After a near-death experience, should Viking refund his cruise?

MoneyBoat

Last summer, while Joan Rohrer was visiting her daughter in Albany, Ore., her husband fell on the curb and struck his forehead.

“He suffered a concussion, and subsequently had two brain bleed surgeries,” says Rohrer. “We almost lost him three times.”

The Rohrers had planned a 60th anniversary river cruise on Viking. Unfortunately, the Rohrers didn’t have insurance.

“We were charged a 35 percent cancellation fee because we did not submit our refund request in the required time due to the very serious accident and brain surgeries my husband had,” she says. “Seven months later, he is still in rehabilitation and probably will never travel again, especially not on an airplane out of the country.”

Rohrers thinks it’s unfair that Viking should keep the couple’s 35 percent. They’ve contacted us numerous times to see if we can help them recover their money.

“We could definitely use the almost $3,000,” she says. “I am leaving this in your capable hands.”

I agree with her. It’s not right for a company to keep your money after this kind of tragic event.

Viking Cruise’s terms and conditions are crystal clear about what she’s entitled to: 35 percent.

Cancellation received
Following charges will apply: (Broken out by days before departure)
121 days or more is $100 per person
120-90 days is 15% of full fare
89-60 days is 35% of full fare
59-30 days is 50% of full fare
29-0 days is 100% of full fare
Full Fare is defined as the full cost of any cruise, land or air component purchased from Viking.

Of course, Viking will throw the contract in her face when she asks for a full refund. After all, didn’t she agree to the terms? Didn’t she have the option of purchasing insurance?

Well, yes — and no.

She agreed to the terms because she had no choice. In legal terms, that’s referred to an adhesion contract. You can’t negotiate it. It applies to you but not necessarily to the company. And yes, it can be profoundly unfair.

The worst part about it? Rohrer probably didn’t even know what she was agreeing to when she signed up for the cruise. Like so many other passengers, she assumed the company would just do the right thing if disaster struck. That would have been an incorrect assumption.

But what about insurance? It’s expensive, and the Rohrers purchased the trip through Costco, which may or may not have advised them of the importance of insurance. And even if they’d bought it, who’s to say some guy in the claims department wouldn’t find a “pre-existing” medical condition that caused Rohrer to trip, allowing the company to deny the claim?

I hate the way the deck is stacked against consumers. I mean, here’s a devoted wife trying to care for a husband who will never travel again, and certainly will never leave the country, and she’s just trying to pay some medical bills. The deck was stacked against the Rohrers from the beginning.

That’s not right.

Now, some of you are thinking: She didn’t read the fine print; she should have bought the insurance. But come on. The Rohrers acted in good faith and they expected Viking to act in good faith. Why didn’t it?

I can guess what Viking will tell me when I ask about this case. They’ll say Rohrer got what she deserved. Maybe she did.

I’m not asking her to get what she deserves. I’m asking Viking to do the right thing. Is that asking too much?

Should I take Joan Rohrer's case?

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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 chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on our help forum.

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  • Zarkov505

    Y’know, as I read all these cruise company horror stories, I have to wonder: Are ANY of the cruise lines run by human beings with hearts, who actually do the right thing without having to be named and shamed by experts?

  • Kerr

    If 35% = ~$3K, the total trip cost is in the $8,300-$8,600 range. When you are spending that much, how can you not buy insurance? Considering they are going to be celebrating a 60th anniversary, they are at least in their 80’s so they should be taking precautions.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Tragic event. But it had absolutely nothing to do with the cruise line.

    It’d be incredibly nice if the cruise line gave all the money back. But it’s not WRONG if they don’t. And you could just as easily make the argument the RIGHT thing to do would be for the OP to follow the rules they agreed to at the time of purchase.

  • Alan Gore

    “But it’s not WRONG if they don’t.”

    Yes, in the same sense that it was totally legal for Martin Shkreli to price-gouge on a generic medication (His indictment was for an earlier, unrelated case). Our laws are written for us by the corporations they regulate. Congress just rubber-stamps the prearranged conclusion.

  • Jeff W.

    I agree.

    Having said that, then the article would change and describe how they didn’t buy the right insurance or that the curb was a pre-existing condition. ;-)

  • Regina Litman

    Of course I voted Yes, and of course it’s another Yes Of Course vote from me.

  • Patrica

    My heart said “Of course , it’s only right and just “. My legal side said: “Nope. Can’t. Line is drawn in B & W. ” I couldn’t vote. But my heart says “He Chris, give it a try. They deserve a helping hand, Viking could be kinder…er, kind.

  • jmj

    apples and oranges.

  • taxed2themax

    I liked the first paragraph, first line.. but I think it’s not the correct FULL sentence…. It was written as “She agreed to the terms because she had no choice.”… but I think the more correct sentence would be “She agreed to the terms because she had no choice **if she chose to do business with this company.*” I think it’s a touch misleading to say you have no choice.. You have no choice IF you chose to business with this company… true… .. BUT… you DO have the choice to use them or not – and there ARE other companies who provide essentially the same service, so there is no single-source provider paradigm like a local utility may be.
    I am as a person empathetic to their plight.. however, I also think there is some notion of fairly and consistently applying policies across the entire customer base. In that end, I can’t see that Viking is, in any way, shape of form, in the wrong here.. and I don’t think that showing or referring to the contract is “throwing it” in anyone’s face.

  • CAROLINE TRUDE-REDE

    After reading all of these, I wonder why people continue to buy $8000 vacations and not spend a couple hundred to insure it and then get mad at the cruise line when stuff happens. The right thing is for the couple to have bought the insurance, without it – the penalty is completely fair.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    No, in the same sense if I agree to buy something from you, sign the deal but then for some reason renege on it, you are still legally supposed to be paid. You have a signed deal and the entire point of that is to ensure you get paid. If matters change on my end that isn’t your problem.

  • Michael__K

    If they were celebrating their 60th anniversary, you can bet that no insurer would offer them $8,000 in cancellation coverage for a “a couple hundred.” Try “a couple thousand.”

  • Michael__K

    Because at that age, the insurance can cost about 20% of the trip. And that STILL doesn’t comprehensively protect the $8,500 or so trip cost. You can still lose ALL OF IT for an infinite array of Non-Covered Reasons.

  • Annie M

    She should have used a real travel agency with a real travel agent that would have told her to purchase travel insurance. Another case of ignoring travel insurance when booking and then finding out what it is meant to cover. That’s besides the fact that Viking is the absolute worst river cruise line as far as going out of their way for clients.

    You want to save a few bucks at Costco – this is what happens. You save money but don’t get proper advice.

  • Annie M

    It is more why are people so cheap they think travel insurance doesn’t apply to them? If these people here bought insurance, Elliott would have about 70% less stories here.

  • Annie M

    20% is better than getting zero back because they didn’t buy it.

  • flutiefan

    yet another “adhesion contract” post.
    people DO have choices.

  • flutiefan

    THANK YOU.

  • pmcw

    I rent a vacation condo, and I’m a traveler, so I have experience on both sides of this ledger. Providers of accommodations and transportation are in a high fixed / low variable cost business. Therefore, occupancy matters a lot. However, that is never an excuse for being cold-hearted.
    My policy for my vacation rental is if the person cancels for any reason with more than a 90-day notice, the deposit less $100 is fully refundable. I don’t keep the $100 – that is the charge levied by the HOA that manages my property. I think in some cases, they have also waived the $100 charge, but that is not something I’ve tracked, so I can’t comment further.
    Our policy is to collect 50% of the total rent, minus the $300 booking deposit, 90-days before the scheduled arrival, and the balance, plus a $300 security deposit, 30-days before the scheduled arrival. The written policy is that a traveler that cancels within 90-days of the scheduled arrival loses all monies paid.
    However, my policy is if I can find a new guest, we refund all but the $100 transaction fee (or whatever you want to call it), less any discounts we have to give a new guest to book the time. I don’t know of any situations when we were unable to re-book at full price, so in the rare cases when we’ve had cancellations, we have provided full refunds (note $100 caveat above).
    My policy is also to talk to all potential guests before accepting a reservation. I want to insure my condo will meet their expectations, and that there is “good chemistry.” The condo is a big investment for me, and since it is booked solid, I want to take what precautions I can to insure I have respectful guests. If a guest caused damage that led to the need for a repair, the inconvenience would ripple to the next guest.
    I also go through the billing schedule and cancellation policy before accepting a reservation. I present it as an unwavering policy, and suggest that if the risk of losing money would be a substantial burden that the guest buy travel insurance. If they have an interest, I provide the names of two companies that have provided good service (prequalified by the condo HOA).
    If during the conversation with the guest I learn that there is a situation that makes cancellation a bigger than usual risk (they are older, they care for older parents, they are leaving kids behind, etc.), I encourage them to consider travel insurance. I don’t want to be put in a position where I deny a refund for a good reason or be put in a situation where I lose a week of occupancy due to a short-notice cancellation.
    Personally, I buy travel insurance when I travel beyond North America, when our trip involves a complex an unwavering itinerary or when the trip is expensive. With that in mind, I think the Rohrer’s should have purchased travel insurance, and I don’t think there are any valid excuses for not buying the insurance. However, given the length of the notice, I think the 35% charge, even though it is within the terms of the agreement, is egregious.

  • Michael__K

    On the other hand, losing 65% is better than losing 120+%.

  • Michael__K

    With other types of insurance (home, health, life, auto) it is possible to purchase comprehensive protection that fully protects the asset or investment (aside from narrow, understandable exclusions, e.g. arson, suicide). With travel insurance this is not available.

    If everyone purchased travel insurance, travelers would pay more without getting more (insurance is a for-profit business after all). And we’d be reading lots more stories about insurance claim disputes and about passengers who still lost everything, for non-covered reasons, in spite of purchasing insurance.

    And this would benefit the travel companies with bottom-feeder policies (e.g. Spirit, Allegiant) and accelerate the race to the bottom. Since the pricetag of a travel insurance policy has no relation to the actual cancellation policies imposed by the supplier.

  • ChelseaGirl

    Sorry, I’m voting no. The cases of people who don’t buy insurance–even on very expensive trips–and then expect to be compensated are just too numerous. I’ve said this before, but what is the point of buying it if you know that you’ll be compensated no matter what, if you complain enough? It isn’t fair to the people who do buy it, and isn’t fair to the company (yes, I actually said that), as there is absolutely no point in having policies if you are routinely (and it has indeed become a routine) going to break them. Of course there are special circumstances, but when it’s a failure to buy insurance, it shouldn’t apply. Personal responsibility, folks. It has nothing to do with her husband’s injury, which is certainly sad. I suggest no more cases that involve failure to buy insurance.

  • DReid

    Are you ready to pay significantly more for your cruise or hotel room? That’s what would happen if these companies always “had a heart” and refunded the thousands of requests they get all the time. Bad things happen and that’s why insurance should have been purchased, especially at their ages. Whether it’s a cruise or a hotel room, the item sold is a perishable commodity. That means once that cruise ship has sailed or the lost hotel room doesn’t get filled for that night, there’s no recooping that money for the company. Those lost revenues will always be laid back at the feet of us, the traveling public.

    I’m sorry if it sounds cold and cruel. Owning a business in the travel industry I see first hand how often these requests happen. It’s astounding. If I “had a heart” on every one of them, I wouldn’t be able to make a living.

  • Rebecca

    It’s wrong because it makes suckers out of the rest of us that DO purchase insurance.

    Thank goodness her husband didn’t have this accident overseas. They would be looking at a much larger bill. I know someone that was sent via medivac from Mexico to the US, and the cost would have been tens of thousands if she didn’t have insurance. In reality, she would probably have died in Mexico. I can’t even fathom how much it would eventually cost to get him home from Europe.

  • Jeff W.

    It got me thinking as to whether or not the amount was fair? Would Viking be able to resell the room and be made whole? Viking should not lose money because of an unfortunate accident of the Rohrer’s.

    Cruise prices tend to fall closer to the sail date, and Viking may not have been able to resell the room at the original purchase price, if at all. Which is exactly the opposite of airfares, which rise closer to the departure date. Go figure.

  • Mark

    If the couple got 65% of their money back, that’s $5200. If trip insurance (that they didn’t buy) would have cost $2000, that means they are really only out $1200. I’d tell them to be glad it wasn’t a worse financial loss.

    At the same time, it can’t hurt to ask Viking if they were able to re-sell the cabin, and if they might consider a more generous refund in light of the tragic circumstances.

    But I don’t see why Viking is the bad guy here if they say “sorry, we just can’t go against the terms of our contract.” People who don’t buy the insurance (myself included, frequently) are taking on risks, we feel it’s worth it, but if we lose the bet we should expect to pay the price.

  • jennj99738

    Then those are the chances you take. I travel with my mother once a year. She is, ahem, a woman of a certain age. I always buy insurance. I have used it only once for a delayed flight and lost hotel room. I never consider that I lose the value of the insurance because I didn’t have to use it. I’m thankful I had the insurance and didn’t have to use it.

    Also, I have never paid 20% of the cost of a trip. Recently we paid $6,000 for a cruise vacation including the cost of air. The premium for a top of the line package with a preexisting condition waiver was $413.00. It included med evac, health insurance in-country, etc. I made sure it did because Mom has heart problems.

  • Stuart Falk

    For the record, Costco does indeed sell trip insurance. Further there are several trip insurance policies (I buy mine through USAA’s affiliate agreement with Ravel Insured) that include preexisting conditions, though one usually needs to purchase them within 90 days of making the initial deposit.

  • Michael__K

    You take your chances even WITH cancellation insurance because there is no insurance which comprehensively protects your deposits.

    I agree that everyone should have MedEvac coverage; IMO that should be mandatory. And if you want robust MedEvac coverage with a cap of at least $250K+, for an 80+ traveler, I’m very curious which “top of the line package” offers the coverage you describe for the price you quote.

  • jennj99738

    My mother is 74. We always use Squaremouth to price insurance. The policy I chose had MedEvac coverage of $1,000,000. The medical had a $100,000 cap only because she has generous health insurance from her prior state employer. $0 deductible. Even covered terrorism, which is not covered by other insurers. The policy was through RoamRight. A+ rated. I make sure of this and always read reviews on Squaremouth and elsewhere of people who have made claims.

    I always make sure I know what the policy covers and what it doesn’t. Travel insurance doesn’t cover everything but I believe it would have covered this letter writer’s experience. You and I can guess about this because we don’t have the certificate of coverage from the policy she did not purchase.

  • Michael__K

    I think you will find that the price of your policy goes up substantially (i.e. 50%) when your mother reaches 80.

    This letter writer MIGHT have been covered by insurance. We don’t know if this was their first and only booking for the travel period, or if the insurer would find find any grounds that either of them may not have been medically fit to travel at the time payment was received, or if they could find $2.50 in non-refundable costs that were uninsured (see here and here).

  • Éamon deValera

    You can negotiate. They offer X you find it unacceptable and thus don’t accept. I have no idea why there is this great hate with contracts of adhesion we enter into them every day. Dry cleaners- contract of adhesion, valet parking, dog grooming, package delivery you name it we enter into those types of contracts regularly – most probably without even knowing, do you read the back of the valet claim check or dry cleaning drop off receipt? Every day millions of them are fulfilled without a problem.

    Viking is doing the right thing, unfortunate as it may be. If they refunded everyone who had an accident but who didn’t have insurance they would have to raise the rates for all of us.

    Hypotheticals involving some guy in the claims department finding a pre-existing condition don’t help. You can’t just make stuff up. Falling and getting a bleed can’t possibly be a pre-existing condition. Insurance is closely regulated by the states and if you have a problem you can file a complaint with your state’s insurance regulator (see http://naic.org/state_web_map.htm – the National Association of Insurance Commissioners for your state’s regulator).

    You’re not being fair to the men and women who work for insurance companies. They don’t go to work with the intent to deny valid claims, they simply have to follow the insurance policy as it is written. You always get a copy of your policy, if you can’t understand it ask your licensed agent- all insurance agents are fingerprinted, background checked and licensed by the state.

    You don’t have to buy travel insurance from the cruise line, there are any number of insurance companies that write travel insurance and your homeowners agent can most probably help you get it if you ask.

    A number of the underwriters are travel insurance companies, I’m surprised they stick around.

    It is very unfortunate what happened to the consumer’s husband, but if their house burned down should the builder refund their money? At some point we have to be responsible for our own decisions.

  • Éamon deValera

    That is simply not true. I checked squaremouth.com (an underwriter of this site) with a hypothetical 10 day river cruise with at least some time in Germany sailing next month for two passengers 80 years old. The prices ranged from $560 to 1141. Far less than the 3K they are out.

    $560 is much closer to ‘a couple hundred’ than ‘a couple thousand.’

  • Éamon deValera

    Again, that is simply not true. More coverage costs more money, but the insurance is available. As an example theft of jewelry from your home is limited (most policies use the same ISO form and thus are the same no matter which insurance company) to $1500. Non-theft, for example if it was melted in a fire is the same as any other personal property. If you want to insure your $50000 ring for the full value you have to schedule it and pay an extra premium (generally about forty cents per $100).

    Insurance is a for profit business, as is a consumer web site such as this. There is nothing wrong with for profit businesses, that is how we all live and how our retirements if we’ve chosen to save for retirement, are funded. Nobody stashes their retirement fund with the United Way.

    The idea that if more people bought insurance that there would be more claim disputes is simply bizarre. If more people wore hats we would hear more complaints about hats.

    Travel insurance has a purpose. You can transfer your risk to someone else for a small payment. If you don’t want to and you wish to retain that risk that is your choice. You always get the policy before you pay, or if it is furnished after you pay there is a 30 day period before coverage starts to request a refund. (Obviously if you buy it today and travel tomorrow you have to cancel it before it goes into force.)

  • Éamon deValera

    What does life insurance cost if you’re 80? The greater the risk of loss, the greater the cost of insurance. Eighteen year olds get great life insurance rates, but their car insurance rates are astronomical.

    Your argument is you should not get travel insurance because there may be some incident for which you are not covered is strange to me. You get homeowners insurance and you’re not covered for earthquakes or floods, or wars, or terrorism, or nuclear accidents, or your car. Yet most people still buy homeowners insurance.

  • Michael__K

    Squaremouth Search criteria:
    Age: 85
    Trip Cost: $8,000

    Require:
    + Pre-existing condition waiver
    + $250+K MedEvac
    + Emergency Medical

    Search Results:
    26 policies ranging from $784 to $3,514
    Top Seller is $1,180
    Median policy is $1,243

    Insurers that have been recommended/promoted by TA’s commenting on this site (TravelGuard and Travelex) offer policies ranging from $1,284 to $3,530.

  • Éamon deValera

    So $784 is much less than several thousand. Insurance is regulated and the insurance companies are bonded. The difference between the same coverage between different companies is negligible.

  • Michael__K

    If you choose the cheapest policy and get your claim unfairly denied and come to Chris for help — don’t expect any sympathy from the second-guessing scolds commenting here who will accuse you of being cheap and explain that you got what you paid for (we’ve seen this act before).

  • Michael__K

    “You can transfer your risk to someone else for a small payment.”

    If only you could truly transfer the full risk of losses not of your own doing. You can’t.

    You CAN truly transfer the risk of loss of your home (or even your jewelry — which wasn’t even one of my examples but you admit is possible as well)

  • Michael__K

    Non-sequitor. Who gets life insurance at 80-years old? And who scolds an 80-year old for not buying life insurance?

    You absolutely CAN get insurance for earthquakes and floods. Victims of terrorism have consistently received government and charitable compensation.

    With travel insurance, it’s not “some [very rare] incident”. The unnamed, uninsurable perils are practically infinite and crop up frequently.

  • Éamon deValera

    You can get insurance for earthquakes and floods, and terrorism, and nuclear war, and all sorts of things but it isn’t free.

    There are two kinds of policies, named perils and all risk (except that which is specifically excluded) one is cheaper than the other because it guards against fewer possibilities.

    Some people choose not to insure things, that is certainly fine but they retain all the risk.

    I fail to see why one would wish to retain $8000 worth of risk on something very likely to happen when they could transfer that risk for a fraction of the value of the loss.

    It is unfortunate that the gentleman in question had an injury, and I certainly empathize, but they rolled the dice by not insuring their exposure. They got 65% returned, that seems significant. It seems from their view the risk/reward ratio on buying the insurance was in their favor. If I were 80 I might have felt differently.

  • Éamon deValera

    You can insure the entire trip. I am perplexed why you feel that one can’t. You can buy all risk insurance for travel.

  • Éamon deValera

    You can’t simply hypothesize that the claim will be unfairly denied. As I have said again and again, insurance is regulated by the state. If your claim is denied and you feel it was unfair contact your state’s insurance regulator. All insurance companies authorized by the state are bonded, licensed and insured. If they fail to pay a legitimate claim the state can force them to pay, seize the bond or physical property, suspend or cancel their license and institute civil and in most states the insurance regulator also has law enforcement authority, so criminal enforcement actions.

    If you get your claim unfairly denied let me know, I was an insurance regulator for one of the states. I will point you to the proper authority in your state. Insurance companies take inquiries from the state very, very seriously and you can be assured that the insurance company lawyers will investigate it with a fine tooth comb if they continue to deny the claim and insist that their denial is proper. One improperly denied claim can cost an insurance company millions of dollars and a potential loss of license. They don’t monkey around with that sort of thing.

  • Michael__K

    Who said anything about free?

    Non-refundable travel costs are not comprehensively insurable, unlike other large investments.

  • DChamp56

    I’m sorry, but I’m increasingly not feeling bad for people that spend a LOT of money on a vacation and not insure it. If they knew enough to call you, they knew enough to buy insurance (and based on the price of the cruise, it wasn’t expensive at all). I voted no.

  • Maxwell Smart

    don’t understand why they should get any refund at all !!!!

  • Maxwell Smart

    hey sucker. Wanna buy a slightly used bridge, over Sydney Harbour ?
    Why do people fall for this crap.

  • mencik

    “Like so many other passengers, she assumed the company would just do
    the right thing if disaster struck. That would have been an incorrect
    assumption.”

    When you assume things, you make an ass of out u and me.

    How many times do we have to tell people that insurance is for the things we could never expect to happen. Protect your multi-thousand dollar trip with a few hundred dollar travel insurance policy.

    There is no need to get involved in this case. They are just trying to get money they are not entitled to.

  • mencik

    The major travel insurance companies offer very comprehensive policies and if you purchase within a reasonable period of time after deposit (generally 14 to 21 days depending on company) even pre-existing medical conditions are covered. About the only things not covered are wars and the like. I have no idea why you keep saying they travel costs are not comprehensively insurable. Please provide specific examples.

  • Mel65

    I feel really bad for the couple, I honestly do. BUT… if they’re celebrating a 60th anniversary, they’re about 80+. To plan a major trip at that age, regardless of the current state of their health and NOT to buy insurance was, frankly, short-sighted and foolish. When we took a cruise (in our 40s) we bought the insurance and we’re very healthy. We didn’t need it but if we’d had to cancel we WOULD have needed the $7K back. They didn’t buy insurance becaues “they expected Viking to act in good faith. Why didn’t it?” Well, technically Viking DID. They kept to their side of the bargain. Yes, it’s a contract of adhesion, but it was clearly spelled out and Viking didn’t deviate from it. They gave back exactly what they said they would have: 65%. Would it have been “nice” of Viking, sure. But Viking isn’t a person. It’s a business. Business is objective and not subject to emotion.

  • Mel65

    The travel people at Costco are actually very well informed and patient. We do not know that they didn’t advise insurance. Chris speculated that maybe they hadn’t. I’m willing to bet they did and that the OP said “oh we’re healthy; we don’t need that” or some such thing. My Father and his wife went on a Viking cruise a few months ago and absolutely loved it. Dad is 78, stepmother 69. They bought insurance. Thank goodness didn’t need it.

  • Mel65

    I agree. It also could have been written, “She agreed to the terms that she didn’t bother to read, assuming that everything would be ok…”

  • Michael__K

    You keep repeating this falsehood, yet you still haven’t cited ANY Covered Reason from ANY policy that would have covered this traveler’s loss:

    http://elliott.org/case-dismissed-2/control-center-fire-travel-guard-still-wont-pay/

  • Michael__K

    I don’t need to hypothesize. The contracts typically include loopholes (and omit perils) such that many seemingly straightforward legitimate claims can be denied on technicalities, as has been demonstrated multiple times by “Case Dismissed” articles on this site.

    And just look at any article about Access America, Spirit, or Allegiant, and look at all the comments blaming the passenger for their bad experiences because they bought something “cheap” and because “you get what you pay for” and because “if it’s too good to be true…”

  • Michael__K

    Which policy covers an air traffic control fire?
    http://elliott.org/case-dismissed-2/control-center-fire-travel-guard-still-wont-pay/

    How about a security breach delay?

    How about heartburn you have no idea is stomach cancer but turns out to be stomach cancer?
    http://elliott.org/blog/why-doesnt-travel-insurance-cover-dads-illness/

    Illness or death of a significant other or other relation not defined as a “Family Member?”

    Road closure en route to the airport?

    I could go on and on….

  • LonnieC

    I think that Chris has conceded the need to get insurance, read the fine print like a lawyer, etc. The way I see it is that the question here is whether, even if the OPs were careless, isn’t there some argument that on occasion, business should be able to do the “right thing”? The percentage of situations like this one has to be extremely small. Can’t the cost of doing right be built in, similar to businesses adding a “breakage” factor into their overhead? It just seems that the goodwill created by being sympathetic would ultimately offset any immediate losses. Just thinkin’…

  • Lindabator

    Actually had one of their “clients” call us asking to book the airfare tfor their cruise. When we asked why Costco didn’t book it, she said she was told “they weren’t a travel agency” – so the question becomes what is it they ARE selling – if you buy it like a commodity, you have to be doubly careful, as you have no one to advocate for you

  • Michael__K

    You are “ass u ming” that your multi-thousand dollar trip is thoroughly protected with travel insurance. It’s not.

    I understand why those who sell travel and who earn commissions on insurance policies like to promote the idea that travel insurance is a silver bullet which offers complete peace of mind. But this does a disservice to consumers. The only honest statement is that if you can’t afford to lose your multi-thousand dollar trip due to things you could never expect to happen, then you can’t afford the trip….

  • mencik

    You have made the claim that travel insurance doesn’t provide thorough protection several times. Please cite an example of why not.

  • mencik

    As noted in the article, if the Traveler had contacted the insurance agency to determine how to proceed, they would have been told how to do so and get reimbursed. They chose to assume what to do, and therefore lost out. That’s why companies like Travel Guard and TravelSafe have 24 hour hotlines to call.

  • Michael__K

    I already cited examples multiple times, including in my previous reply to you (see: http://elliott.org/should-i-take-the-case/near-death-experience-viking-refund-cruise/#comment-2586818619)

    Also, search for articles on this site tagged “Denied” and “Travel Insurance”.

  • jennj99738

    You’re still making assumptions not based on any facts relative to this article. Do you believe that every single person who makes a request for a refund should get one absent insurance? This appears to be the argument you make repeatedly when Chris writes stories like these. I’m apparently a sucker for researching policies, requirements and buying insurance when I can just demand the travel provider refund my trip in its entirety when something goes wrong.

  • Michael__K

    What can they possibly tell you if no Covered Reason applies? Or do you believe that insurance companies, but not cruise companies, should make exceptions?

  • mencik

    Virtually everything you mention is covered by most policies. Even the stomach cancer case would have been covered if the policy had been purchased at time of deposit or shortly thereafter with most companies. As an example, TravelSafe waives the pre-existing conditions clause if purchased within 21 days of deposit. For most of the other incidents, they provide a 24-hour hotline (toll-free if outside the U.S.) for guidance on how to proceed. You just need to buy your policy timely and follow their directions if something happens.

  • mencik

    There are very few reasons that aren’t covered and they are expressly called out. They are things like acts of war. No, if they explicitly disclaim coverage for specific reasons, they should not make exceptions. I have never had an issue, and neither have any of my clients. You just have to buy within the waiver period for pre-existing conditions and follow the instructions from the company.

    Your posts are basically saying that travel insurance is a scam and not worth purchasing. My experience says otherwise.

  • mencik

    I’ve also rebutted those in those places. My above comment was written before I saw the other responses.

  • Michael__K

    Read the fine print on the Pre-Existing Condition Excluision Waivers more carefully.

    The stomach cancer link was just an illustration. That particular passenger may have been covered with the waiver if her Dad was not a travel companion. If Dad was travelling together, then tough luck, because the heart burn would be used as evidence that he was not medically fit for travel when the plan cost was paid.

    I’ll ask again, which Covered Reason on which policy would cover an air traffic control fire?

    What does the 24-hour hotline do for you when no Covered Reason applies to your circumstance? Are you suggesting that travel insurance companies have a moral duty to make exceptions (but not cruise companies)?

  • Michael__K

    You ignored the examples and referred me to the 24-hour hotline. You can call the hotline yourself and verify that these scenarios are generally not covered.

  • Michael__K

    Where is the “express call out” for air traffic control fires? Mass transit outages? Road closures? Airline losing your reservation or bumping you?

    It appears you do not understand the difference between Open Perils and Named Perils insurance, and you do your clients a huge disservice, and you may even be putting yourself in legal jeopardy, if you suggest to them that anything which is not “expressly called out” is covered.

    Travel insurance is not exactly “a scam” but it is complicated and it is not the panacea that so many people wish it was.

  • Michael__K

    I think I’m the only one here NOT making definitive statements (i.e. assumptions) as to whether or not the OP would have been covered with insurance.

    Instead of promoting a race-to-the-bottom, where we pat companies on the back for setting increasingly harsh policies (under the premise that everyone has a moral duty to buy travel insurance and that it solves everything) I want to celebrate companies for showing compassion, and I want those companies to be rewarded with more business (and vice versa for companies that take a harsh, rigid line).

    It wasn’t so long ago that travel insurance was primarily for things like emergency medical costs and stolen travel documents and reputable companies routinely showed compassion and worked with customers who suffered tragedies.

  • mencik

    The TravelSafe Classic policy specifically calls out as covered the closure of air traffic control. See Trip Cancellation 3.g.
    Also under Trip Interruption 3.g.
    Mass Transit outages would be covered under Missed Connection reason A.
    Road closures would be covered if due to weather under Missed Connection Reason B. Not sure if closed for other reasons. Being bumped would be covered on Missed Connections Reason A. Lost Reservations would be covered under Missed Connections Reason A.

    Granted you would have paperwork to file to show the common carrier was at fault for some of those, but they are covered by that policy. They are expressly called out.

  • Carchar

    60th anniversary and no insurance? I voted for you not to take this case. I’m probably younger and in good health and I wouldn’t think of doing a cruise, foreign land or prepaid tour anywhere without a policy.

  • jim6555

    But they weren’t dealing with squaremouth.com. You don’t know the price for insurance coverage that was quoted by Costco. It may have been much more than the squaremouth price.

  • Michael__K

    Read the terms very carefully. TravelSafe may have a Covered Reason or two that Travelex and TravelGuard (other insurers touted by travel agent’s in this space) do not — so thanks for sharing that — but their coverage is weaker in some other aspects and overall the coverage is far narrower than you suggest.

    You repeatedly invoke Missed Connection coverage, which does not pay a dime for your non-refundable unused cruise fare. It just pays for some (capped) expenses towards reaching a cruise at a subsequent port, which may or may not even be possible.

    There’s no cancellation coverage for an air traffic control fire (that’s not a “natural” disaster). No interruption coverage either if the fire merely led to widespread cancellations in the absence of a “government shutdown of an airport or air traffic control system.”

    Neither is your non-refundable cruise fare protected from road closures.

    Nor is it protetected from lost reservations or being bumped or other airline or travel agency failures. See for example here: http://elliott.org/case-dismissed-2/denied-boarding-and-turned-down-by-insurance-can-i-help-this-reader/

    Nor is it protected from serious mass transit issues, practically speaking. It’s debatable whether mass transit satisfies TravelSafe’s Common Carrier definition, but in any event, you would have to experience a 12+ hour complete cessation of services (I guess one needs to head to the airport 16+ hours before departure?) At least they don’t have the gotcha some insurers do where they can deny your entire Pre-existing condition waiver if you haven’t insured your non-refundable $2.50 bus or subway ride….

  • Éamon deValera

    There is no fine print, the law does not allow any portion of a policy to be in type smaller than 8 point. Saying that there is fine print, or that insurance companies are hiding anything is again incorrect. You can’t just make things up.

  • Éamon deValera

    It wasn’t that long ago that you put on a tie and jacket to fly. Times have changed.

  • Éamon deValera

    No one has to buy insurance from any specific company. There are hundreds of companies that sell travel insurance. You don’t have to go to Bob’s insurance for homeowners if your loan is from Bob’s bank, everyone knows that.

    You can insure anything for any reason – assuming you have an insurable interest. You could insure your cruise against penguins overtaking the ship if you wished. It might be hard to place but any competent agent could place that coverage in a few days, perhaps with a surplus lines company, but anything can be insured. Standard travel insurance is indeed offered on a open perils basis.

  • jennj99738

    Arguing is futile. If a passenger came to Chris with a story like the ATC fire and who had purchased insurance, then we’ll talk about compassionate reasons for refunds. However, those cases are few and far between. The majority of cases are these where a traveler chooses not to insure and then wants the cruise line (and other travelers) to pay for their choice. I don’t believe I have ever read a story where you commented that you believe a travel provider should not refund a passenger. Therein lies the rub. I believe that travel insurance should be the norm and you believe that other travelers and the provider should foot the bill regardless of the passengers’ choices.

  • Michael__K

    If a passenger came to Chris with a story like the ATC fire and who had purchased insurance, then we’ll talk about compassionate reasons for refunds

    Not a hypothetical “if.” Chris wrote that story last month and lots of commenters were incredulous and assumed that the passenger chose a terrible policy or used a bad travel agent and couldn’t accept the fact that this was one of many scenarios which simply aren’t covered by travel insurance. And this wasn’t an isolated story. But so many people are indoctrinated with the marketing and dogma that travel insurance solves everything and can’t wrap their heads around a very different reality.

    And there was little discussion of “compassion.” And after all, why do travel insurance companies have any greater moral obligation to consider compassion than cruise companies or airlines?

    If you successfully encourage companies to emulate the Spirit’s and Allegiant’s of the world, your insurance premiums will only go up faster, you will pay more for less, and some day you may be the one who loses their insured trip because of a loophole.

  • Michael__K

    If the text is large and clear enough, why are so many commenters here — including one who professes to be an agent– apparently unaware of and denying the existence of these loopholes?

  • cscasi

    Perhaps you should try looking up the premiums from several of the reputable travel insurance companies. Put in the ages and the cost of the trip and see what they charge for cancel for any reason, regular one with cancel for pre-existing conditions (if the policy is purchased within normally 14 days of initial payment ).

  • cscasi

    I checked with the company I used and the three levels they show for the $8000 for those folks is, $964 and $1380. Yes, it is a bit expensive at the top end, but when something unexpected happens like what happened to this gentleman, it becomes well worth it. If you do not get insurance, you assume a risk. Of course, the cost goes up the older we get because we tend to be more accident prone or to have more health problems occur.

  • Michael__K

    Trouble is, you assume a great deal of risk of losing everything even WITH insurance because of the many non-covered reasons.

  • Zarkov505

    There’s a flip side to all this.

    Assuming for the purpose of discussion that the appropriate insurance premiums to cover the risk are in the range quoted, while allowing the insurance company enough margin to make it worthwhile for them to continue in business, it would not be all that difficult for the cruise line to include the cost of insurance in the cruise fare. At that point, the cruise tickets become fully refundable in the event of a covered event, for EVERY passenger.

    Yes, it means that the cruise ticket costs more, but it also means a good chance at repeat business from customers who basically got hit by a truck they never saw coming.

  • Melinda

    CRYSTAL CLEAR… No, you should not take this case.

  • judyserienagy

    This is a double tragedy … the horrible injury that the husband sustained and a large prepaid trip booked with no insurance. So very sad. Travellers need to think of trip insurance as part of the cost of their trip, it makes no sense to prepay anything if you can’t afford to lose the money. If you pay $8K for a cruise, you have to fly to the ship, don’t you? That’s a required cost of the trip. You also have to buy an insurance policy. I don’t know why people are so resistant to protecting their travel investment.

  • Peter

    Very helpful and thoughtful discussion. Thanks for all the useful input on travel insurance. As I suspected, the details really matter.

    It seems that, as in some other aspects of travel, like security, travel insurance has a significant dollop of feel good features and wishful thinking baked into it. But when you look at the realities, there is less there than meets the eye.

  • Peter

    It sounds as though the fine print in the insurance policies is what is making suckers of those who are purchasing them without understanding all of the potentially uncovered or poorly covered events.