Cancelled/postponed trips due to COVID - please share your outcomes

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Kimela

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There are a couple of exceptions: Cancel For Any Reason would cover it but not 100% and there are a few policies that do though some have changed their policies to not cover it going forward in new policies since they probably realized it is a real thing and has cost them a lot.

I discovered that the coveted 'Cancel For Any Reason' didn't apply as long as they issued a credit toward a future trip! Unlike your situation, they didn't offer me the same trip in the future - they offered 100% of what I spent on the land only portion - so if the cost goes up I'll have to make up the difference. My ex worked for a reinsurance company and I know how hard they work to not give up a single penny. This is how it's done. Mostly, it doesn't bother me (because what can I do about it?). But an offer for the exact same trip in the future w/o paying an uncharge would have been nice.
 

Ministryofgiraffes

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There really needs to be pressure on the industry for overarching generally accepted coverage and protection after all of this. I remember when ATOL was enacted in the UK, there was much 'Gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands' about how it would be the death of the industry's small suppliers and noone would be able to adhere to the guidelines and it would put everyone out of business etc... Suffice it to say it didn't, it hasn't, and consumers are protected..

Sure it's tougher as companies just domicile on an upturned beerkeg in the pacific to try and get around the requirements, but it would definitely create a large network of preferential boats..
 

outofofficebrb

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Everyone..thank you for your detailed contributions. This has been updated with your experiences through this post. I have no doubt this has helped many others and I say this based on having received private messages from fellow travelers. I also think this has swayed operators in their decisions when they realize what others are doing for their customers and how that actually builds future business or return business for them when people speak positively about their experiences and how they have handled things.

We had a bus tour of Eastern Europe planned for May 21 (no diving) through Trafalgar. We received the email below. Bottom line is we will get 100% credit of the monies spent on the land portion (on our own for airfare with United) toward the purchase of a trip in the future, through 2022. Of concern is it appears United's policy is we can book for 12 months from our original issue date, which was December of 2019 (so we have 9 months - so we won't be able to use the airfare $$ up through 2022 unless United makes some sort of accommodations).

Also of note is we canNOT use our 'cancel for any reason' because the contract language states they will refund 75% of 'non-refundable' monies - and Trafalgar offering us future travel credit is considered a 'refund' (or at least doesn't qualify as 'non-refundable'). It's a bit frustrating, but it's not like we were going to stop traveling. I'd rather have my own cash in hand rather than be forced to find something else, especially with things still being so uncertain.

"Through the peace-of-mind program Trafalgar will automatically issue a future travel credit valued at 100% of all monies paid towards land and Trafalgar travel insurance if selected.

This future travel credit can be used by yourself or gifted to other friends or family (with the exception of the travel insurance premium) and are valid on any new 2020, 2021, or 2022 departure within the Travcorp brands (Brendan, Contiki, Costsaver, Insight, and Trafalgar).

Nothing needs to be done on your end and the future travel credits will automatically be issued to you in several weeks. When you are ready to use your future travel credit please contact us at 1-800-935-2620 by providing the number below to your travel consultant to apply your vouchers on your next vacation.

This policy does not apply towards vacations that include the Oberammergau Passion Play. Please call us for more details."


I discovered that the coveted 'Cancel For Any Reason' didn't apply as long as they issued a credit toward a future trip! Unlike your situation, they didn't offer me the same trip in the future - they offered 100% of what I spent on the land only portion - so if the cost goes up I'll have to make up the difference. My ex worked for a reinsurance company and I know how hard they work to not give up a single penny. This is how it's done. Mostly, it doesn't bother me (because what can I do about it?). But an offer for the exact same trip in the future w/o paying an uncharge would have been nice.

Yes, all travel insurance claims (both policies and ones that are built into your credit card) will request that you provide proof that you are not receiving a refund or will want to know if you are receiving any form of credit because if so, that will offset what you can claim. You can't "double dip" and claim for the full amount if you are also receiving a voucher. I think the fact that they are willing to reschedule/offer a 100% voucher is great. I think the difference in tour rate is still fair, though an ideal situation would have been to just offer you the identical product regardless of the price difference or what you actually paid, which is what I must commend Aggressor for. (I bought my sailing at 25% off and they gave me a voucher for the product/service - same itinerary, boat, and sailing, instead of a $ amount voucher so I can get on a sailing that is full priced or more expensive next year and not worry about it.) I know there are some who are not happy with them based on previous experiences but I have to say they have done a pretty good job with this situation so far. Thanks for sharing your outcome!


Which honestly should make the life of these online liveaboard travel agents come to an end soon. At this point, what’s the benefit of using one? They haven’t shown any ability to be helpful and seem much more likely to hurt you than improve your situation...

I've booked many, many, many liveaboards and a few resorts, most of them being in Asia and have booked direct and through an agent; I much prefer working through an agent for multiple reasons. It costs no more to me to do it through an agent. Sometimes, they will sweeten the deal for me. It is an additional source of protection when things go wrong as these events have shown me and they have a lot more influence and negotiating power than I do in most cases. I've also had to claim travel insurance and they were extremely helpful in getting/drafting me the documents I needed to show the adjuster. Additionally, not having to deal with wire transfers (some places only accept this!), being able to pay by credit card and not have it be with a surcharge (common stipulation overseas and at 3%, whether through the LOB company directly or through PayPal) while also raking in bonus points for it being a categorized travel merchant, etc., are just a few of those benefits. My agent is in the United States where I am located and that lends itself to be more convenient when issues arise as my contract is with them and not the liveaboard. It is much easier to "chase" and solve if there are issues. Imagine trying to litigate with an overseas entity if it came to that....forget it. With this COVID fiasco, my agent and his agency have been doing all the logistics for me. The extent of our e-mails have been purely information. e.g.,: your sailing is canceled, I'm in the process of getting a voucher. I had some questions/concerns about the voucher timing, told him, and he communicated it to the Aggressor and then I got the voucher that I needed. Negotiations as well....he is taking care of it all. I have a very trustworthy agent who isn't "swallowing" anything in between what is being offered by the op and what is being offered to me.

Most liveaboards quote in euro or USD and with the USD being strong against the euro right now, if your funds are held in USD, you can book through an agent that charges in euros (no foreign transaction fee credit card would be a huge benefit here) and have that work in your favor on top of having the aforementioned benefits. An "additional" discount, of sorts.

There really needs to be pressure on the industry for overarching generally accepted coverage and protection after all of this. I remember when ATOL was enacted in the UK, there was much 'Gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands' about how it would be the death of the industry's small suppliers and noone would be able to adhere to the guidelines and it would put everyone out of business etc... Suffice it to say it didn't, it hasn't, and consumers are protected..

Sure it's tougher as companies just domicile on an upturned beerkeg in the pacific to try and get around the requirements, but it would definitely create a large network of preferential boats..

My suspicion is that there will be significant changes in the travel industry as it relates to travel insurance coverage once things simmer down and people (travelers and perhaps some politicians) are able to digest how many people and how much financially they were affected by the lack of coverage given the circumstances and how many people fell between the cracks when reschedules/vouchers weren't issued or issued in full and they also couldn't get claims approved.
 

scubadada

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Hi @outofofficebrb

Trip planned to Bonaire for April 3-17. Absolutely painless cancellation and full credit from American Airlines, Den Laman, Dive Friends Bonaire, and AB Car Rental. I cancelled Sunday, March 15, two days before flights to Bonaire from the US were discontinued and 4 days before the level 4 travel advisory. Credit good anytime in 2020, we are retired and can go anytime we want. We're disappointed, but quite pleased with outcome.
 

outofofficebrb

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I'm ready to name who the liveaboard operator is that I have been fighting for some time now. They are firm and refused to budge. We were scheduled to be on the MV Ambai with Wallacea Dive Cruises from April 1-12, 2020. They also own MSY Seahorse. I have updated the sheet with this information. They canceled the sailing because of Raja Ampat marine park closing during the dates that we would have sailed. They refused to commit to a resolution in the beginning because they needed to see what was possible financially when it was over. My agent helped push for something. We had a half charter (8 spots) and they are firm on only offering 80% credit for a trip that was paid for 100% in full. I can't stress how wrong this is and how disappointed and angry I am.

If you have a booking with them 121+ days from now and are worried about them having to cancel on you due to current events, I would cut your losses now so you don't end up in the same situation.
Their cancellation policy states: "If the reservation is canceled 121 days or more prior to the departure date then a 100 EUR cancellation fee per person per booking will be deducted from the deposit and the remaining amount returned or credited against any future bookings." Their usual deposit amounts are 20% so you can get back your 20% deposit less 100 EURO. Booking terms and condition with Wallacea Dive Cruise Book with someone else. If they cancel on you (likely, with this uncertainty), losing 100 EURO would be a walk in the park compared to 20% of your entire booking.

Their reasons and stipulations for only giving us 80% credit are below.

"We made this decision after a long and careful consideration over the past few weeks for the following reason:

As recalled here above free of charge reschedules for all the cancellations is not financially feasible for our company. How could we possibly ignore the huge cost for us to reschedule about 1/4 of our yearly customers? Not only we expect to have our boats empty for a period of at least months but we’ll have ¼ of our trips filled with non-paying customers in 2021. Given the fact that we still need to go through all our fixed costs as salaries, marketing, boat maintenance, yearly mandatory dry docking, fuel, just waiting that the situation ends , we will certainly suffer huge losses and eventually have to shut down our business. if the bookings do not resume in the incoming months. I’d like to emphasize especially about our crew: we have to keep paying their salary since unemployment benefits do not exist in Indonesia. They would be left with zero financial support if we don’t do so. Also, establishing an effective crew on liveaboard take years and they are, after all, the heart of our service. We are sorry to have to involve our customers in this financial difficulty, however, we won't be able to maintain the standards of safety and service aboard our boats in any other way. I hope I have clearly explained why we are not able to give any refund or free reschedule and I hope that the guests will find our proposition fair and acceptable.
Many thanks in advance for your understanding."

The terms and conditions of this offer is as follows:
1. non-refundable and can not be redeemed for cash.
2. can not be transferred to other parties/guests.
3. valid for one-time booking only.
4. apply to cruises until 15 September 2021.
5. once made, bookings using this voucher can not be rescheduled further unless cancelled by the operator
6. bookings are subject to availability.
7. this voucher doesn't constitute a debt.
8. this voucher is valid as long as the company is financially able to honor it."


(To be continued in next post due to post length maximums.)
 

outofofficebrb

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Our agent is helping to soften the blow by offering us a 10% discount on the new/rescheduled sailing and other financial incentives for future bookings if we decide to take the deal. We'd still owe hundreds of dollars for a trip that is shorter by 1 day next year as well. A chargeback is possible as we all paid with credit card but our agent's agency would then take the hit and they are NOT the problem.

Below is what our group put together for our agent to communicate to them and they still refused. Please feel free to use any of these points for your own negotiations with whoever you are having issues with.

Facts:
  • The divers have each paid for their trip 100%.
  • None of the divers are requesting a refund. They are asking for a reschedule without additional payment.
  • The April 12 sailing next year is 1 day shorter and less expensive by a couple hundred dollars. None of the divers are requesting the difference, just a reschedule.
  • Raja Ampat Marine Park closed which did not allow Wallacea to sail. As a result, Wallacea had to cancel the trip.
  • The closure is due to COVID, something that is out of Wallacea and the guests’ control and an unforeseen circumstance.
  • Wallacea is only offering 80% of the trip cost value towards a reschedule and is requesting the divers pay an additional amount ($774-$1,471 USD per person depending on cabin).
  • Almost all other liveaboards and resorts are offering 100% credit or rescheduling without requiring extra payment.
Rebuttal/Talking Points:
  • Assuming ¼ of the trips are filled by “non-paying customers” - Wallacea has already collected 100% of our trip cost and is not sailing. There was no expenditure of fuel or food now for our sailing. We are effectively giving Wallacea a 1-year $30,000 unsecured 0% interest loan. The customer is not asking for any money back, even with the sailing being over 1 year away. Wallacea is spending less in the immediate future by not sailing. That should balance itself out next year when Wallacea sails.
  • Dive travel is likely to be substantially reduced for several years due to COVID restrictions and economic fallout. This means that there will be more spots on boats than divers to fill them.
    • A boat that's full is better for Wallacea’s crew vs. half full (same fuel costs, half the tips).
    • Dive operators who can't fill their boats in advance have to offer the remaining spaces at significant discounts. The loss of income from that far outweighs the 20% gained by giving partial rescheduling credit at 80% as proposed - if Wallacea can fill the boat at all.
    • The reduced number of divers means customers can pick and choose operators who have the best reputation for how they handled this year's cancellations. Currently, this is not Wallacea.
  • The events are beyond both parties’ control but the concessions are being requested (additional payment) from the divers yet the divers are not requesting a refund or credit for the difference in the trip cost between 2020’s trip and 2021’s trip.
  • The price of diesel fuel has dropped by 20% since the start of the year and is likely to stay low. Wallacea will make more profit on our rebooking in 2021 than they planned for the April 2020 trip (or the currently quoted 2021 rates)
  • If Wallacea insists on only offering 80% of the trip cost that has been fully paid, they will have more to worry about next year than ¼ of the trips being filled by reschedules. It will lend itself to bad publicity and they may see a significant reduction in bookings due to this policy. It speaks volumes about Wallacea when every other resort and liveaboard in the world is offering an even reschedule at no additional cost. This group has some frequent Indonesia travelers (2X per year for multiple weeks at a time) and an instructor, both with a very large group travel network and social media outreach.
    • New customers will choose operators who took care of their existing customers, particularly since no one knows what the status of COVID restrictions will be next year.
    • If some of us file a chargeback or dispute over payment, the travel agent/agency will lose thousands of dollars. No travel agent/agency will want to take a risk on Wallacea when they have plenty of other boats to choose from.
  • Wallacea is likely to lose a lot of existing reservations. According to the current policy, anyone with an existing reservation 121 days out can cancel and only lose $100. Considering the discounts and better cancellation policies that other operators are offering, customers could pay less overall *and* be at less risk by cancelling their existing reservations with you and booking with someone else. It’s better for the customer to cancel and just lose $100 now than potentially lose $800-$1500 if Wallacea has to cancel those charters as well and only offer customers a partial credit of 80%
  • Publicity works both ways. By taking care of its existing customers, Wallacea will have a good reputation as one of the dive operators that it is safe to book with in an uncertain world. This will help Wallacea fill boats in the long run
  • Fixed costs: As mentioned, these are fixed. These should be budgeted and planned for all the time regardless of what happens with the business because they are continuously occurring. It is independent of whether a boat sails, whether there are a lot of bookings from customers or no bookings from customers. COVID should not affect these costs. These are the costs of running a business; these are also the overhead costs.
  • Salaries and marketing - These are usually fixed in normal times but in the world of COVID, many of Wallacea’s customers are also experiencing pay cuts, layoffs, and furloughs. The customers (the divers) do not make that Wallacea’s problem and ask that Wallacea extend a discount on a replacement sailing or a trip they have already agreed to take, nor do they request to refund any money, either. Running a business, Wallacea should either have a cash flow that allows them to continue paying their perceived fixed costs or reduce salaries and marketing budgets accordingly by adapting to the environment and business situation.
  • Boat maintenance/yearly mandatory dry docking and fuel: This occurs regardless of whether the boat sails or not or whether COVID ever happened. Wallacea has already accepted 100% of our trip cost yet the boat is not sailing. Fuel and regular maintenance is actually a variable cost. If Wallacea is not sailing, Wallacea is not using any fuel. Diesel is probably the largest expenditure each week when the boat sails. If the boat is not sailing, there is also less wear and tear. Routine maintenance costs will theoretically be lower than usual. Mandatory annual dry docking fees occur regardless of COVID or whether the boat sails and happens on an annual basis so COVID/not sailing/park closure should not have any effect on these costs.
    • With the boat stuck in port, the crew can use this time to take care of any pending maintenance. This will increase boat uptime and decrease this risk of cancellation due to mechanical difficulties when charters resume.
  • Continuing to pay employees: This is admirable. However, if that is Wallacea’s goal and desire, Wallacea should instead ensure their business model and financial position puts them in a cash flow position to do this. It is not the responsibility of the divers/customers to finance this and be used as a reason to ask for more money. This is a reflection of poor business planning for a “rainy day” and is shifting this desire and its resulting responsibility to the customer. Again, Wallacea has already received 100% of our trip costs. The offset of not sailing should yield some savings in variable costs from fuel/food, etc.. That can be used to pay staff. The divers are not requesting for any type of refund.
 

NQtraveler76

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Hi All

RE: Mike Ball Dive Expeditions

We are locals and had a very expensive trip booked with Mike Ball Dive Expeditions. (Please note the business is not owned / run by Mike Ball anymore). They cancelled the trip and have refused to refund anyone for the upcoming trips. We are out of pocket $3,800+ !

They cited that all customer guarantees are now null & void because of Corona Virus. This is absurd !!! On contacting the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, they also confirmed this is not correct.

We requested a straight refund. They cancelled the trip one week before it was due to leave and we got a flimsy email saying they were not offering any refunds. Now they will not answer their phone or emails.

They also cited that they were not obligated to offer refunds. Their terms and conditions of sale do NOT include Force Majeure. (btw Force Majeure from a contract law sense only covers natural disasters or weather developments, not pandemic / epidemic). They mention cancellations for bad weather on their sales receipts and that is it.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission states that all merchants must offer a refund or other agreeable remedy if the customer so wishes. Since we paid for this trip in full more than 2 months prior to the start date, they really have everyone by the proverbial ..... I can only imagine how much money they have kept (at least 2 months worth of full trip costs).

To make matters worse they sent a "generic" email to everyone saying they were shutting the business down for 6 months and would see how things went ..... with all our money in their pockets :(

Then we have just seen last night that they have let all their staff go ..... poor people! This was on facebook.

In Australia all businesses are receiving a stimulus package plus guaranteed business loans. They are also receiving $750 per week / per employee to ensure that everyone keeps their jobs.

Considering all this, the fact that they will not refund their customers is appalling.

A truly terrible experience and service! We cannot believe we have been treated like this, especially being locals!

So No, we would not recommend you dive with them.

** We are pursuing all avenues open to us to try to re-coup this money.
 
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I'm also on that MV Ambai with Wallacea Dive Cruises trip April 1-12. Or I would be, if they hadn't cancelled it.

I'm very disappointed with their response. They want us to pay a 20% penalty on our reservations because they cancelled our charter. And rebooking comes with a bunch of strings attached:
  • Only if we all travel as a group (looks impossible given our differing work commitments).
  • Those of us that can go will pay them thousands of dollars extra for a shorter trip.
  • Their offer is non-transferable, so those of us that can't go will simply lose all their money.
  • No additional rebooking is allowed for a trip which is more than a year away. So again, anyone who gets sick or has to drop out will lose their money. And unlike a new charter, we can't buy travel insurance to cover even the risk that *would* normally be covered.
The other operators I'm working with are offering full 100% rebooking (no penalty), for up to 2 years out.

Given how many dive operators are out there and how sketchy dive travel may be for the next few years, I do not recommend booking with Wallacea. I'd far rather go back to any of the other boats I've ever been on. If COVID rears its head next winter, I know those boats will take care of their customers. Wallacea, on the other hand, I have no faith in.
 

jonhall

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Grand Cayman - April 19- May 3

RCI timeshare: points returned and transaction fees credited. Must use both points and fees within a certain timeframe which isn't long enough. I can extend the length of time to use points to a few years out by combining them with other points I have, of course, for a fee.
Delta airfare: waited for Delta to cancel flight. Used miles which have been reinstated and taxes and fees are being refunded.
Allianz trip insurance: cheap plan we get when we get airfare out of country - also refunded.
Nothing else prepaid

Orlando - June (haven't officially cancelled trip yet, but we're going to)

RCI timeshare: will be the same as above - just waiting to get closer to travel date.
Southwest airline: waiting (and hoping) for Southwest to cancel flight - paid outright - not sure how this will shake out but we would plan to use for trip next spring.

Alaska land and sea tour - Aug/Sept

Holland America: We cancelled the trip - wife and I had paid reduced booking fee of $100 each but had not paid for the whole trip. Booking fee is good for 4 years or can get a refund at anytime. We left it for now as it comes with benefits (on board credits) if we use it.
* Excursions we prepaid for are being refunded.
Delta airline: cancelled flight at same time as Grand Cayman trip - miles and taxes and fees refunded.
American Airline (Alaska Airlines): not cancelled yet - waiting to get closer to travel date in hopes they cancel flight - they will reinstate miles and refund taxes and fees (30,000 miles and $11.60.) If not cancelled, I think I can pay to have the miles reinstated, but if all I lose on this trip are those miles and $11.60, so be it.

Aruba - Jan 2021 (2 weeks)

Hope things are back to some type of normal. Got this trip cheap ($275 our cost for 2 bedroom resort) and used miles for airfare.
 

moorish8idol

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Thanks @outofofficebrb for the details. I am very disappointed for all of you that they continue to be so unreasonable. Strangely enough I was looking at them very seriously for a Banda Sea trip last year. I had a DM on my Socorro trip who had spent 6 years in Indonesia and when I asked him about Wallacea he said simply "they aren't good".... your experience unfortunately puts this into sharp relief. They will never have my business.
 
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