We had “cancel-for-any-reason” insurance. So why won’t Holland America reimburse us?

By | December 15th, 2016

Whenever we publish a cruise cancellation story, it’s a given that someone will claim that the passengers should have had travel insurance — especially coverage of the “cancel-for-any-reason” variety.

Donald Horger and his wife did have it. Yet their cruise company, Holland America, partially denied their claim.

The Horgers’ unfortunate story is a reminder to read the fine print in travel insurance contracts with extreme care, because canceling a cruise or other trip can result in severe financial losses, even with “cancel-for-any-reason” insurance coverage.

The Horgers, who both have four-star Mariner status on Holland America and are experienced cruisers on other lines as well, booked a cruise on the MS Prinsendam which was scheduled for Oct. 20.

They had always purchased third-party insurance coverage for their past cruises. But this time they chose to purchase Holland America’s Cancellation Protection Plan, which Holland America markets on its website as offering the following protections:

  • YOU CAN CANCEL BEFORE DEPARTURE FOR ANY REASON. Even if it’s up to 24 hours before departure under our Standard Plan or right up to departure with our Platinum Plan. Your reservation may be easily cancelled for any reason whatsoever – no claim forms to submit or fine print to review.
  • YOU GET MONEY BACK. Holland America Line refunds 80-90 percent of eligible amounts paid, regardless of your reason for canceling, as long as you cancel more than 24 hours prior to departure (right up to departure with the Platinum Plan). …
  • NO PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS. Our Standard and Platinum Plans do not contain pre-existing condition exclusions.

Unfortunately, Horger’s wife was diagnosed with cancer earlier in the year, causing damage to her hipbone and then spreading to her lungs and liver. She had to have a partial hip replacement as well as radiation and chemotherapy, and her doctor informed her that she could not travel for at least six months.

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The Horgers paid a total of $4,757 for their cruise fares, of which Holland America reimbursed $4,228 (88 percent). That left the Horgers with an unreimbursed amount of $529. They asked Holland America to refund this amount as well, but their request was denied.

Horger wrote to Orlando Ashford, the president of Holland America, asking that the cruise line “show a little empathy and compassion to [its] loyal past guests” and refund the remaining 12 percent of his and his wife’s cruise fares. (Executive contact information for Holland America is available on our website.) Ashford did not respond to Horger’s letter. Horger then contacted our advocates for assistance.

Horger admits to misunderstanding the nature of “cancel-for-any-reason” insurance coverage:

Based on our past experiences we assumed that cancel-for-any-reason coverage was primarily offered for those travelers who were not positive they would want to take the trip.  It is offered through third party insurers, but at an additional cost.  We have always declined this type of insurance since we never book a trip we aren’t 100 percent committed to taking and the regular policy covers legitimate medical and other unexpected emergencies at 100 percent.  Therefore, we mistakenly thought that the policy would pay 100 percent if we had a valid, verifiable reason for canceling and 90 percent if we did not have a valid reason or did not want to state it.  I realize I should have researched your policy more carefully.  We are not inexperienced travelers but we made the mistake of making false assumptions.

Nevertheless, Horger characterizes Holland America’s refusal to refund the remaining 12 percent as “extremely unfair”: “I do not understand why Holland America, or any other tour operator, should profit by the misfortune of its customers.  My wife certainly did not choose to get cancer and it seems very unreasonable for her to be charged for it.”

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Despite the Horgers’ not actually being entitled to a refund of the remaining portion of their cruise fares, our advocates reached out to Holland America to see if they could persuade the cruise line to issue the Horgers reimbursement for the fares in the spirit of compassion. But they had no more success than Horger.

However, Horger disputed the remainder of the fares on the credit card he had used to pay for the cruise (we don’t know which company), and learned at that time that he had travel insurance coverage through that credit card. The credit card company’s insurance reimbursed Horger for the balance of his and his wife’s cruise fares.

Should "cancel-for-any-reason" coverage require insurance carriers to issue full reimbursement to claimants?

View Results

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  • Reporter1

    But the terms said “Holland America Line refunds 80-90 percent of eligible amounts paid, regardless of your reason for canceling as long as you cancel more than 24 hours prior to departure (right up to departure with the Platinum Plan). And Holland reimbursed them 88%. Am I missing something? I’m glad his credit card covered the rest, but Holland did what it said it would do in its terms.

  • Bill___A

    The correct answer to the question is that the insurance company should abide by their terms. Whether they refund the full amount or less than that….it is disclosed in their terms.

    I don’t see why this is a “warning to others”? How do you word that? Read the T&C of any contract. It is not a warning, it is a best practice.
    I don’t see how it is “extremely unfair”. What’s extremely unfair in my mind is if there’s a refund according to the agreement and the person claiming wants even more.

    I’m glad they got the refund through their credit card company, but this is a non issue.

    The cruise line did not do any wrong. At all.

  • sirwired

    I don’t get the survey question: Why would a CAFR policy that explicitly states it reimburses 80-90% (in print that is not-at-all fine; it’s in big type right there on the page where they sell the policy) be required to reimburse 100%?

    I believe they simply doesn’t care about the cancellation reason because they are one of the few 1st-party policies that offers cash for the CAFR rider. Most cruise lines offer credit, and then have a supplemental insurance policy to provide cash for insurable cancellations.

    Pluses and minues here… one the plus side, HAL will give you cash for any cancellations (you don’t have to even go through the normal process of medical records), but on the minus side, this won’t reimburse at 100%.

    On another note, I’d be fascinated to know what he told his credit card his dispute reason was. Because “I didn’t read the most basic terms of my policy” is not something a bank is going to go for. And, in any case, this is the sort of dispute that, on the off chance he won, causes travel providers to send debts to collection agencies.

    P.S. The headline is incorrect, HAL DID reimburse, just not at the 100% the OP wanted.

  • Reporter1

    I agree and I think the headline is more clickbait than the real truth.

  • Reporter1

    Your P.S. is very accurate. I made the same statement above before I read your comments. As a writer and editor who writes headlines every day, I understand the need for sensational headlines — however not when the headlines are inaccurate.

  • Jeff W.

    I voted no on the poll based on the fact that the insurance clearly states that you will be reimbursed between 80% – 90% of the fare. They got the high end at 88%.

    Think about all of the other insurance policies one has. Very few truly pay 100%. Home, auto, even health. You pay for the insurance and, yes, they may cover all of the costs of the loss or service — but not when you factor in the deductible or co-pay. So the $529 they did not get seems to be the equivalent of the deductible.

    Why is this any different?

  • Bill___A

    I wish this site would stop with the misleading headlines. If companies are to actually improve customer service and be held accountable, they should not be subjected to misleading headlines and be exposed only for their true misdeeds. I realize that there is value in knowing how to read the rules, do the right things, cover your butt and adjust your expectations to what the T&C’s stipulate, and in that way, it is good that these stories are here. However, it seems that a lot of them are companies doing what they said and being asked to take a hit for more…

  • Rebecca

    What am I missing? The quoted text here directly from the advertisement of this protection plan says “Holland America Line refunds 80-90 percent of eligible amounts paid,” and they received 88%. Its advertised this way, and its not in “fine print”. I’m not understanding what is deceptive about this? They were promised something and they promptly received it.

  • LDVinVA

    I don’t know why this story was even reported on this site. Holland America reimbursed them correctly according to the terms of the policy they purchased.

  • Kristiana Lee

    Exactly. Almost all insurances require you to have “skin in the game” so you’ll really think about your actions. In my world of health care, it keeps people from running to the doctor for every runny nose or cough.

  • Jeff W.

    The other item the really bothered me was the statement was the statement regarding ” “I do not understand why Holland America, or any other tour operator, should profit by the misfortune of its customers…”

    Insurance, by it’s very nature, is an industry that is designed as a service for people who have had some sort of misfortune (or change in life’s status.) It could your health, someone else’s health, loss of a job, birth of a child, divorce, or any other number of reasons why someone would cancel. But I really do not think that given the other expenses related to a cruise — such as airfare — that many people decide to cancel their cruise because of fickleness.

    It seems as if the cancellation process went smooth. They canceled and got the cash back without much hassle.

  • Michael__K

    Small quibble, but the Platinum Protection Plan (which is what it says they bought) should cover exactly 90% (the Standard Plan covers exactly 80%).

    So if $4,757 is the correct fare amount, then it would seem they should get back another $53.30.

    The cost of the protection plan should have been over $250, so the discrepancy doesn’t appear to be a matter of including the protection plan in the fare amount.

  • sirwired

    Yeah, I thought that was weird too. Maybe port-fees/taxes, prepaid shore excursions, and gratuities, etc. make up the “extra” 8% over the 80% plan? (Those would always be fully refundable, and outside any insurance policy.)

  • Michael__K

    I interpreted that they bought the Platinum (90%) Plan from their statement that they misread the documentation and believed that the “90%” refund applied (only) to cancellations for “unverified” reasons.

    But I suppose it’s not impossible that they also misinterpreted which percentage applied for the plan they bought.

  • AAGK

    Agreed. That sentence makes no sense as insurance companies only profit when there is no misfortune.

  • AAGK

    How bizarre that this couple always purchased the more expensive cancel for any reason coverage pre-cancer and went for 90% plan post diagnosis. Shouldn’t it be the reverse?

  • BubbaJoe123

    Particularly since Holland America would have profited MORE if they hadn’t had the misfortune (since it would have gotten to keep 100% of the premium).

    Insurers are hoping you WON’T face a misfortune. They make money when you DON’T die/get in a car accident/get sick/have your house burn down/have your TV break/etc.

  • Lindabator

    The insurance covers 80-90% of their cost — it did just that

  • Lindabator

    read AGAIN – clearly states covers 80-90%, which it did

  • Michael__K

    You please go read the actual terms and conditions which are linked from the article. It’s either exactly 80% or exactly 90% depending on which plan was purchased.

    The Standard Plan (Cancel for Any Reason Waiver) offers the opportunity to receive a refund […] equal to 80% of the prepaid, non-refundable cancellation fees applicable to your cruise vacation.
    [..]
    The Platinum Plan enables you to supplement the waiver provided under the Standard Plan with a 90% cancellation fee reimbursement and extends the cancellation period up until the start of your scheduled travel arrangement made by Holland America Line.

  • greg watson

    Case ? What case?? Fair amount refunded………………..case? closed !

  • Rebecca

    I followed the link, and it isn’t even remotely buried in fine print. It advertises EXACTLY what the OP received. I’m 100% with you here. The cruise line did the right thing. It prominently displayed what it offered, and it delivered it with no hassle in a very short time frame. I would go so far as to say the headline is lying, and the poll question makes zero sense.

  • PsyGuy

    This is so a non-case, case.

  • Chris_In_NC

    So let me get this straight….

    Horger got the coverage he paid for and was entitled to. Yet, he wants more? Who exactly is being unreasonable here?

    It is my opinion that articles and cases like this diminish the credibility of consumer advocacy. A goodwill refund of the difference would have been a gesture of goodwill but should not be an expectation.

  • Don Spilky

    Perhaps HAL should change its wording to “refund less 10% (or 20%) deductible”…

  • Éamon deValera

    These are very hard to opine on without the actual contract, at least the portion that the passenger is disputing.

    That said, it is also important to know what coverages you have through other means. The credit card indemnity provision is very valuable in this instance. Knowing what you already have, and exactly what it covers, may help avoid expensive duplication of coverage.

  • joycexyz

    Stop with the sensational headlines and absurd yes/no choices! They sometimes read like the front page in the Enquirer. And I find this one particularly misleading. The insurance carrier lived up to the terms of the policy–end of story. The Horger’s got what they were entitled to. If they didn’t read the policy, whose fault is that? They were also extremely fortunate that the credit card company covered the rest.

  • Annie M

    There is not a single cancel for any reason policy that pays 100% for a claim if the reason is not one that normal insurance would cover. Almost all other policies will pay 100% back for canceling for a covered reason (such as the wife’s illness) and 80 – 90% if the reason for the cancellation is not a covered reason. This is one of the worst policies I have ever seen because it clearly states it is not insurance – but unless you happen to read into the fine print, you wouldn’t know that and that it doesn’t reimburse for what is normally a covered reason in a true insurance policy.

    However, your question is misleading. The insurance clearly stated it only pays 80 – 90% back so why it should cover 100% when it doesn’t state it makes no sense.

  • Annie M

    When a cruise is canceled, normally the taxes are fully refunded back regardless of whether there is insurance or not. Perhaps the taxes represented the $53.30 and were already reimbursed at cancellation.

  • Michael__K

    If that was refunded then I would expect the customers to notice it and not claim that $529 was unreimbursed.

  • Annie M

    I didn’t say it would be $529, I was saying it might have been your $53 that you came up with.

  • Michael__K

    Per the article the Horger’s claim they paid $4,757 and they claim $529 of that was not reimbursed. So the math doesn’t work.

  • Gary K

    They, the editors and curators of this site, do this (misleading headlines, false binary questions) a lot, and frankly, I don’t understand why someone who does do such good consumer-oriented work would tolerate it.

    Then again, the daily newsletter containing the misleading /click-bait headlines does go out under the founder’s name, so maybe that is telling us something.

    Each story like this pushes me closer to cancelling, but I guess I’m just a glutton for punishment, hoping for useful nuggets of information to make my and my friends’ travel lives better. Sigh!

    So as much as I empathize with the Horgers, one more voice added to the throng, why oh why write a story discussing an 88% refund when the T&C clearly state 80-90%? Good thing you’re not in Small Claims Court; I’d wager that the judge would throw you and your complaint out.

    Cheers to all (especially those who agree). :-)

  • Annie M

    Where did you come up with the $53?

  • Michael__K

    529 – (4757 – (.9 x 4757))

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