Judith Andrews was forced to cancel her upcoming cruise because of a flare-up of a medical condition. She was surprised when the cruise line refused to return her deposit and when she discovered that her trip insurance policy wouldn’t cover this cancellation either.
Andrews’ story is one that we see on a frequent basis. We hope that it serves as a warning to future travelers to make certain that you have read your cancellation policy before you pay the deposit.
And if you wish your trip to be protected by travel insurance, it is imperative to confirm that you actually have purchased a policy.
Unfortunately, for Andrews, she wasn’t clear on either of these details concerning her cruise.
“I booked a cruise with SmarTours and paid a $300 deposit,” she reported to us. “The trip was for August 2017. I subsequently had a recurrence of severe sciatica. My doctor wrote to SmarTours to confirm. My travel companion and I are both in our 80s and cannot afford to lose our deposits.”
When I initially reviewed Andrews’ request for help, I assumed its resolution would be easy. She told me that she had travel insurance, and her doctor had provided her with the necessary documentation.
My assumption was incorrect, as I soon found out.
I asked Andrews if she had already filed a claim with her travel insurance company. This is where the case started heading downhill.
“The travel insurance was included in the final payment, due in May,” she told me, “which I have not yet paid.”
I explained to Andrews that until a traveler pays for a policy, there is no policy. Therefore, the investment in the trip is not protected.
Facing that dead end, I turned to Andrews’ cruise contract with SmarTours. My outlook on this case did not improve there either.
Part of my job as a consumer advocate is to read all of the fine print of the contracts that our consumers present to us — even if they haven’t.
Reading these contracts can be tedious, but it is vital for a traveler to do so if they wish to assure that their investment in their trip is protected.
When I read Andrews’s contract I noted that travel insurance was not included in the price of the cruise. Her contract does note that SmarTours recommends trip insurance and includes a link to TripMate Travel Insurance.
I then took a look at the cancellation policy as it pertains to Andrews’ deposit.
The cancellation terms clearly state: Cancellation charges per person are: Up to 90 days before departure: $300.
I showed Andrews the cancellation policy, and I regretfully informed her that we could not get her money back.
For her part, Andrews was quite gracious and told me, “I am disappointed that I could not receive a refund for my deposit, but am certainly not disappointed with your help in attempting to do so. Christopher Elliott’s column is one of my favorites, and I will continue to read it faithfully.”
She ended her letter by pointing out, “Next time I take a trip anywhere, I will be sure to understand (the contract) and purchase the travel insurance beforehand.”