Uniworld Covid Cancellation Policy...why are cruises exempt from full refunds when airlines are not?

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May 12, 2020
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I am a travel agent who booked a group of 6 couples on a June 10, 2020 sailing on a Uniworld Riverboat. This sailing was cancelled by Uniworld, and I was quite surprised to find that they would not offer a full refund to my clients. This was a 50th wedding anniversary celebration for each couple,and they do not want a voucher for future travel. They are asked to pay a $200 pp cx fee, plus the Uniworld Travel protection purchased at $499 pp will not be refunded. So couples who purchased insurance are out $1398.00 for a cruise that cancelled. Airlines by law cannot do that, as has been proven. They might try to skirt around it, but the law is on their side. Why not the same for cruise lines? These couples are all in their 70's and cannot contemplate getting on any cruise ship in the foreseeable future.
I want to add that I have other clients booked on a Viking River Cruise this summer, and they were offered a choice of a FULL refund or a Future Cruise Credit. That is what I believe is fair....to be given the choice.
Would love to hear how other Uniworld cruisers feel or how they have been treated.
 
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justlisa

Feb 12, 2019
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Airlines are required to refund canceled flights due to DOT regulation that existed before the unprecedented happenings of Covid-19. There's no such regulation for cruise lines or others in the travel industry. Without regulation forcing a company to do refunds it's up to the companies to decide whether to do refunds or vouchers. Some not offering refunds simply don't have the funds to do so. I have no idea whether Uniworld is in that category or not.
 
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Neil Maley

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This is a business to business issue which is not one that we advocate.

Airlines that fly in the US are required by the DOT to provide refunds. Cruise lines aren’t not, and most are not registered in the US so there is little control over these companies.

We are in the same boat with many suppliers, Uniworld is not the only supplier doing this. What were the terms in the original contract if the cruise line cancels the cruise? A supplier is not supposed to change the terms on the contract. Is there a force majeure clause? Has Uniworld canceled the cruise? You would be better off waiting to see if Uniworld cancels the cruise.

Unfortunately, many suppliers do not have the cash to provide refunds for every client.

We have found that going to Social Media or hammering BDM’s might get a change or exemption made. If you are a member of ASTA, you can contact ASTA if the supplier is also an ASTA member to put pressure on them. Or, if you are with a host agency, contact your host to put pressure on the.

Otherwise, there is really not much you can do other than not use the company going forward. You don’t want to encourage clients to file credit card disputes because Uniworld would most likely come back to you for recovery.
 
Dec 27, 2014
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Unfortunately, you can't compare Viking's policies to Uniworld. Each business will handle cancellations based on their own terms & conditions. Do you have the cancellation policy for Uniworld? There's usually language in there regarding what to expect if the cruise line cancels vs. the traveler so there aren't unexpected surprises.

As far as insurance, did their policy cover them for this situation? Was is a CFAR? I almost never see insurance refunded, so that's not unusual. It's like asking for your car insurance back just because you never had an accident.

I would send a politely worded letter/email to the company, starting with the customer service department, and explain the couples situation. Keep it short and to the point. Make sure to specifically say what will resolve the situation and make your client whole. Good luck!
 
May 12, 2020
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The cruise was cancelled by Uniworld in April. None of my clients cancelled themselves. As always, cruise lines always have the right to cancel or change itineraries because of many factors including weather, problems at ports and now pandemics.
Perhaps I used the wrong heading asking why cruise lines are not doing the same as airlines as I understand the DOT legislates airlines not cruise ships. My intent was for people to think about whether legislation might be needed to protect the rights of travelers in other areas besides air travel.
I think it's quite reasonable to compare the way these two riverboat lines ( both at the top of all awards for their category), and how differently they have handled the situation. They are both privately owned companies with sound financials. Viking posted clear messages immediately on their website offering a very fair deal, a complete refund of ALL monies paid, including insurance if bought through them, or a voucher for 125% of all monies paid to use on a future cruise. Uniworld offers no full refund and 110% for a future cruise. I think it is good for the public to see the difference and choose wisely when booking in these uncertain times. How do you think my 12 clients feel since I offered them both these companies, believing they were equally good, and the resolution of the cancellations due to Covid 19 have been handled so differently?
 
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Neil Maley

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If you are looking for legislation, then you would need to contact your Representatives in Congress.

Most of these suppliers are foreign owned. The U.S. doesn't have much pull with them due to that. Uniworld doesn't sail out of the U.S. so there is nothing to legislate.

What you can control is who you do business with. I can tell you my wife is in many travel agent groups and we now have lists of suppliers we will not do business with again and lists of those who have been consumer friendly that we will steer business too.

And consider selling Cancel for Any Reason insurance going forward. We have had clients who thought it was too expensive before this happened but are now paying for it even with the price they charge.

There is not a single travel agent who is not in the same boat you are in. And passengers who booked directly are facing the same problem. We are all dealing with multiple suppliers that are not providing refunds and we dont have control over those companies except to avoid booking with them. If you are with a Host, go to your host and let them know your feelings.
 
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May 12, 2020
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Unfortunately, you can't compare Viking's policies to Uniworld. Each business will handle cancellations based on their own terms & conditions. Do you have the cancellation policy for Uniworld? There's usually language in there regarding what to expect if the cruise line cancels vs. the traveler so there aren't unexpected surprises.

As far as insurance, did their policy cover them for this situation? Was is a CFAR? I almost never see insurance refunded, so that's not unusual. It's like asking for your car insurance back just because you never had an accident.

I would send a politely worded letter/email to the company, starting with the customer service department, and explain the couples situation. Keep it short and to the point. Make sure to specifically say what will resolve the situation and make your client whole. Good luck!
If you are looking for legislation, then you would need to contact your Representatives in Congress.

Most of these suppliers are foreign owned. The U.S. doesn't have much pull with them due to that. Uniworld doesn't sail out of the U.S. so there is nothing to legislate.

What you can control is who you do business with. I can tell you my wife is in many travel agent groups and we now have lists of suppliers we will not do business with again and lists of those who have been consumer friendly that we will steer business too.

And consider selling Cancel for Any Reason insurance going forward. We have had clients who thought it was too expensive before this happened but are now paying for it even with the price they charge.

There is not a single travel agent who is not in the same boat you are in. And passengers who booked directly are facing the same problem. We are all dealing with multiple suppliers that are not providing refunds and we dont have control over those companies except to avoid booking with them. If you are with a Host, go to your host and let them know your feelings.
If you are looking for legislation, then you would need to contact your Representatives in Congress.

Most of these suppliers are foreign owned. The U.S. doesn't have much pull with them due to that. Uniworld doesn't sail out of the U.S. so there is nothing to legislate.

What you can control is who you do business with. I can tell you my wife is in many travel agent groups and we now have lists of suppliers we will not do business with again and lists of those who have been consumer friendly that we will steer business too.

And consider selling Cancel for Any Reason insurance going forward. We have had clients who thought it was too expensive before this happened but are now paying for it even with the price they charge.

There is not a single travel agent who is not in the same boat you are in. And passengers who booked directly are facing the same problem. We are all dealing with multiple suppliers that are not providing refunds and we dont have control over those companies except to avoid booking with them. If you are with a Host, go to your host and let them know your feelings.
Thanks Neil
 

jsn55

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Dec 26, 2014
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I'd check with Cruise Critic to see what people are posting about cruises cancelled by Uniworld. Travel providers may or may not have the cash to refund. If they are forced to by wide-sweeping law, they could go out of business. Then customers will get no refund and no credit and no cruise. The idea that your clients were ready to go on a cruise and now will never do so doesn't make a lot of sense. If they accept a credit, the insurance premium may be transferred over to the new trip. Are you sure that Uniworld is charging a cancellation fee on a cruise they cancelled themselves? This makes even less sense.
 

justlisa

Feb 12, 2019
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I'd check with Cruise Critic to see what people are posting about cruises cancelled by Uniworld. Travel providers may or may not have the cash to refund. If they are forced to by wide-sweeping law, they could go out of business. Then customers will get no refund and no credit and no cruise. The idea that your clients were ready to go on a cruise and now will never do so doesn't make a lot of sense. If they accept a credit, the insurance premium may be transferred over to the new trip. Are you sure that Uniworld is charging a cancellation fee on a cruise they cancelled themselves? This makes even less sense.
I'm guessing the cancellation fee is because they wanted cash back. But I'm not entirely sure as on their website the only change to cancellation terms is rebook or future cruise credit within 14 days of sailing. The normal cancellation fee less than 30 days out is 100%. So the current offer seems to be something not spelled out on their website or I can't find it.
 
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May 12, 2020
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I'd check with Cruise Critic to see what people are posting about cruises cancelled by Uniworld. Travel providers may or may not have the cash to refund. If they are forced to by wide-sweeping law, they could go out of business. Then customers will get no refund and no credit and no cruise. The idea that your clients were ready to go on a cruise and now will never do so doesn't make a lot of sense. If they accept a credit, the insurance premium may be transferred over to the new trip. Are you sure that Uniworld is charging a cancellation fee on a cruise they cancelled themselves? This makes even less sense.
I am absolutely positive Uniworld is charging a cancellation fee! This was a cruise to celebrate all six couples 50th wedding anniversaries in 2020. They are a group of neighbors and friends, some of whom have never been a cruise and only signed up for this to be with their friends. They just don't know if and when about any cruise. Don't think it would feel the same in 20221 or 2022. I will take a look at Cruise Critic, not a site I generally use. Thanks for suggesting that.
 

Neil Maley

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If you canceled the cruise before the cruise line
canceled the cruise, you would be charged a cancellation fee. If they canceled the cruise and you didn’t ask to cancel before, they should not be charging you a cancellation fee.

Did you book your air through Uniworld?
 
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May 12, 2020
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If you canceled the cruise before the cruise line
canceled the cruise, you would be charged a cancellation fee. If they canceled the cruise and you didn’t ask to cancel before, they should not be charging you a cancellation fee.

Did you book your air through Uniworld?
As I stated in my initial email, I am a travel agent myself, and yes, I booked directly with Uniworld. I did not cancel the cruise for my group, Uniworld cancelled the sailing. That is exactly why I think we should NOT have to pay $200 pp cx fee. I have tried several times to convince Uniworld that I do not think their policy is fair, but I don't have access to the CEO! Emails to their Customer Service have gone unanswered. I have emailed both their Group Dept. and the Uniworld rep for the Southeastern US without any resolution. A former journalist with the Miami Herald suggested I write to Elliott Advocacy. I know my 12 clients cannot be the only ones who do not want a FCC, so I had hoped to hear from other cancelled passengers but I have not.
 

Neil Maley

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As a travel agent you must know it isn’t just Uniworld. Many suppliers are doing the same thing simply because they don’t have enough cash to refund every client. They are trying to stay in business so they can honor all the credits.

My wife has been doing nothing but trying to soothe clients who are having the same issue with other suppliers.

But we do have company contacts for Uniworld on our company contact page.

 
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smd

Mar 14, 2018
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I have tried several times to convince Uniworld that I do not think their policy is fair,...
Fairness isn't really the issue--the issue is the terms and conditions that you agreed to when you booked the cruises. Right now, these terms have a lot of discussion about rescheduling and limit their liability to providing a credit:

Uniworld reserves the right to cancel, advance, postpone or modify scheduled departure, return or itinerary dates, as well as locations, events and schedules, and may, but is not obligated to, substitute, vary, alter, reschedule, cancel and/or relocate any accommodations, vessels, modes of transportation and other aspects of the vacation. Uniworld is authorized to take these actions due to causes or circumstances of any kind or nature beyond Uniworld’s control, or causes or circumstances within Uniworld’s control that Uniworld deems to make such actions appropriate. Uniworld will not be liable for cancelation, delay, rescheduling or other adjustment or impact to a departure or itinerary, or other aspects of the vacation brought about due to force majeure or other circumstance beyond its control that prevents or interferes with any aspect of the cruise-tour, also including governmental and administrative actions. Company’s only liability will be to provide Passengers the amount it has received for the Contract in the form of a Future Travel Credit or at Uniworld’s discretion a refund of monies paid to Uniworld in connection with such cruise-tour.​

However, these look like they were crafted after COVID became known. I couldn't find the 2019 terms, but in 2017 they would have allowed you to get a refund:

Uniworld reserves the right to cancel, advance or postpone any scheduled sailing date and may, but is not obligated to, substitute hotels or vessels. Uniworld shall not be liable for any loss to you by reason of any such cancellation, advancement or postponement. In the event of cancellation by Uniworld, your sole right of recourse shall be to obtain a refund of monies paid to Uniworld in connection with such cruise/tour.​
My suggestion is to review the terms that (I assume) were provided to you when you booked. You may find that you are entitled to that refund after all.
 

smd

Mar 14, 2018
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My suggestion is to review the terms that (I assume) were provided to you when you booked. You may find that you are entitled to that refund after all.
Frankly, I find the fact that they have purged the 2019 terms and conditions from their site a bit suspicious...
 
Jun 24, 2019
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The terms and conditions that control will be in the actual contract received by the OP. OP should have either a hard copy or an e-mail with a PDF. I suppose an alternative, in the event OP does not have a contract, is to see if the wayback machine will display prior terms and conditions, but those may change from time to time.

I do not find the purge of prior terms at all unusual. Web sites are not supposed to be repositories of all terms and conditions the company has used.
 

Neil Maley

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The agent should have copies of the terms that were in on the original booking. If the terms she has states that Uniworld will refund cruises they cancel, she can file a complaint with the Attorney General in California saying they changed the terms of the original contract.