Do I deserve a refund for a “minor” problem on my river cruise?

Bill and Mary Lou Haas were looking forward to a peaceful European river cruise booked through Vantage Travel during the Christmas holidays. But their expectations were figuratively shattered when they found several unexpected guests would be joining them on their vacation: kids.

“One of the clauses in our cruise contract states that the cruise has no accommodations for passengers under the age of 12,” Haas told me. “However, upon arrival at the Amsterdam airport, we found out that there was an extended family with four children as young as three that were traveling with us.”

Needless to say, even the best-behaved kids can ruin a river cruise. Unlike the larger ocean vessels where young passengers can be sent to an arcade or play area, riverboats are small and intimate. (We left our then 18-month-old toddler with his grandparents when we went on Danube riverboat cruise a few years ago, a decision we didn’t regret when we saw how small ship was and how well noise traveled.)

Haas and several other passengers spoke with a cruise line representative at the airport, reminding him of the no kids rule.

“His only answer was that it was a corporate decision and left us no other option,” he remembers.

You can probably imagine what happened next. The Haases reluctantly boarded the vessel, and for two weeks, their holiday riverboat cruise resembled a playground. Children were running around the ship, laughing and yelling.

Bottom line: the passengers didn’t get the adults-only cruise they’d booked.

When the cruise ended, they complained to Vantage, but the company will do little more than admit that its “no kids” rule had been bent.

Complaints and request for a refund of the cruise portion of the trip have fallen on deaf ears.

They readily admit to violating their end of the contract, saying it was a consideration made for the holiday season.

They refuse a refund and have offered a $1,000 per person credit for my next Vantage cruise.

Haas wonders what would have happened if he and his wife had violated the Vantage contract — say, by bringing a pet. Would the company had denied them passage? Probably.

“The travel credit is a joke since I never plan to travel with Vantage again,” he added.

Is the $1,000 cruise credit enough? Or should I push Advantage to refund Haas’ entire cruise?

I’m conflicted about this. From Haas’ account, it seems clear that Vantage violated its own “no kids” policy, and a $1,000 cruise credit is a nice gesture. But nothing says “I’m sorry” like a partial refund — real money being sent back to an aggrieved customer.

A cruise credit, on the other hand, says, “We’re sorry for the way we made you feel.”

I think Vantage should pay for breaking its own rules. But I’m not sure I can advocate for a full refund, because after all, the Haases cruised for two weeks, enjoying food, service and fabulous European ports of call. Had Vantage denied them those amenities, then I might be more comfortable pushing Vantage to offer the couple a refund.

Then again, Vantage didn’t give the couple the cruise they thought they’d bought. Isn’t a refund an appropriate penalty?

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook - LinkedIn - Google Plus

  • Carver Clark Farrow II

    Entire refund. Absolutely not.  Unless the children were truly Devilspawn.  I’d guess maybe between 20-25 percent refund would be reasonable in my mind.

    The only way an entire refund would be required would be if the presence of children fundamentally frustrated the purpose of the cruise, say it was a swinger’s cruise, then a full refund might be in order.

  • DavidYoung2

    Yeah, there’s nothing like the sound of laughing children to just RUIN a vacation. 

    And I think it’s a stretch to interpret, “No children allowed” into a policy that states, “no accommodations for passengers under the age of 12.”  This to me means ‘bring them at your own risk — we don’t have child-friendly accomodations.’  

    We stayed earlier this month at the Ritz Carlton with our six year old — not child friendly, but they didn’t stop us from checking in.  We understood it would be up to us to provide appropriate food, children’s shampoo, videos, etc. for our child and not expect the Ritz to have the Cartoon Network as a channel choice.  But it never occured to us that they might tell us we can’t stay there.  Likewise other guests shouldn’t expect that they might not hear a child laughing in the room next to them.

    I don’t think the OP is entitled to anything.  If you want an ‘adults only’ vacation, the OP needs to book an ‘adults only’ vacation.  It was their mistake to infer something from a policy that clearly does not state it is ‘adults only.’

  • Carver Clark Farrow II

    I might have agreed with you except that the cruise line admitted that the OP’s interpretation of the rule was correct.  Specifically by the statement that

    ” the company will do little more than admit that its “no kids” rule had been bent.”


    “They readily admit to violating their end of the contract…”

    Also, since other passenger complained as well, just bolsters the OPs position.

  • Fly, Icarus, Fly

    The only way the OP would’ve been entitled to a full refund is if they refused to board, citing Vantage’s flouting of its own rules. I understand why some people would not want to be with any children on a small vessel and if the cruise line uses this as a selling point, then I think it was poor judgment on their part to allow children. Now if it Brad and Angelina came along, I’d be totally fine with that… Kidding aside, $1,000 credit per person is quite generous, as long as it doesn’t come with any conditions. I’d happily endure kids for $1K off my next vacay.

  • leo smithuk

    As per the vacation and travel terms ..Entire refund is not possible but yes 30-40 percent refund would be fine

    rest be talk and mutual between both
    Central Hotel London

  • backprop

     My question exactly – Unless there’s wording that’s more strict, then the policy is simply “the cruise has no accommodations for passengers under the age of 12.”  I mean, what is the WORDING In the contract? 

    And the OP is simply giving hearsay with the “they readily admin to violating their end of the contract.” No company would ever, EVER say that. Perhaps they said they bent their policy, and the OP morphed it into that wording about violating the contract.

    So the passengers may be entitled to something, but I wouldn’t know until seeing what he contract actually is and not how the customer interprets it.

  • E Kidd

    Several years ago I was on a tour which to Spain Portugal and Morrocco- which included travel by bus through the countries.  A family with children made both the bus travel and stays in hotels very unpleasant.  I complained to the tour director who took little action- his tip at the end was greatly affected. However it never occurred to me to ask for a refund or a credit from the tour company.

  • Dave Champagne

    If they paid in credits, they can get credits back. If they pay in cash, they get cash back. It’s all so simple.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I think they deserve some sort of compensation beyond useless vouchers. When people select “adults only” vacations, they expect them to be exactly that–adults only.

    If the cruise line wanted to violate it’s own rules to turn a fast buck with a certain child-toting customer, then it should realize that not everyone would be happy with the decision.

    I say mediate for some of their fare returned to them in cash.

  • Raven_Altosk

    But even “adults only” means little these days. I read on another travel site the story of a few couples who went to Le Blanc in Cancun. It is listed as ADULTS ONLY, 18 PLUS. Imagine their surprise when they arrived to learn that the hotel had violated their own policy to allow an enormous family to check in for Passover.

    They had to bad mouth the property on TripAdvisor to get any sort of compensation.

    So, Adults Only these days pretty much means “Adult Only Until We Find a Huge Party We Are Willing to Take Lots of Money from With Kids.”

  • sirwired

     I’m not entirely sure the company explicitly said “we violated our contract”, but either Chris or the poster may have interpreted it that way.

  • emanon256

    I voted yes, you should mediate.  If the company violates its contract, why should they not have to make up for it?  I agree that they should not get a 100% refund since they still went on the cruise, but they should get some sort of %age back in real money, as they didn’t get the service they paid to receive.

  • john4868

    Since everything is paraphrased, I’m not sure what the cruiseline did or did not admit to. If the contract states “no children under 12,” that would give them more leverage for a complete refund but the current phrasing would lead me to believe that it isn’t an absolute. More like, parents need to understand that there isn’t an arcade, large pool or kids club.

    I think that the $1000 is a nice gesture. I’ll defer judgement on if it should have be in cash until I know what the contact states and how the cruiseline actually responded.

  • lost_in_travel

    Well, now another clarification to ask before making a reservation – does no accomodations mean not allowed or just no special amenities?  I would have expected it to mean no children under 12, at least I have assumed that and not booked anything with that notation when my son was under 12.  It could also mean that the railings were not at the appropriate spacing for little kids and might be a safety hazard to them.  There are many interpretations, but I think a reasonable person would expect no little children on the cruise.  Amazing how the various providers enforce rules against passengers but not against themselves.   A full refund is not in order, but certainly a partial one and in CASH.  If Vantage ever wants the passenger to consider returning, then they should do better with their apology.

  • john4868

    No the OP’s interpretation of what was said was “we violated our contract.” What they actually said wasn’t stated and you should realize that’s a significant difference counselor.

  • lost_in_travel

    I have been to smaller hotels who absolutely did not want kids under 12.  Too many knick knacks and did not want to clean up after sticky fingers.  And the potential of noise – even happy noises can be irritating to people who left their own kids at home to get a few days away.

  • TonyA_says

    This (Vantage) and their “brother” company, GCT, go out of their way to recruit OLDER AMERICANS for customers. To find very young kids in their cruises would indeed be a violation of their own “rules”. It’s not easy for old Americans to simply refuse to board or request to disembark in AMSTERDAM because there were kids on board. They can’t easily amend their air tickets and come back home. IMO Vantage should be made to pay some compensation in CASH since what they did was quite deceitful. Vantage knew the ages of the passengers before they sold the tickets. They could have easily refused to sell or announce to the rest of the ticket holders they could get a refund BEFORE the cruise sailed. But they didn’t, thinking they could get away with a money-grab. Maybe there were not enough oldies to fill the boat.

    On another note, I have noticed that American kids are much more rambunctious than their European or Asian counterparts. Why is that?

  • Julie Sturgeon

    Why in the sam hill would Vantage allow kids to stay after they saw the mistake?  Selling the children a river cruise is their mistake, too. Someone called their rep (whether an agent or the family dialed directly) and said, “I need a cabin for 6. OK, 3 and 3.” and NO ONE asked their ages? You have to supply birth dates as part of the registration process. Perhaps this family was a special friend of someone inside Vantage. At any explanation, they broke their own rule. There are consequences to rule-breaking, and giving away more chances to sell these people something on your cruise isn’t a consequence.

  • John Frenaye

    Chris—where does it show that in the contract?  I looked at this one

    Assuming that is was last Christmas and booked between Feb 11 and October 11.

    I read it a few times and then looked for “age” with a search tool and I missed it.

  • John Frenaye

     Some river cruises might be a mistake. I was on on e in Amsterdam where families were welcome and we biked in Holland during the day and cruised at night. It was amazing.

  • BillCCC

    I did not read anything that indicated that the cruise was anything other than what they expected. Unless they expected the adults not to laugh or speak above a whisper.

    Barring any eveidence that they missed out on something or that some portion of their cruise was unsatisfactory I do not think that they are entitled to anything.

  • TonyA_says

    Some interesting read about Vantage below. Two brothers (Alan and Hank Lewis) own/run GCT/OAT and Vantage, respectively. For a while, they had their customers intermingled in the same river boats. If one company (i.e. Vantage) allowed kids then it could also affect the customer of the other. But looks like a family feud ended the boat sharing relationship. Nevertheless, it is a well known fact in the travel industry that both companies went for the above 50 and senior market. The expectation that one with would be traveling with seniors is assumed (so maybe it’s not even in the contract). Anyway, if you read the stories below, maybe it will provide the reason why Vantage seems to be straying from its core constituents.

  • toniv

    One thing I can’t stand is when airlines and cruise ships violate their own rules.

  • DReinig

    I took a Vantage tour to Tunisia this past October with a group of 13 and while the trip was fantastic because we had a great tour guide, Vantage customer service is non existent. Calls and emails to them are ignored. If you do get through they assure the problem will be resolved and Then nothing was done.

  • John Frenaye

    Here is another question–I assume these are relatively young people–they left their 18 month old behind a few years ago.  So it is reasonable to think they are mid to late 30s.

    Vantage and GCT are indeed known for the senior crowd. Why does a young couple book that tour? There are plenty of other non-senior river cruise options out there as well.

    Something is not sitting well

  • Alan Gore

    I could no more object to children around me than I could object to flowers.

  • Kathleen Proud Keyte

    I’m slightly confised: is the policy “no accommodation for children under 12” or “no kids” these are two very different things. The former indicates to me that they supply no accessories that are necessary for children travelling with them, i.e. cots, highchairs, etc. Clearly in the interest of taking that large family booking they were willing to overlook their rule, but shoudl not have done so at the expense of other passengers comfort and enjoyment.

  • Wrona

    I read that comment about the 18 month old being left at home with grandparents as referring to Chris.  Did I interpret that wrong?

  • Elmo Clarity

    Ahhhh….  But it did come with conditions.  You could only use it on a future cruise with them.  A credit is nothing more than a statement of, “I’m sorry you didn’t like your trip with us last time.  Come spend more money with us so we can do it to you again.”  You can bet it is going to cost them more than the $1000 to take advantage of that credit.

  • nicole j

    I’m childless because I don’t have the patience to deal with kids and I get noise induced migraines.  If I had booked and paid for an adults only cruise with it clearly stated I wouldn’t have to deal with children, I would want what I booked.  If it was a public place, then they would have to deal with it, but they booked and paid for time away from children!

  • John Frenaye

     Yes I believe you are correct. Whoops!

  • Jay Thompson

    Actually, that was Chris who said he left is 18 month old behind on a trip. The OP appears to be an older couple.

  • nicole j

    So you are saying that children only laugh, no screaming and crying, no tantrums, no running around with sticky fingers touching and staining everything they get near?  Some adults don’t want to be by that.  They are not saying children are bad. Just that they don’t want the children in their vacation.  They have a right to that expectation.  They went out of their way to ensure that they booked a child free cruise so you can not say it was entitlement.  I am not comfortable around children because the high pitched screaming sets of migraines for me.  If I book a child free vacation, is it fair that I have to be out for a day at a time just because they decided to break the rules and allow a kid to be aboard and the child acted as kids will and pitched a fit?  I don’t think that is fair.

  • Robert Swirsky

    They should have refused to board the cruise and insisted on a full refund right then and there because they violated the contract. (If they could have got several other couple to say the same thing, they probably would have denied boarding to the family with kids!)

    Once they accepted the modified terms, they have less negotiating power.

  • mencik

    I voted yes, but only for some amount of cash refund vs. cruise credit. Certainly a full refund is hardly in order for the reasons you point out. I would also ask the management if they routinely violate their own age policy, and if so, why don’t they change their policy? Indicate that you plan to publish their answer in your column.

  • Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Yeah, I guess they’d have to decide whether this bad cruise was an anomaly or the norm. My idea of conditions was “cannot be combined with any other offer”. Otherwise, I’d just wait for a sale or a last minute deal and clean up…

  • GradUT

    I can see that the wording provided here, “no accommodations for passengers under the age of 12” is different from “no passengers under the age of 12”, but I think a reasonable person would read the first and conclude the second.  Therefore, I would support a partial credit, but not a full refund.  

    I would also appreciate knowing whether you decide to mediate and what the outcome is.

  • IGoEverywhere

    I am not a Vantage fan! They can twist and turn anything that suits them. They state that there are no accommodations for children: Crystal, Oceania, Azamara, and many river cruises make the same statement. ‘No accommodations” means that there is no childrens programming, not that they may not board. Left out in your information is whether this was a Vantage rip-off vessel or was it a booking on a regular river cruise? If it was a Vantage ship or charted vessel, then sue them for violating their contract from your standpoint. BTW, I would have scared the hell out of little kids bothering me, with just 1 “SHUT-UP”

  • Rose Arnold

    I voted “yes” to mediation but only for a partial refund.  The Hasses were reasonable in assuming children would not be running around on the cuise they booked; the cruise line acknowledged that it “bent” the rules; a voucher for a future cruise is not acceptable under the circumstances as I would not want to travel with that line again; and a full refund is really asking too much since the couple  continued on and apparently received some value for their money.  The Hasses should be compensated for the value lost as a result of the cruise line’s actions.  And, by the way, wanting a child free vacation does not make one a scrooge. 

  • Joe_D_Messina

    If it said “no kids” then there shouldn’t have been kids. That said, if it was just hearing the kids and having them running around a bit, I think they’re making a mountain out of a mole hill.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Any reasonable person would read “no accommodations for children under 12” and figure that meant no kids younger than that. Hard to spin that any other way. And the cruise company told them that the restrictions were loosened due to the holidays. That’s all pretty clear.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    From the letter:

    “They readily admit to violating their end of the contract, saying it was a consideration made for the holiday season.”
    It wasn’t a mistake. They loosened the rules intentionally.

  • jebaker

    Children Laughing??!!!  What about all the other noise, children screaming, having a temper tantrum, crying?

  • Joe_D_Messina

    I’m a huge fan of kids and seriously doubt the kids ruined this trip. 

    That said, these people have the right to what they paid for, which was a no kids cruise. They didn’t appreciate the kids running around, yelling, and generally acting like kids. (And I’m doubtful the adults were yelling and running around, or playing children’s games. Kids and adults don’t act the same.) Chris even makes note of his own experiences on these small boats. You seem to have skipped over large portions of the column.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    I voted “Yes” on your mediating but I don’t believe they are due a full refund – as you stated, they DID take the cruise and enjoy the benefits.

    What I believe you should mediate is their getting that $1,000.  Not in Monopoly money, as the cruise line has offered, but in a refund.  The OP paid them them in cold, hard cash, not in paycheck vouchers, and this is what they should get back.

    To offer them a credit like this is a slap in the face because it really doesn’t cost them anything to do this.  This is them saying, “We really are sorry about the recent misadventures on your cruise and if you spend another $4500 (or whatever the price is, less $1,000) with us, we’ll show you just how sorry we really are.”

    And I felt this should be said – I’m sure there will be a number of people feeling no refund at all simply because they don’t understand why having kids on a cruise would ruin it.

    I love kids and I have four (grown or nearly grown) kids of my own. I love my grandchildren, when I get to see them due to their being overseas with their military father and I enjoy having them around. However, there are times I DON’T enjoy having kids around and if I have the expectation of the quiet of no kids, it’s jarring when it happens. When I was the mother of younger kids, we didn’t take vacations that would ensure our travel partners were nothing but adults sans kids.

    This might be difficult to understand if you are the parent of younger children but… Kids can really ruin a good day and if they have the kind of parents who simply smile and go back to their Long Island Iced Tea while their child rips the toilet from the wall, I just want to commit Seppuku…

  • ExplorationTravMag

    I don’t think saying it’s all about the Benjamins is too far off here, Raven.  We live in a world where money talks and…  Well, you know the rest.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Some people are allergic to flowers. If they signed up for a “no flowers” cruise they would not be happy if the boat ended up looking like a florist’s shop!
    I love kids. But even I need a break at times. Obviously, plenty of others feel the same way or “no kids” wouldn’t be one of the normal criteria for these cruises.  And, the converse would also be true:  If I signed up for a kid-friendly cruise and discovered there were hardly any kids because they changed the rules after I booked, I wouldn’t be happy. Vantage needs to follow their own rules.

  • Karen Donner

    Why do you assume the kids were American?

    This is just my observation, but children in Europe tend to be .. well, European.

    And to the original question, I would think a partial refund would be the fairest option. My parents have taken a Vantage river cruise (if not the same cruise the Haases took, a very similar one) and from looking at their pictures, I can see how poorly behaved children could be a significant blight on the experience. These cruises are marketed to seniors, and children would be impossible to escape in a boat that small.(It’s luxurious, but small.) On their cruise, there were people of all nationalities aboard.

  • TonyA_says

    I suppose Vantage customers are Americans. It’s sold here without external representation and the only language on board is [American] English. Same with GCT/OAT.

  • Carver Clark Farrow II

     Since I do not intend to depose anyone or subpeona any records this counsellor finds that that distinction to be meaningless to the points and issues that are being presented.  The OPs claims are not incredible.  So I choose to address the situation as is rather than spending time and effort hemming, hawing, and hedging.

    Would you have preferred I preface every comment with, “Assuming arguendo the veracity of Plaintiff’s statement….”

    Would that be technically more linguistically accurate, yes.  Would it advance any major point or issue. NO! It is unwieldly and just sounds snobbishly vain.  The question posed presupposes that the cruise ship violated its contract.  If it didn’t there is no issue.  Accordingly, lets begin there.

  • Carver Clark Farrow II

    But did the tour advertise itself and no children?

  • BillCCC

    Nope, I read the whole thing. I am curious as to what portion you think I missed? You seem to have added portions that were not there in the first place.

  • TonyA_says

    Joe, Vantage/GCT/OAT is not your typical cruise line. They are like a membership club where seniors do a lot of REPEAT travel with them. It is reasonable for older people to expect the Vantage cruises will not have any children.

    I took a river cruise with my 3 kids (and large extended family) when they were 9 to 16 years old. I did my research and learned that Vantage and GCT don’t want kids in their boats. We ended up sailing with the Germans on Peter Deilmann (now closed). What a great experience with Europeans on board. Very classy and refined.

    I have also bumped into Vantage and GCT travelers as they did their land tours. I have never observed young kids with them on their chartered tour buses or in their hotels. They look like 100% American oldies.

  • Carver Clark Farrow II

    Not really.  Its a fact specific scenario.  It depends on whether not boarding was a reasonable option under the circumstances.  Could they have reasonably rebooked.

    Suppose all other river cruises were booked making it impossibe to rebook.

  • ClareClare

    You obviously don’t live in Italy, as I do!  Give me American children over Italian (or Spanish) ones ANY DAY…

  • TonyA_says

     They must be playing American video games.

  • Miami510

    I voted “no.”  In this world there isn’t a satisfactory remedy for every hurt.  Sometimes the satisfaction comes in the form of “a pound of flesh;” using a Website like this, telling anyone who will listen, about the Vantage river cruises. 
    If I were to consider a river cruise, I’d absolutely not consider Vantage, and I’d be forewarned to discuss this detail with any agency before. 
    Side note:  The value in a Website such as this, is the impact the public knowledge of malfeasance will have on all travel companies.  In this electronic age, stories like this can “go viral” in a short time and when people in the travel industry find that their poor or meaningless offers are seen by tens of thousands, and not just the complaining party, they will change their ways.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Well, Bill, to quote you: 

    “I did not read anything that indicated that the cruise was anything other than what they expected. Unless they expected the adults not to laugh or speak above a whisper.”

    It’s quite clear they didn’t expect there to be kids on the boat. It further notes the kids were running around and yelling. (If the adults on your river cruises are doing that, I’d be quite surprised.) Chris further noted that from his own experience children can really be an issue on these smaller boats.  What do you think I added to the story? 

  • Sandra Olson

    We have traveled with Vantage 5 times on River Cruises and I would have been very dismayed to have little kids as part of the passenger list. I like kids…well behaved kids, that is….as well as the next one but these expensive cruises are for adults and the company of other adults is what I crave onboard.  There are tons of cruises that are family-friendly, kid-focused etc.  Families with little children should also consider that the kiddos will have a better time where there are facilities geared for their enjoyment.  A small-ship river cruise is NOT the place for anyone under 12 and even then those kids might get bored with some of the things on the agenda.  This was Vantage’s bad, just to sell some cabins.  Poor choice; the couple should get a partial refund…in real money. Vantage has lost a customer over this.

  • Oxenpfeffer

     I agree 100%! I have children myself, mine are younger than yours appear to be but are all old enough to self-care (teens).  When I know I will be heading to a child-friendly place I have one set of expectations; when I am heading to an adults-only place my expectations are completely different.  Sometimes I want to relax and not deal with kids, sometimes I want to relax and watch kids play and goof around. 

    For me, I would have been VERY upset if kids were allowed after I thought they were not, not because I don’t like kids, but because kids change the dynamic and because I modify my behavior around children.  When I am around adults only I can completely relax and be selfishly quiet and read a book or something, it is IMPOSSIBLE to do this with kids around.

    They need attention and require constant monitoring and feedback. As a mom I worry they will pull something over on themselves, fall off something, whatever…and it’s no use telling me their parents should be worrying I KNOW that and I still worry.  Sadly, some parents don’t worry at all.  I even had one mom tell me “He wasn’t bothering anyone.” When I righted the table he’d overturned, took him by the hand and took him back to her.  Her astonishment when I informed her “He was bothering ME.” was priceless.

  • Sandra Olson

    I happened to think of another point: did the entire family, including the little 3 year old, pay full fare for that cruise?  In other words, Vantage sold 6 passages to that family instead of the usual 2?  Hmmm, that might just be the straw that bent the “under 12” policy. That being said, there really IS a difference between “no accommodations for anyone under age 12” and “no bookings for anyone under age 12”.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    Parents like the one you describe drive me right up a wall.  

    I had a similar experience at a restaurant that was supposed to be adults only after a certain hour.  Someone’s “precious darling” around the age of about 5 or 6 walked up to our table to “talk” to us.  I was gobsmacked, to say the least, when I asked, “Where are your parents?” and he replied with, “In the bar.”  He sat down at our table and promptly dug into our appetizers while my husband and I sat there and stared.  I finally took the child to the bar and we found his parents.  They gave me a similar response, with no apology in sight, and I responded with, “No, what you meant to say was – he’s not bothering YOU!”

    I turned on my heel and walked out, their mouths still agape.  The manager comped us our appetizers and brought us fresh one now that a grubby little hand had dived into ours with all their five-year-old germs (which sounds harsh, I know, but have you ever SEEN a 5 year old wash their hands?  Nope, neither have I)

    So much for our 15th anniversary…

  • ExplorationTravMag

    Wish I could like this one a few more times…  I can handle laughter in all forms.  It’s the screaming when these precious darlings don’t get that fourth serving of ice cream that gets to me.

  • TonyA_says

    The OP had a reasonable expectation that the cruise would be seniors only since Vantage markets their products to predominantly seniors here in America.

  • mszabo

    If they cruise line broke their contract, then the only valid recourse seems to be a 100% refund.  Starting with an offer of cruise credit seems very insulting.  

  • Lindabator

    But not so simple – they sailed for 2 weeks, ate for 2 weeks, didn’t refuse to board — the problem here is expecting a full refund – too much to ask for 4 kids on board.  (They should have kept making a stink onboard – they would have gotten farther than with the transfer people at the airport!)

  • JPainis

    OP needs to unclench his sphincter a little. I can understand that kids can be annoying and such, but demanding a full refund is essentially saying that they did not get anything out of the cruise, which is hard to believe. A partial refund (not credit) might be appropriate, but anything more is greedy.

  • TonyA_says

    Sandra, I suspect the kids were also with their grandparents. I have seen multi-generational travel in river cruises because they are really easy to take. With approximately 150-175 passengers only, it provides an excellent opportunity for family bonding. Personally, I have no problems with kids as long as they are WELL BEHAVED. There are a lot of land tours planned on a river cruise so kids do not have to get bored. However, IMO, I think the Rhine/Main/Danube can be a bit boring compared to the Rhone river cruise. Frankly I find it difficult to believe kids will run on the narrow corridors that connect the rooms. If they run at all, it would be on the upper deck where people are sunbathing. I have seen board games provided in small ships. And some have big chess boards on the floor of the sun deck. The OP must have encountered kids from hell.

  • Lindabator

    But the approached and complained to the transfer reps at the airport – they should have complained at the pier upon checkin, with  the ship’s purser, the hotel manager, etc.  It sounds like they only complained at the airport, and then the cruise line probably felt they used the kids as an excuse for a money grab, when in fact that’s not the case.  But sailing for 2 weeks without a peep to personnel on board isn’t going to help.  AT ALL!

  • Erica Richardson

    When I was a child, probably 10~ish, I went on a river cruise down the Nile with my family. I had two younger sisters as well… we were the only children on board.

    My parents got several looks, particularly from one gentleman who even voiced his complaint that there were children on “his” cruise. Unlike the one in the OP’s post, this was not a “no children allowed” cruise.

    Fortunately, my parents would have *never* taken us had we been the type of children who didn’t behave. The same man who complained about us in the beginning sought out my mother and congratulated her.

    I wish more parents were like that.

  • IrishStubborn

    If the company says “no accommodations for children under 12” , how can they then justify selling tickets to children under 12??  I read “accommodations” to mean rooms or berths, not amenities or entertainment.  While I do not think a full refund is in order (they did take the entire cruise”, I think the $1,000 voucher should be in cash, not “funny money” that they will never use.

  • TonyA_says

     Carver, legal question here. Can a ship plying European Rivers (meaning they have to be registered in the EU?) legally prohibit transport to minors IF THEY ARE ACCOMPANIED by their parents or adults?  I’ve gotta believe they can’t bar a paying 3 year old if accompanied by a parent in the EU.

  • TonyA_says

    I just wonder if the parents of these kids felt responsible for their kids running around, laughing and yelling on the small ship? Maybe we need to start penalizing the adults. Make them responsible for destroying other people’s vacations.

    On the other hand, I believe there are other cultures where kids are accepted anywhere, anytime. In Asia, it’s common for the grandparents take care of the kids while their parents work. I doubt whether seniors there would complain of kids running around and laughing.

    Maybe Vantage has changed its target market. River cruising is becoming more and more popular. Viking has commissioned more ships (despite the economy in Europe and the USA). No doubt you will see more 3 generations traveling together in those river boats.

  • bodega3

    I gave up reading the links and went to the website and never found any wording that said, These cruises DO NOT allow children.  So it appears to me that the OP and a few others assumed no children allowed but if there is someplace that says no accommoations for children, that isn’t the same as NO CHILDREN ALLOWED.  Having sold travel for enough years that if no means no, it is very clearly stated.  

  • TonyA_says

    Do you think they were [maybe] scared of the parents? I  have noticed that some old people rarely complain face to face. Usually there is an orientation meeting right after you board so they could have done it at that time. Maybe they bit their tongue and stayed silent thinking it would help make the trip better. Maybe they thought it was useless to complain because the kids already were on board and traveled all the way from the USA. So they saved their complaint for later. But now that more old folks know that VANTAGE does this, then maybe they will lose their customers to GCT.

  • dsliesse

    I didn’t vote, since (a) I don’t know the exact wording of the contract, and (b) I don’t know the laws of Europe.  I will say the following (mostly repeats):

    (1)  A contract means exactly what it says.  Unfortunately, the wording we were shown is ambiguous (“no accommodations” can mean we don’t do anything special, no accommodations available, no accommodations allowed, etc.).

    (2)  A voucher is NEVER proper restitution.  Is Vantage going to guarantee that there won’t be kids on the next trip?

    (3)  A full refund is completely out of order in this case.  Whether or not even a partial refund should be considered depends on the specifics that we don’t know.  These cruises are marketed to seniors, but do they absolutely guarantee no children?

    (4)  I’ve run across far too many so-called adults that would be just as obnoxious.  Is the cruise company supposed to screen them, too?

    Bottom line: not enough here to go on, but at most they should get a partial refund IN NEGOTIABLE FORM, not vouchers.

  • Sadie_Cee

    Where is the “no kids rule” stipulated?  Also, did Vantage admit in writing that they had violated the contract?   
    The need for clarification of the meaning of the words quoted from the contract by the OP is my reason for voting in favor of mediation.  
    How should the statement by Vantage that “the cruise has no accommodations for passengers under the age of 12” be interpreted?  Does it mean that the cruise is “adults-only” and “child-free” or is it merely a caution to parents of young children to be aware that there are no child-focused amenities on board and that they will have to provide their own?  If this is the statement that the OP is relying on, IMO it is not the same as saying “no kids allowed.”
    If the parties agree that the statement means that the cruise is “adults-only” and “child-free,” then Vantage breached the contract.  As a result, the OP is entitled to a partial refund of the price paid.  If it is a warning to parents, then there was no breach and the OP is not entitled to any refund.  In hindsight, the OP should have asserted their desire for a child-free cruise and should not have booked this cruise if no assurance was given. 
    An extensive search of this company turned up some very useful and interesting information but the point in question was not addressed specifically.   It would be enlightening if Chris could obtain an explanation from Vantage directly and if he receives the same information that they “broke the contract” a cash refund of say,  40%-50% could be negotiated on behalf of the OP.

  • lorcha

    Did the contract state that Vantage was going to provide an adults-only cruise? If not, then they did not violate their contract with Haas. They permitted another family to violate that family’s contract with Vantage. 

    If the cruise wasn’t represented as adults-only, and Haas only relied on the “passenger can’t bring any kids” clause in the contract, then I can’t really support Vantage giving any money to Haas. The “funny money” cruise credit is sounding appropriate to me.

  • Sadie_Cee

    Indeed…some parents fail to realize that they are responsible for the social education of their children.  Consequently, such training never begins and from what I am seeing, it is becoming generational. For people who were reared in a “children should be seen and not heard” era, we cannot help but be astounded at the poor manners and disrespectful  behavior displayed by children all aided and abetted by their parents.  

    Thank goodness for the parents who model and instruct their children in proper behavior.  I have traveled where children have been among the passengers and they have been as good as gold.  I salute their parents! 

  • Linda Loudermilk Tomberlin

    If I paid to have a child-free cruise, I expect a child-free cruise.  I don’t like children.  I don’t like to have vacations with them, but I understand that most of the time, there’s nothing you can do but grin and bear it.  I’m no ogre. 

    However if I was promised a child-free cruise, you’re darn tootin’ I’d be angry and want at least a partial refund of my CASH, not a cruise credit.  

  • random_observation_source

    Did the OPs really spend two weeks grousing about 4 kids on board instead of enjoying their cruise?  Did they visit majestic fjords and say to themselves “Well I could have really enjoyed this stunning landscape, except for those pesky kids on this ship”?  Unless, the OPs became involuntary babysitters or the kids kept them up at night (both issues which should be addressed to the captain, not an ombudsman after the trip), the OPs misery should be largely considered self-inflicted, regardless of their attitude towards kids (or the attitude of the many of the posters here, quite frankly).

    We can only guess at why the children were aboard – while everyone seems to be assuming that the children with the family ignored the fine print (which doesn’t say “Adults Only”, it only says “no accomodations”, which I interpret to mean cribs and baby items; 3-12 year olds can sleep in adult beds).  Equally likely is that a TA booked the cruise for the family without checking the targeted age demographic and they are just as much “victims” as the OPs – except they chose to make the best of a cruise surrounded by “old farts” :)  And in that case, what would the cruise line do – bar boarding, resulting in another case of the week here?

    Quite frankly, if 4 kids out of 175 passengers really ruins your vacation and you don’t have the guts to address the issue during the vacation, then you’re most likely someone who whines and is never satisfied with anything in the first place.

    I normally don’t agree with the funny money refunds, but this is one of those situations that the cruise line acted appropriately.  The OPs choose to ruin their own vacation, not the kids.  I voted “no”.

  • lvswhippets

    None of my cruises have ever been upended by kids, but an Amtrak ride was-in 1st class. Kids from toddler to preteen ran up & down the aisles by our cabin shouting etc. The porter did nothing. I complained to Amtrak when I got home & received full refund  of cabin price. But river cruise boats are small & compact so as much as I love children I too would be an unhappy camper if there indeed was a “no children” clause in contract.

  • scapel

    I’m not sure what they should be offered. I think it depends on how disturbed they felt with the children being around. I wouldn’t think it would be very much, but the line did break their own contract and the purchasers of the cruise are do something because of the break in the contract. I would think at least a 50% of the cruise lines profit on each. What about the other cruisers?

  • bodega3

    It hasn’t been proved that this cruise initially stated it was a child free cruise.  This is an important fact that isn’t being shown in print.  Of all the child free tours and resorts that I know of, they are very, very specific in this and state it clearly.

  • bodega3

    Show where it states that their cruises are for adults only.  I can’t find it on their website, can you?

  • Extramail

    The cruise line should have to refund every single passengers fare from that trip so that it would act as a deterrent to the cruise line ever violating that clause again AND, had the passenger attempted to board with, say, a pet, that passenger would have been denied boarding without any compensation. Therefore, the penalty that would have been applied to a passenger should also be applied to the cruise line.

  • technomage1

    I do believe that that a partial refund is in order here.  If I booked a cruise with a no child rule (and no accommodations for children under 12 is pretty clear on that) then I would be upset if I didn’t get that.  It would be the same as if I booked a singles cruise and found it full of married couples, etc, etc.  As hard as it is for some parents to understand, the sound of their child laughing or playing may disturb other people in tight quarters.  But the bottom line here is that they didn’t get the experience that they were promised and paid for.

  • donalouisa

    An interesting situation. I emailed Vantage and asked about bringing children on board and here’s their response:

    “Hello, Thank
    you for your email. We do have age restrictions; however, we do reserve
    the right to allow children under 12 on our trips. However, our
    itineraries are not designed for younger children. For our age
    guidelines see blow.

    River Cruise – Minimum age 12, When traveling with an adultEscorted Land – Minimum 15, When traveling with an adultVantage Charter Vessels – Minimum 15 When traveling with an adultOcean Cruise – Holland America require at least one pax to be 21 years old in the cabin.”

  • Allan Jayne

    Why did the crew not MANAGE the children and the use of the ship facilities?

  • Citrix Solutions Lab

    I’m wondering if this is in direct response to the incident above.  Maybe they’ve “adjusted their policies” based on this?

  • Kirsten Tynan

    What would the penalty have been for the couple had they cancelled (i.e. broken their end of the contract)? That would be an appropriate amount to be refunded by the company for its part in breaking the contract. No doubt the company wouldn’t accept payment by way of baked cookies, lawn-mowing or other unwanted services from the customer. They collect cold, hard cash when the contract is broken, and so should the customer.

  • Kirsten Tynan

    Yeah, there’s nothing like the sound of laughing children to just RUIN a vacation.

    Not everyone is as thrilled with noisy, obnoxious little brats as their parents are. That’s why they frequent adults-only venues.

  • Kirsten Tynan

    Why should they refuse to board? They were adults. They had a contract. And if they had refused to board, they’d have been out all their money with nothing to show for it.

  • dragonmouse

    I don’t know if they live in the area and would be capable of using the voucher…that’s what I find a little disturbing.  “I” would have like to see them recieve at least a “partial” refund…BUT…Here’s my take…”No accomodations for children under 12″ means they don’t have “Happy Meals”, they don’t have “baby sitting”, they don’t have coloring books…etc. ” No one under 18 admitted” (adults only)…Or no one under “12” admitted (minors over a certian age allowed). These are two very DIFFERENTLY interpreted statements.   Personally I really don’t think Vantage owes them ANYTHING because they didn’t specify that children were “NOT” allowed only that accomodations would not be provided.  NOW the “sticky” part is “if and when” VANTAGE “admitted” that they clearly violated their own policy.  If there is a written statement that “they” violated their policy then Bing-bada-boom…they should refund CASH not a voucher (well at least partial…they DID after all enjoy the trip..except for…).  If it was more of an apology to the customer because their policy was not clearly defined to them…then a voucher is generous.

  • lorenzo

    oh you boring old farts. Get over it. Some youth would do you good in your boring, selfish lives. You should all be ashamed to call yourselves grandparents. Get a life

  • lorenzo

    come on people….you cannot legally say no to kids. Dont you find your lives boring and selfish without them. Please try and live and laugh abit and not take yourselves so seriously