount was refunded.

The first refund in late April was just for my ticket, apparently because I was the one who had talked to them. My husband’s transatlantic ticket was on the same reservation, so I had assumed AA would refund his ticket too, but it took several more calls and until mid-May to receive the money for his ticket. All of the refund for the transatlantic flights came directly from AA.

• For after the tour, directly from British Air, I had booked a one-way flight for us from Athens to London for about 392, including seat selection. British Air refunded the full amount in only three weeks, by mid-April.

• I canceled our rental car in England along with numerous hotels and B&Bs in Wales and northern England — all reservations made with no deposits.

Liz and Bill Fischer on one of the hanging bridges in the Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica, in January 2020.

• I had bought two tickets to the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show for about £75 each. I booked the tickets on their website, www.rhs.org.uk. I was going to receive the tickets by email closer to the time of the show, and I would have printed them and taken them with us.

We were offered tickets for the 2021 show, but, since we aren’t planning on going to England in 2021, we took the full refund. That refund, too, was very prompt.

• The most surprising full refund, one of $560.29, was from the Hampton by Hilton London Waterloo (157 Waterloo Rd.; www.hilton.com/en/hotels/lonwlhx-hampton-london-waterloo), where we had a non-refundable 3-night reservation.

Because the hotel was closing for the dates of our stay, in early April they refunded the full amount! I will definitely try booking this hotel again the next time we go to London.

• I had also booked a one-way flight for us from Santorini back to Athens on Aegean Air. The total for both of us was 303.54.

Aegean offered a refund, but there was a 45 fee for each ticket, so in May we accepted vouchers instead and hope to use them in April 2021.

The Aegean Air tickets are the only item for which we did not receive a full refund.

We have since rebooked the same tour with Collette for April 2021. Fingers crossed! I can hardly wait to travel again.

Liz Fischer
Tarpon Springs, FL

 

 
My wife and I wanted to go to Rome, Italy, so I went on American Airlines’ (AA’s) website and booked a round-trip flight departing from Newark, New Jersey, on April 23, 2020, and returning from Rome on May 15. However, when I tried to select seats, I was directed to the British Airways (BA) site because it was operating the flight.

Online, I paid BA $236 for seat selection on that flight.

Then everything started going on surrounding COVID-19 issues and travel, so when I saw, online, that American was allowing flights to Rome to be rescheduled without charging a change fee so long as the new flight was completed by June 30, I canceled our flight reservations on March 6 and rescheduled the round-trip flight for June 13-30.

For that rescheduled flight, I paid BA an additional $98 for seat selection. It certainly didn’t seem right to have to pay for that again, but I didn’t want to chance not getting acceptable seats, so I “bit the bullet” and paid.

However, as bad as things were in Italy in March when we canceled our April flight, they only got worse there and in the US through the spring. Since the primary purpose of our trip was to visit our daughter’s family and their 18-month-old toddler, traveling in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and risking their exposure didn’t seem prudent, so on May 17 I called American Airlines and canceled the rescheduled reservation. Instead of getting a refund, I chose to “bank” the value with the airline to use at a later date (up through Dec. 31, 2021).

The AA agent was very specific that since I had paid BA for seat selection, I could only be refunded for that by BA. AA could not assist me with that refund.

I emailed BA requesting a refund, but they responded saying they couldn’t help because I had purchased the flight through another airline.

On June 3, I called BA and spoke with a representative. After reviewing the situation at great length with him and after I was placed on hold several times while he checked with his people, he concluded our call by telling me that I would receive a refund to my credit card within 14 to 21 workdays.*

The 21-workday period was up on July 2 and no refund was processed. I waited until July 16 and called again. This time I was told that, while they had a record of my previous call, they had no idea when a refund would be processed.

Incidentally, after I canceled each reservation, I went online some time later and saw that, in both cases, the flights had been canceled.

Chris R. Dunlap
Elizabethtown, PA

ITN sent a copy of Mr. Dunlap’s letter to British Air and received the reply, “Our Customer team was able to locate the booking from Mr. Dunlap’s emails, and the seating fees have now been refunded to him. We have written to Mr. Dunlap expressing our sincere apologies for the delay in refunding those charges.”

On Sept. 12, Mr. Dunlap emailed ITN, “I am pleased to tell you that my Mastercard account has now been credited by British Airways with the full amount of the seat-assignment charges I have been asking to have refunded. Thank you.”

*According to British Airways’ Terms & Conditions for seat selection fees, if a passenger cancels his reservation or changes the flight date, he cannot make a claim for a refund of the seat-selection fee, but if the airline cancels the flight or there is an aircraft change, the passenger can apply for the refund.

 

 

My husband and I had to cancel three trips in 2020 due to COVID-19, but the only refund issues related to airlines. We could have canceled our land packages, but we rolled them over to 2021 trips and were able to adjust the trip insurance coverage accordingly.

• For a trip to Europe, and on the advice of a travel agent friend, we didn’t cancel our round-trip flight, Denver to Zürich, Switzerland. Instead, we waited for Icelandair to cancel due to COVID and then immediately requested a refund. This happened on Aug. 6; our departure would have been Sept. 9.

We got emails every few weeks assuring us we were in Icelandair’s system. The refund finally came through on Nov. 10.

• We also had to cancel an intra-European flight with SWISS that had been scheduled to take us from Zürich to Venice, Italy. SWISS notified us on Aug. 19 that we had been rebooked on a different flight, which would not have worked for us even if we could still get to Zürich. I requested a refund at that time.

I was told to expect the refund in two or three months, but it came through in a matter of days, on Aug. 22!

• On the US side, we had used miles to buy tickets on United Airlines and American Airlines. Both restored our miles. United also refunded the amounts paid for seat upgrades, but American would not.

Donna Pyle
Boulder, CO

 

 

I wanted to give a shout-out to one of ITN’s advertisers, Flo Tours (Lake Mary, FL; 800/417-3880, www.flotours.com).

I was booked with them to travel to the five ’Stans, Sept. 7-25, 2020. Due to COVID-19, they had to cancel the tour on Aug. 4. I was offered a credit to another of their tours anytime through 2022.

I requested a refund of my deposit instead, on Aug. 6, and they graciously credited my credit card the next day.

Mary Anderson
Littleton, CO

 

 

On Jan. 4, 2020, we left Los Angeles on the Viking Sun anticipating a 4-month, halfway-around-the-world trip terminating in London on May 2. We were on the “Wonders of the World” cruise with Viking Ocean Cruises (Los Angeles, CA; 855/338-4546, www.vikingcruises.com).

Almost from the onset, we were dogged by bad weather, including a category-3 cyclone in the South Pacific. Our captain had to adjust our route for our safety and comfort (many were seasick), and by the time we reached Sydney, Australia, we had been forced to miss five destinations, at Pacific islands and in New Zealand and Australia.

At that point, we weren’t paying much attention to the virus news that was beginning to come out of Wuhan, China, but our ship’s doctor definitely was. She was screening everyone coming aboard, including a dance group in the South Pacific boarding for a one-hour performance that was turned away (one member had a slight temperature) as well as a couple of harbor pilots later in the voyage who did not pass her screening.

By the time we got to Sydney, COVID-19 was beginning to be of concern, though new passengers and crew continued to board and others disembarked. Over the subsequent days, Viking began to announce ports that we would be unable to visit and began finding safe alternatives.

The ship’s doctor and her staff screened all 900-plus passengers and all crew members for temperature and symptoms, asking new arrivals about places visited. Everyone passed. (We were also screened by Australian and Indonesian national health services, the latter twice.) Then Viking announced that no additional passengers or crew would be allowed aboard.

Finally, Viking flew a representative from a main office to Bali, Indonesia, to tell us that we would not be making any more port stops and that those of us who chose to stay aboard should consider the Viking Sun our “own personal yacht.” The cruise became the “Magical & Mystical Cruise to Somewhere,” as Viking didn’t know where we would be able to stop next. Many elected to disembark and go home, but about 360 of us decided to stay in our wonderful bubble.

Thanks to the efforts of our ship’s doctor, we all stayed COVID-19 free. Not only that, but we had lectures and entertainment, the spa, fabulous meals, our staterooms serviced twice daily, our friends, and plenty of toilet paper. Then, to our delight, Viking announced that they would sail us back to the East Coast of the US. We were ecstatic. No trekking through foreign airports for multiple overcrowded flights!

Before we reached the Suez Canal, however, Hawaii closed its ports to all cruise ships, and it was expected that all US ports would close before we arrived. Viking again shifted into high gear and negotiated with the United Arab Emirates to allow passengers to fly home from Dubai over a 3-day period but only on the airline Emirates.

On day one, the non-US citizens, with the exception of eight Canadians, flew out without incident. On day two, all but 81 US citizens and the Canadians left, but then the UAE abruptly shut down their flights.

Viking stepped up and chartered a plane to fly the remaining passengers back to the East Coast of the US. When the UAE refused to issue exit visas, Viking got the US government involved and ultimately got exit visas for the US citizens but not for the Canadians, who, along with all the crew, had to remain on board.

What else did Viking do for us? We had completed 70% of our voyage (though we saw less than half of our destinations), yet Viking still refunded us 70% of what we had paid for the trip. (We chose not to take a voucher worth 125% of the 70% amount.) We also were refunded 100% of what we had paid for excursions that we missed plus any credit in our onboard account.

They also did all the rebooking from the ship to our front door at no additional cost. (Viking also covered the passengers’ flights on Emirates, for which we think the cruise line must have paid a premium.)

All this despite the fine print that said they weren’t responsible for any of the misfortunes that had occurred.

We are Viking travelers forever!

David & Susan Hirsch
Los Angeles, CA

 

 

On Dec. 7, 2019, I booked a cruise with Viking Ocean Cruises (vikingcruises.com) for my husband, Gerald, and myself. It was the “Southern Atlantic Crossing,” scheduled to leave Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 15, 2020, and end in Barcelona, Spain, on April 5.

We paid a total of $10,476, with the final payment being made on Dec. 26.

On March 11, three days before we were to fly to Buenos Aires, I called Viking to cancel our trip because not only was Gerald having some medical issues, but everyone in the world was saying that no one should get on a cruise ship because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I made my call at about 12:30 p.m., just after noon. By that very same evening, Viking announced that it was canceling all cruises.

Via three or four phone calls, I requested a refund from Viking but was told repeatedly that because we had canceled a few hours before Viking did, all we were eligible for were vouchers for the full amount. If I had waited a few hours to cancel, I would have been offered a full refund or a 120% voucher. Viking told me that they could not be flexible with their policy.

The vouchers, sent to us on March 28, had to be used within two years and only by my husband and myself. (My husband is 88 and now in very poor health. He cannot take a cruise anytime in the future.)

After giving up on receiving a cash refund, I filed a claim with my insurer for medical reasons.

Unexpectedly, around the week of Aug. 10, a representative from Viking called me and relayed the message that Viking had decided to give us a full refund.

I was told it could take 30 days or more before I would see the deposit made back into my checking account, so I was very surprised when, on Aug. 26, Viking deposited $10,476 into my account.

After receiving the refund, I withdrew my insurance claim.

Arlene Bond
Ft. Worth, TX

 

 

My companion, Debbie Geremia, and I had paid a deposit on a cruise with Viking Ocean Cruises (vikingcruises.com) that was to leave Sydney, Australia, on Nov. 11, 2020, and end in Auckland, New Zealand, on Nov. 25. Our ship was to be the Viking Orion.

Because of all the turmoil around COVID-19, including the fact that American Airlines had canceled our international flight, we decided to cancel our “Australia & New Zealand” cruise on July 11, one day before the cutoff for receiving a full refund for the cruise. We received all of our deposit back less $100 per person.

The problem is we did NOT get a refund on the cost of the insurance we purchased from Trip Mate (800/888-7292, www.tripmate.com), even though, in mid-August, Viking announced that they were canceling the cruise.

The cost of the insurance, $2,238, was part of the package. I understood that if I didn’t sign up for the insurance at the time of booking, I couldn’t order it at a subsequent date. I didn’t realize that if I canceled the trip, I couldn’t also cancel the insurance.

There are two reasons why I feel we should be refunded our insurance premium:

1) We canceled 120 days prior to sailing, before the cutoff date.

2) The cruise didn’t sail. If a cruise doesn’t happen, i.e., doesn’t exist, how can you be expected to pay for insurance on that cruise?*

From now on, I will be more cautious in getting insurance or, at least, will shop around.

Frank McGinity
Santa Barbara, CA

*In almost all cases, insurance companies do not refund travel insurance premiums on canceled trips. A major part of the reasoning behind that is that once someone purchases trip insurance, even six months out, they are then covered. If something for which the person is insured happens to the person five months before the trip and he can no longer take the trip, his insurance kicks in. There is value received in being covered even for a short period of time. — Editor

After reading that Editor’s note, Mr. McGinity wrote, “I agree that there was some value between the time I purchased the insurance and the time of cancellation. Still, a reasonable compromise would be to prorate the cost of the insurance and refund the cost of the unused portion of the policy.”

 

 

My husband and I are elderly, with underlying health conditions, and as the May 25 date came closer for our pre-cruise extension in Athens, preceding our May 27-June 10, 2020, “Italy, the Adriatic & Greece” cruise with Viking Ocean Cruises (vikingcruises.com), we did not feel comfortable about traveling, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our travel agent, Karen Beacon at Cruise Holidays of Woodinville (Kirkland, WA; 425/487-4001, woodinville.cruiseholidays.com), did not want us to cancel on our own, with a tremendous loss of money ($42,323), so she told us just to wait.

The first notification from Viking arrived via email at the beginning of May, stating that the cruise was canceled and we could get a future cruise voucher valued at 125%, which had to be used within 24 months, or a refund. We immediately requested a refund.

No further communication was had from Viking, but we did keep in touch with Karen, who told us to be patient, as Viking had a lot of customers.

In May, we got three refunds: a credit to our credit card account, an e-check and a personal check (alone, in an envelope). Though the methods by which we were refunded did not match the methods we used to pay, the refund was complete, covering our business-class airfare, the cruise, pre- and post-trip extensions, dining options and optional shore excursions. This we did not expect.

Yahoo for Viking!

And we congratulate Karen, who has just retired after being a travel agent for decades.

Gloria Kraft
Redmond, WA