Long after the pandemic began, some people are still dealing with getting money back from canceled events.
One couple's fight to finally get their European cruise has gone on for two years.
It was supposed to be a summer river cruise from Amsterdam to Switzerland.
Karen Fields and her husband were traveling with another couple when their May 2020 cruise was canceled because of COVID.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruises kept their payment in full and pushed the cruise back to May 2021.
Karen said that was no problem — but Uniworld ended up having to postpone that cruise too.
COVID has been bad for travelers and bad for the travel industry, especially cruise lines. If there was ever a time for give and take between consumer and business, this would be it.
But in this case, it seems the couple did all the giving.
The couple's cruise would now be in September 2021, but then that was canceled, too.
If you're keeping score: that's May 2020, May 2021 and September 2021 cruises all postponed.
Uniworld set its 4th cruise date for May of this year.
This time, Karen needed it postponed.
"I developed a hip issue and am having it totally replaced on May 2nd. So, there's no way I can go to Europe," Karen says.
She says she didn't ask for any of the nearly $12,000 back and just wanted a few months to recuperate.
"They have the same trip in September of this year. We asked them to postpone it and they said no," Karen says.
Why would Uniworld say no to a four-month postponement after putting the couple through so much?
Uniworld told us in part they gave the couple some extras, but they say they "no longer offer the option to cancel and rebook without penalty."
And if the couple can't make the May trip, they are "under a 35% penalty and the rest will be refunded" as the terms state.
Karen doesn't think that's fair.
"They could keep 35% of the money and still sell those two cabins at full rate," she says.
Again, the Fields don't want a refund and are still hoping to get that cruise.
Here's Uniworld's full statement to us:
"Thank you for the opportunity to reply, as caring for our guests is paramount and throughout the pandemic we have ensured that our cancellation and rescheduling policies were flexible, generous, and met industry standards. In this case, Uniworld’s team has only been in direct contact with the Fields’ travel agent. As you stated, the Fields originally booked a sailing for May 2020, and when that was suspended we offered a Future Cruise Credit in the amount they paid, plus an additional 10% as a goodwill offer if they chose to re-book. They did re-book for May 2021, which they then canceled in early March 2021 even though that sailing was still set to operate, then rescheduling for September 2021. That was permitted at the time with the temporary policy in place due to COVID-19, which allowed guests to cancel and rebook without penalty even if the ship was operating, as long as they did so 60 or more days from departure. Unfortunately, that September departure was suspended, and they re-booked for May 2022, in which our team offered a price protection so the cost would not increase.
Uniworld sells travel insurance with an any-reason cancellation provision, and this was available to the guests each time they made a new booking, but it was not purchased. This travel protection plan protects guests from unforeseen events, allowing guests to cancel up to one day prior to their first Uniworld-arranged travel date for any reason and receive a future travel certificate or even a full refund for select covered reasons.
We are no longer offering the option to cancel and rebook without penalty, and that offer has not been in place since 2021. Out of fairness to all our guests, we have to keep our standard cancelation policy consistent. Mr. and Mrs. Fields were under a 35% penalty and the rest will be refunded to them, which are the terms stated on their invoice."
We'll keep pushing for it.
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