Within 48 hours of Tom McDonald’s scheduled departure on his Uncommon Journeys tour, he receives notice that it is partially canceled. He cancels the whole trip, but is refunded only a small portion of his deposit. Can our advocates help him recover the rest of his payment?
Question: My wife and I signed up for Uncommon Journeys’ “A Passage to British Honduras” tour and paid the required deposit of $8,280. The tour involved a train trip from Chicago to New Orleans on Pullman Rail Journeys, followed by a cruise on Norwegian Cruise Line to Central America.
But only two days before we were supposed to leave for the train portion of the tour, we received an email informing us that the train portion of the trip had been canceled. During all our communications with Uncommon Journeys, we were never advised that there were any problems with the arrangements for this tour.
We asked for a full cancellation and received an email showing that Uncommon Journeys would be paying us back $8,280. However, we received only $1,000 of our deposit back. Uncommon Journeys’ agent has told us that it would “get back to us,” but it hasn’t been in contact with us since.
Our deposit was never intended to be a loan to Uncommon Journeys. Can you help us get the rest of it back? — Tom McDonald, Evanston, Ill.
Answer: How disappointing to cancel what should have been a wonderful trip two days before the start date.
The email you received from Uncommon Journeys indicated that
Our partners at Pullman Rail Journeys suspended their operation of the special train service between Chicago and New Orleans that was in effect at the time that our brochure was printed and when our guests signed up. We had hoped until last week [that a] special arrangement was possible with Amtrak to allow the operation of this special service and this has now been determined to not be possible. … Pullman Rail Journeys [has] now concluded this Chicago to New Orleans service will probably never be restored. The reasons for this are complex but in brief, Amtrak does not want to operate a competing service and [has] made it virtually impossible for this premium service to continue at any price. We understand fully that for some of our customers, the train part of this holiday was as important as the cruise part.
In that email, Uncommon Journeys also offered to swap your trip with another, but you canceled and asked for a full refund of your deposit, which Uncommon Journeys should have issued to you promptly. And when you called to follow up on the refund’s status, Uncommon Journeys should have “gotten back to you” immediately and not left you hanging.
You might have benefited from purchasing travel insurance, especially “cancel for any reason” coverage. Uncommon Journeys’ site offers travel insurance through MH Ross, a Trip Mate brand, but you contacted our advocates for assistance.
We reached out to Uncommon Journeys on your behalf, and received an almost immediate response from its chairman, Chris Kyte. He offered a full apology for this “snafu” and indicated that his company always allows a cancellation with a complete refund in situations involving changes or complete cancellations of itineraries. In your case, Uncommon Journeys absorbed the cancellation penalties for your missed Norwegian cruise.
Our advocates were told that the delay in your receiving the balance of your refund was caused by “inattention [to] the credit card process.” Because the amount you were due was over $5,000, Uncommon Journeys needed to input the three-digit code on the back of the credit card you used for your payment to process the refund, which it did incorrectly.
Uncommon Journeys has issued you a check for the full balance of your refund as well as an additional $50 “for a nice Sunday brunch as atonement.”