Should my tour operator keep $8,471 to “cover” costs of a canceled tour?

Tia Millman and John Madsen were looking forward to a private tour of Tunisia and Kenya organized by Experience It! Tours last summer.

But the trip wasn’t meant to be. Just three weeks before their departure, the State Department warned U.S. citizens to avoid Kenya, and Millman made a frantic call to their tour operator.

Now, Millman and Experience It! are bickering over a refund — a sizeable refund — and she wants me to get involved. I’m not sure if I should.
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Keep us posted on that refund

American European Travel’s nine-day ancient Turkey tour looked like the perfect birthday gift for David Olson’s wife, Barbara. With stops in Istanbul, Ephesus and Pamukkale, it fulfilled a lifelong dream of visiting the old Ottoman Empire.

The Olsons learned about the trip through a brochure in The Washington Post. The AET insert bore the newspaper’s logo, so they assumed that The Post endorsed the tour and would stand behind it if something went wrong.

And then, something went wrong.
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Is this enough compensation for a Spanish-only tour?

When Juventino Garcia and his wife arrived in Madrid for a recent tour of Spain and Portugal, they didn’t understand a word anyone was saying. Garcia and his wife don’t speak Spanish or Portuguese, but they’d been promised a bilingual guided tour by their tour operator, Sunbound Vacations.

“We were on a Spanish-only tour with people mostly from Latin America,” says Garcia. “We notified Sunbound by email, and they responded letting us know that they would handle the situation.”

It took seven days before the tour accommodated them.

“But the local guides who spoke English were directing their presentations primarily in Spanish, understandably for busload of Spanish-speaking people. We were given synopsized versions at times in different locations, away from what was being explained,” he says.
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Can this trip be saved? The guest canceled — so who covers the refund?

Suzanne Cohen runs the Santa Barbara Adventure Company, a tour operator that offers kayaking trips in California’s rugged but breathtakingly beautiful Channel Islands National Park (no, that’s not hyperbole; check out our coverage from last year if you don’t believe me).

It’s a one-hour ferry ride to the island, and the fare is included in the price of the kayak tour. The ferry is nonrefundable within seven days of a trip, and so are her tours. But like everything else in life, there are exceptions to that policy.
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Can this trip be saved? She didn’t make it to Marrakech after all

Here’s another reason to double-check with your tour operator before you take off.

Linda Taylor waited until she was on the way to the airport to send an email to the company running her Morocco tour. Good thing she did; there was no tour.

There’d been a bombing and the whole thing had been canceled.

“We cancelled right after the bombing as we always put our clients safety first,” the tour operator said in a message.
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Case dismissed: No refund for my canceled Middle East vacation

Here’s another cautionary tale — as if we needed one — on the dangers of choosing an interesting destination for your next vacation.

How about Egypt? It’s got pyramids, museums – and a riot or two.

Catherine Green certainly got more than she bargained for when she booked a March 26 tour to the Middle East through On The Go. With all of the warnings being issued by the State Department, she was certain the tour operator would cancel the Egypt trip and offer her a full refund.

It didn’t.
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Is this enough compensation? They canceled my Egypt tour, but all I get is a credit?

When an airline cancels a flight, you’re entitled to a refund. When a hotel turns you away, you get your money back. Same thing when your cruise is canceled or your car rental company doesn’t have the vehicle for which you prepaid.

But put it all together into a tour package, and curiously, the rules change. Just ask AnnMarie LaRosa-Gee, whose March 5 Egypt tour and Nile cruise was called off, for obvious reasons. Egypt is descending into anarchy, and is unsafe for any kind of tourism.

LaRosa-Gee booked the tour directly, paying YMT $6,032. When the tour operator canceled, it offered her two choices: Either rebook the same tour later in the year or transfer all of her credit to a new 2011 tour.

“I could understand this if we had decided to cancel, but since YMT did, it seems like a reasonable expectation to receive a full refund,” she says.

Is this enough compensation? (If you can’t wait to answer, scroll down to take today’s poll.)
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Where’s my deposit?

Question: I’m writing in the hope that you can help us secure the return of our deposits from a tour operator.

My mother and I booked a wine tour in Spain through a company called The Unique Traveller that we found online. We each made a deposit of $881, which amounted to 30 percent of the cost of the trip. We weren’t presented with any terms and conditions, nor were the terms available on the tour operator’s Web site.

We asked to see a copy of the company’s terms, which stated that if we canceled fewer than 45 days before the tour, we would forfeit our deposits. I spoke with the owner of the company, and he agreed to modify the terms, allowing us to get a full refund of our deposits if we canceled after 45 days.

Several months later, I was laid off from the law firm I worked at. Then my mother lost her job. We can no longer afford the trip. But The Unique Traveller — despite agreeing to a refund — has refused to send us our money back. Can you help us? — Debra Hitti, San Francisco

Answer: If The Unique Traveller agreed to revise its terms, then you’re entitled to a full refund of your deposit.

I’m just not sure if it made that promise. I reviewed the correspondence between you, your mother, and Ramon Ramirez, the tour operator, and found that although he implied you would get your money back, his language was sufficiently vague to avoid a refund. How clever.
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