Can this trip be saved? They overbooked my cruise and all I got was a refund

By | September 26th, 2011

Beth Mann and her husband were looking forward to a European cruise they booked through Vantage Travel for months. They’d been preparing for her ports of call in Helsinki, St. Petersburg and Tallinn by reading books on Russia and the Baltics.

But then the hammer fell on their plans.

A few weeks ago, they received a call from Vantage. “Oops, we’re sorry,” a representative told them. “We overbooked.”

Never mind that they’d already paid $11,920 for cabin 246 on the MS Tolstoy. The Manns weren’t going.

Vantage offered the couple a full refund. But Beth Mann isn’t sure if that’s enough.

“Does Vantage’s word have any value?” she asked me.

She added,

To add insult to injury, our Vantage travel packets arrived the day after the phone call with the final information on flights, itinerary, and even the names of our travel guides and my platinum member card.

Talk about pouring salt in the wound.

Of course, I thought upon receiving the packet, the phone call must have been a mistake. When I inquired, I received a very curt reply, “There has been no mistake!” I was also told, “Everyone overbooks!” Of course, our mothers’ told us that because “everyone else does it”, that is no excuse for bad behavior.

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It’s true, overbookings happen. In fairness to Vantage, I’m almost certain its representative didn’t just say “Oops, we’re sorry” or blow her off when she called back — but that’s what it felt like to her. Just as bad.

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Does she deserve more?

Is there a precedent for additional compensation? Well, if the tables were turned and Mann had tried to cancel, here’s what she would face (PDF). She can’t just take her money and run; Vantage would charge her cancellation fees and other penalties.

Shouldn’t Vantage offer something similar when the roles are reversed?

In a perfect world, yes. But in the real world, it’s uncommon for a company to step up and take responsibility for its overbooking mistakes unless it’s obligated to by law. If Vantage were an airline, and the Manns were involuntarily denied boarding, then the Transportation Department would step in. But weeks in advance, even the government requires either a refund or a flight of the passenger’s choosing — but no financial compensation.

Mann wants to know how something like this could be prevented. I don’t know. Telling her to avoid a popular cruise seems silly. It’s popular because people like it, but that’s no reason to stay away from it.

Should I try to recover more than a refund for her?

Update (9/27): Vantage has responded.

I was sorry to read of Ms. Mann’s dissatisfaction with Vantage. I certainly understand her disappointment, and we hate having to change anyone’s reservation.

I wanted to share some details you might find helpful. In the event of an overbooking, our travelers are given a few options. They can move to another program, or reschedule the same program at another time with a discount and price protection.

If travelers are not able to change their travel plans, we give them a full and expedited refund and $500 per person. In the Manns’ case, they chose to cancel for full refunds, and were also reimbursed for their visa expenses in early August.

(Photo: Joha ndk/Flickr)

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  • I think you should find out what other damages she incurred due to the company’s “mistake” – for example, did they have to pay any change or cancellation fees for airfare, or other parts of their planned holiday?  If so, that would be an obvious way to quantify any additional payments she might ask for…

  • Jenny

    Normally if a customer gets a full refund I’d be satisfied. But in this case $11,000+ is a significant load to the tour operator and there should be some additional compensation offered.

    Also, there must be some additional expenses incurred when the trip was canceled, even if it’s the dog kennel deposit or something.

  • Carver

    I’d be satisified with a full refund if the cancellation was due to ircumstances beyond the cruise line’s control.  However, overbooking is within the cruise line’s control.  According, morally and ethically , but perhaps not legally, additional compensation is owed.

    Otherwise we have the very uneven situation where the passenger has substantial liabilities and the cruise line has none.

    I have no issues with overbooking airlines and hotels, particurlarly since airlines sell refundable tickets and many hotel reservations are refundable until 6pm day of arrival.  Car rental can usually be booked without a credit card.  Accordingtly, the travel provider isn’t sure that its truly fully booked.

    However, unless a cruise line sells refundable tickets, overbooking seems like less of a legitimate business proposition. 

    Also, as time gets closer, a passenger is likely to have additional expenditures such are airline tickets.  It seems wrong that a passenger must bear these costs because the cruise operator decided to unnilaterally cancel the trip.

    So yes, I believe that if a cruise line cancels a trip due to overbooking, it should be liable for all reasonably foreseable non-cancellable expenses such as airline tickets, lodging, ground transportation, etc.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Yes, because I’m curious to know how this cruise line determines who to bump and who to keep. At least the airlines ask for volunteers first and offer some sort of compensation above and beyond the ticket. (True, it’s usually airline funny money, but it’s something…)

  • Raven_Altosk

    Chris, can you do a column that’s a follow up on other “Can this trip be saved” and “Travel Troubleshooter” ?? I’d love to know if/how some of these cases resolved…

  • Yes, I’ve done that in the past and I’ll add it to my “to do” list for some of the newer cases.

  • Phil

    I think also that it depends on the cruise line. I was booked on a cruise and received notice from the cruise line that they were looking for volunter’s to go on another cruise as they had over booked the one I was on. They offered a selection of cruises to me or a cruise much later than the date I had booked. A guaranteed balcony cabin, I was in an outside with a port hole view, plus change fees for my airline ticket up to $350.00, they only  thing they did not offer would have been any increase in the airfare. I think they were pretty pro active in their offer, I did decline their offer however and took the original cruise.

  • Sam Varshavchik

    Welcome to cruising, 21st-century style.

    My first, and my last cruise, was a long time ago, and even then it was fairly obvious, from the first moment on, that the whole industry is corrupt and rotten. As soon as you’re a captive on a ship, your wallet becomes a target, and every opportunity gets taken to try to drain as much of it, as possible.

    First of all, there’s no such thing as “overbooking” a cruise. As others mentioned, this is not an airline. There is no reasonable expectation that someone might miss a cruise. Furthermore, with airline flights, it’s not known whether the flight’s overbooked until it’s almost ready to go. Here, they were called, as I understand, months in advance.

    I’m pretty sure that the cruise company has a pretty good idea how many tickets they’ve sold, and where each passenger’s room is. For some reason, I have a pretty good hunch that they know that. And, when they’ve sold all the cabins, I dunno, maybe they might consider doing something radical? Like, stop selling tickets? Whoa. What a concept.

    But really, this is a revealing look at what a scam this is. What happened here is painfully obvious. When all the tickets have been sold, the cruise company just hiked their rates, and kept the tickets on sale. They’re in a win-win situation. If nobody pays the inflated price, they’re no worse off than they were: a fully-booked cruise. And if someone coughs up for a ticket at a premium price, they just go down the roster, to whoever paid the least for their ticket, and tell them to go fly a kite.

    How obvious is that?

    But, nothing can be done about this, except to take it as a painful lessons. There is no way a cruise can be oversold, when everything is above the board. I have a pretty good feeling that these folks should count themselves lucky that they’re getting a full refund.

  • sirwired

    It’s true that most cruise lines overbook.  It’s a perfectly regular and sound business practice.  However, it is NOT normal practice in the industry to involuntarily bump people as a result.

    A common “starter” offer is a 50% refund + an upgrade (or upgrade + cash for new airline tickets.)  They go up from there, all the way to a 100% refund, double upgrade on the replacement cruise and 50% off yet another cruise.

    Offering nothing more than a refund means the cruise line gets all the benefits of overbooking and none of the risk.  She’s absolutely owed more… at least an upgrade and either hefty On Board Credit or a partial refund and cash to pay for getting plane tickets changed if needed.

  • $16635417

    In addition to refunding the original cruise, Vantage should provide the cruise at a similar or better cabin level, at a future date of the client’s choosing…at no charge.
    Yes, most airlines, hotels and car rental agencies overbook and the logic is understandable. The management of the program is what is key. Just a refund of an airline ticket for example is not enough, why should a refund be enough for Vantage to get away with??

  • Tom

    Vantage isn’t a big cruise line like Carnival. It’s a river cruise using relatively small ships that accomodate a couple hundred passengers. It’s easier to predict passenger loads with 5000 passengers than with 170 because the variation of one or two cabins has a much smaller effect. Still the super premium pricing at Vintage suggests that they should have super premium customer service. If you’re paying $1,500 a day, they should treat you better than if you’re paying $100 a day. Sadly, this isn’t always the case.

  • Here is my guess as to what happened. The cruise was partially sold and someone came in and chartered the boat. It may have been the cruise line itself, or another agency. So a full boat is more profitible.  It happens. It is unfortunate.

    She did not get booted while on her way and there was plenty of time. With $11K I might suggest she is owed some interest on the “loan” but to give their money back, a shipboard credit, and 50% off or a completely free cruise on top of it–ludicrous.

  • BillC

    I think that she deserves more than a full refund but I do not think that the TT should get involved. She should try to obtain more compensation on her own. 

  • I’m one that routinely comes down on the side of the business but in this case I really can’t find any fault in what the OP did. She booked a specific cabin not a class and did everything she should have done.  
    I’m sorry for those that feel the other way but I can’t imagine any reason why a cruise ship would oversell the ship (as opposed to cabin class which I do understand). The ship will hold a finite number of people in a finite number of cabins and once that number is reached you start this thing called a waitlist. For those that want to compare this practice to overbooking by the airlines, hotels or car rental places there is one key difference. Most of those businesses can “walk” you to another flight or establishment that will provide a “like” service within a reasonable amount of time. Cruise lines can’t do this.
    People buy cruise lines, itineraries and ships. An individual ship can only follow a 7 day itinerary every 7 days. Every line has a different target market so you can’t simply move them to a different cruise line on a similar itinerary. Similarly, every ship has a different set of amenities not found on a different ship.  There is no equivalent to walking someone to a nearby hotel or car rental establishment or having them catch the next flight.
    At a minimum, Vantage owes her the equivalent of credit card interest on her payments from the time they were made plus any expenses they incurred in preparation for the trip that isn’t going to occur.
    Go get’em Chris.

  • Brooklyn

    Many people have to request their vacation dates far in advance and cannot change them; if that were the case, the OP would lose her whole chance at the cruise and, in fact, a vacation. And what about plane fare, hotel reservations at the departure point and so on?  Not to mention some kind of financial penalty for jerking her around… I wish she would take it to court and set some kind of a legal precedent that could be used by other travelers, but Chris should definitely try for more.

  • Jc Too

    I still maintain the best way to counter this 1 way (My Way) attitude on the part of companies in a word BOYCOTT! Start a blog, get on UTube do everything possible to get your story out there. First play nice, go up the corporate ladder & then if all that doesn’t work BOYCOTT! There are other Travel companies out there

  • Clare

    Raven makes a good point here: why did the OP get bumped?  Did the cruise line first ASK anybody to voluntarily change to a different cruise/ship?  Was the OP the last person to book, so maybe this is a case of some kind of “last in, first out” policy? 

    Absent any explanation, it’s perfectly logical to presume that she got bumped because somebody else paid more for the same cruise–so the “somebody else” gets the OP’s cabin and she gets to stay home.  If the cruise line wants to defend itself from that allegation, go ahead, we’re listening! 

  • The Condor

     Depending on how far in advance, the extra expenses could have included the visa for Russia (not cheap, they’re the most bureaucratic visa for which I have applied.)  Books, etc, can be re-used.  The visa is set for specific dates, and cannot.

  • Linda Bator

    Cruise lines generally do the same thing — and they usually offer a different date, with either an upgraded cabin category or a shipboard credit to sweeten the deal.  So this is a very strange situation, unless they (the clients) chose to take the refund.  I think we need more info here.

  • Linda Bator

    Wow!  Obvious you’ve NEVER worked in the service industry.  Everyone overbooks – or they go out drastically short most times.  Its not about making more money, its about utilizing the full ship versus going out empty.  Same as airlines, car rentals, hotels etc.  This was a strange circumstance in that they didn’t get more of an offer (of course, we don’t have the whole story here, either, which may make a difference)

  • Joe Farrell

    Someone higher up the food chain than our OP wanted to cruise that week. It’s RUSSIA for gosh sakes. The cruise line may simply have been made an offer they could not refuse. Either these folks paid a LOT less than everyone else and the cruise line decided to sell the cabin at a higher price or they got bumped for ‘another’ reason. My money is n the latter reason. They should be happy they found out about it far enough out not to be out any real money.

  • Peg

    This is from the Vantage Travel website…”With few exceptions, passengers denied their trips involuntarily are entitled to compensation.” Help them out Chris.

  • Tony A.

    Overbooking in this case is NONSENSE. The customer is fully paid. Overbooking should only affect unpaid or partially paid passengers.
    Better still we need Consumer Protection Laws stipulating clear DAMAGES and FINES against BUMPING FULLY PAID customers and passengers.

  • Kevin Mathews

    Couple of things to point out here:

    Nothing in the article says how far in advance they booked nor how far in advance they were cancelled.  There is no Timeline here between when they booked, when they paid, and when they got the unfortunate phone call.  Everyone who has posted assumed that they booked this cruise many many months in advance.  How can anyone make an informed opinion about what compensation is deserved without this timeline?  Say they booked and paid on Friday, went shopping for books and such over the weekend, then got the unfortunate phone call Monday, would they still deserve anything for the 2-3 days?  They may have been looking forward to it for months but only made it official a few days before they got the call.  All we get here is they had been looking forward to the cruise “for months” and then a “few weeks ago” they got the phone call that was “weeks in advance” of their departure.

    Vantage is a BBB A+ Rating Member.  If the OP really had an issue with this company or the way her case was handled, she could’ve filed a complaint with the BBB.  Vantage’s BBB Rating and such is posted on their website.

    I do agree that if she incurred other financial damages as a result of the company’s cancellation, she’s entitled to those cost being covered.  But from reading the website, these cruise packages seem to be fairly all inclusive (Airfare, Lodging, Transportation, etc…).  Unless they had other arrangements made outside of these things, it wouldn’t appear that they would have many other expenses.

    Couple of things that surprise me with this story and make me either question the validity of the OP or the Stupidity of the company…

    Many of their cruises for this
    fall say Sold Out and don’t give you the option to buy a ticket for
    them.  Did they already over-sell these to the point they are “Sold Out”
    or are they truly booked to capacity. 

    She states that she is a “Platinum Member”.  Looking at their website and reading through things there, I can not find any mention of “Platinum Membership”.  There are various levels of their Preferred Traveler Rewards program and assuming she falls into one of the top tiers of that program, I can not imagine any cruise company in their right minds would bump a passenger who’s taken 10+ cruises with your company without some sort of “VIP” compensation package.

  • Tony A.

    Apparently Vantage does not have a stellar record.
    Check out the complaints in Frommer’s:
    And also on CruiseCritic

    MS Tolstoy is operated by AMAWaterways (Amadeus Waterways)

    If you read Amawaterway’s T&Cs itself, it does not say it anything about  OVERBOOKING!

    Therefore WHO OVEBOOKED? Did Vantage overbook when the travel source (the ship) did not?
    Should the customer should have gone directly to AmaWaterways and book there instead?

  • Durant Imboden

    Just out of curiosity, how often do overbooking cancellations happen in the cruise industry? Is this a common occurrence? If so, what do other cruise lines typically do? And if not, I say that Vantage should have its corporate feet held to the fire.

  • Tony A.

    Linda, Sam has a good point.
    MS Tolstoy is operated by AMA (Amadeus) Waterways of Chatsworth California. AMAWaterway’s own T&Cs does not mention OVERBOOKING!
    Therefore AMA does not wiggle out of deal with an OVERBOOKING clause.

    Vantage is a tour operator. In their brochure
    they say they have EXCLUSIVELY CHARTERED the MS Tolstoy (perhaps on some days?) Vantage has an OVERBOOKING ‘weasel’ clause.

    AMA also sells tours on their own ships. Passengers can call them directly. So here’s my point. Should customers compare the T&Cs of the operator and the travel agent or tour operator and find which own has less wiggle room for the seller?

  • Bodega

    Durant, this happens more than you hear about. As John F. mentioned, if a company comes in and wants to charter a cruise, those who are already booked get bumped. 

    While Chris mentioned the penalites that the passenger could incur if they had cancelled, this company does offer a cancel for any reason coverage, so had the clients taken this out, and for the cost of the trip they should have taken out some sort of travel insurance, what they are being offered is what they would have received.  Since the OP doesn’t complain about her air, my guess they booked a cruise, inclusive of air through Vantage.  If that is the case, then the company had done all they have to do.  The question being posed is, should the company do more?  For good customer relations, a discount on a future trip is often what other companies would offer, but burned once, would you travel with Vantage again if this offered the discount?

  • Tony A.

    According to Vantage, the EXCLUSIVE CHARTER the Ms Tolstoy.
    If they do so, then they also have EXLCUSIVE CONTROL of the rooms and bookings. Therefore, they are EXCLUSIVELY responsible for overbookings! IMO BOYCOTT VANTAGE! Or better, sue them!

  • Tony A.

    Durant, River Cruises to RUSSIA often sell out early! They are also some of the most expensive river cruises out there. Just get into the mailing list of Viking, AMA, etc. and you will find out easily.
    So there is an economic benefit for unscrupulous operators (note: no relation to above listed cruise lines) to keep on selling a sold “seat” to another higher bidder UNLESS LAWS PROHIBIT THEM FROM DOING SO!

  • Gentlemen

    Good luck with boycotting them – this will do absolutely nothing. Also, there are hundreds or thousands of other cruise passengers who must have had a good experience with them. Besides, we already know that they are responsible.

  • Rachel D

    Holy cr*p, what do you have against Vantage? We already know that they overbooked and are responsible.

  • Print Guy

    I also think also that it depends on the cruise line. I also like  dhaka

  • Tony A.

    No so gentlemanly – are you a shill for Vantage?
    Vantage practices are not nice at all. BOYCOTT!

  • Tony A.

    Because I want to emphasize that SOME OPERATORS do not have a weasel “OVERBOOKING” clause. And, consumers are better off going with them! That’s what I have against Vantage.

  • sirwired

     This might be the case if she was bumped six months in advance.  Things like charters do indeed happen, but if they happen after final payment, more than just a refund is in order.

    Note from the story that her final docs pack was in the mail (implying they were probably fairly close to sailing) when the cancellation happened.

  • sirwired

    As a side note, if you are bumped due to a whole-vessel charter many, many, months out, refund-only compensation is pretty normal.  Most people will not have purchased plane tickets by that point, and the cancellation is a two-way street.  (As in if you were to cancel that far out, you’d get your entire deposit back.)

  • sirwired

     Cruise lines overbook all the time.  Plenty of people cancel cruises for whatever reason.  (Get sick, miss flights, normal “life happens” stuff…)  I’ve personally canceled a cruise just two weeks before sailing due to an illness in the family.  (Fully covered by trip insurance without a fuss.)

    And I don’t think they were canceled months in advance; the final docs pack usually arrives about six weeks or so before sailing.

    The difference is that most cruise lines do NOT EVER involuntarily bump passengers less than a few months before sailing.  They roll out the red carpet of bribery to passengers to avoid involuntary bumping at all costs.  Partial to full refunds, free upgrades, free cruises, large onboard credits, etc.  I’ve been on a cruise so overbooked I didn’t get my cabin assignment until the day before sailing while some of those that already had assignments were bribed to delay their vacation.  It worked (like it always does when the incentives are great enough) and nobody was left at the pier.

  • sirwired

    This is a very odd situation.  This is the first I’ve heard of a cruise line bumping a passenger involuntarily shortly before sailing.  It’s very common for cruise lines to bribe passengers to reschedule due to overbooking, but just throwing passengers off the itinerary?  Very strange and virtually unheard of.

    I agree that Vantage should be bearing any and all costs associated with the cancellation, along with something else to sweeten the pot.

  • Mark K

    Maybe on some cruises you get a full refund, but on this one you have a minimum $300 cancellation fee if you cancel after 24 hours from time of booking.  This seems to be the norm these days.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    The BBB’s A+ rating doesn’t mean anything other than the company has paid BBB their fees for the year.  ABC News had an interesting set of stories a year ago about how meaningless the ratings are.  As someone has filed a complaint against a BBB member, I can assure you that complaints do not show up on the website until several months after the complaint has been closed.  (Note that I said closed, not resolved.) The absence of a complaint on the BBB’s website does not make me question the validity of the OP’s complaint.

  • Ladycarols

    We have traveled with Vantage 5 times – 3 of them river cruises, 1 being this exact trip to Russia.
    Vantage is a Tour Company and references to this trip should be regarded as an all inclusive tour and not a cruise. You are not dealing with a Cruise Line.

    In January 2008, we had a very similar experience with another Tour Company for a trip to Egypt that included a 4 day Nile cruise. On December 31 at 11AM PST, we received a phone call from “Lasondra” that stated, “The trip is overbooked and you can’t go.” Those were the exact words. The trip was to leave on Jan. 12 and we already had our final documents. The company was closing for New Year’s in 3 hours and the next day was a holiday. Needless to say it ruined our New Years!

    What they offered was the exact same trip in March at 50% off. But we had booked this trip and PAID in full in June because we wanted to go in January. It was our first really exotic trip. Since I had the 32 names on the passenger list from the final documents, I was able to track down phone numbers for some of them. One was a group of 16. The others I talked to had not been contacted and seemed to have booked after us. Other than one other couple, we were the only ones who had not traveled with this company before. The other couple had a future trip booked. So we were singled out!

    I immediately contacted Chris. I phoned back on Jan. 2 and got Customer Service, wanting to make sure that the owners would get my faxed and email letter of complaint.  When “Esther” told me that the owners had nothing to do with this, I informed her that they should know how their company is being run. Then I started searching the Internet. You would be surprised the personal phone numbers that are available! By the time I had spoken with the maid of the company president  and left messages for other Vice Presidents,  “Lasondra” phoned and I was assured that my problem would be solved by the end of the day. They started asking for other volunteers to change dates.

    We got on the trip which was our main priority. As compensation for “our troubles”, they refunded the $400 we had already paid for the excursion to Abu Simbal. By the time I heard back from Chris asking what they were offering, I had already settled with them.

    I definitely believe the Tour Company screwed up. One of the group of 16 added a girlfriend, and I believe he originally was booked as a single with another tour member. The Company never took responsibility for the mixup.

    We are getting ready to travel to Turkey with this company in 3 weeks. This will be our 5th trip with them. Last year we had to cancel a trip to Morocco 4 days before departing because I needed knee surgery. Since we purchased travel insurance with Travelex, we received a complete cash refund in 10 days. That is why I don’t buy insurance through the Tour Company.

    The OP deserves MUCH MORE than her money back!

  • Carver

    What compensation do you believe is fair?  Does it matter is she incurred reasonable expenses such as airfare?

  • Carver


  • Ladycarols

    Sorry, just reread the trip itinerary. This is confusing, as Vantage charters boats for the Russian River cruise but this sounds like a trip on a Cruise Line.

    Our first trip with Vantage was to South America that included 3 nights in Rio, a 16 day cruise on Holland America, and 3 nights in Santiago. We did the tour package because the 6 nights in  hotels  were actually FREE as advertised after comparing the price from the cruise line with the price Vantage was charging.

    There definitely needs to be information presented about this situation.

  • At the very least, refunding any additional expenses incurred by the travelers (airfare, specialized clothing, immunizations, etc.) is in order.

    If Vantage would ever like my business (or I suspect the business of anyone reading this blog), offering them a major cabin upgrade or significant discount (30% or more) on their next cruise would also be appropriate.

  • Travelgal

    I’m unclear – was it the cruise line who overbooked and bumped them, or was it the tour operator who overbooked?  It seems that Vantage as the tour operator may have been the one that overbooked their own tour, maybe assuming they could get more cabins from AMA when they did, then found out that they couldn’t get cabins for everyone they had already booked.

  • Travelgal

    I should go on to say that regardless of who “bumped” her – she absolutely deserves more compensation.  Many people don’t have the luxury of being able to just switch their vacations to a different time due to work or school constraints – so to fill that cancelled cruise with another vacation will take time, not to mention the additional cost that will likely be involved with purchasing travel a few weeks before the trip.

    So yes – I think the OP definately deserves more.    If travel companies can just cancel your plans with their only responsibility being a full refund, then what’s to stop them from always just reselling the seats/cabins/rooms/tour spots over and over again to the next person who is paying more than the person they just cancelled?

  • Anna

    If Mann had had additional expenses we’d probably have heard about it; Elliott usually doesn’t leave out details in the plaintiff’s favour. Plus the trips sound all-inclusiveish on the website. What’s fair compensation? As a starting point I’d say the reciprocal equivalent of the company’s cancellation fees… but, realistically, how many hours is Mann prepared to spend on the phone for a bonus voucher for a free trip to a Finnish sauna or whatever? She could also just decide to take her business elsewhere and bitch about Vantage travel to all her friends…

  • Tony A.

    For this specific cruise, I think Vantage  exclusively chartered the WHOLE SHIP for the season or seasons. AMA is using a newer MS AmaKatarina for their own tours. So Vantage has FULL CONTROL of all the bookings in that boat! They are 100% to blame.

  • Martin

    “Everyone overbooks – or they go out drastically short most times. Its not about making more money, its about utilizing the full ship versus going out empty.”

    But this wasn’t normal overbooking because the cruise had already mailed them their final packets, indicating that even in the cruise’s eyes they were effectively “on board.”  Something came up at the 11th hour and I’m betting the cruise sailed with somebody in their cabin who paid more than $11K. 

  • Martin

    Good points. Negotiating a good settlement would likely end up leaving an even worst taste in their mouths than they have already.

    I find it very strange there weren’t any better offers sent their way. It’s odd because you’d expect good customer service from a higher end provider, but it’s also counterproductive given they’re now going to have to sell a cabin on a future cruise from scratch while they had a couple here who’d already paid them $11K to cruise with them. 

  • Martin

    “Nothing in the article says how far in advance they booked nor how far in advance they were cancelled.”

    They got their final packet the day after they were bumped, so it doesn’t appear they were canceled months and months in advance. And the mailing of a final packet suggests something major came up on the cruise’s end of things. A big-time clerical error where they didn’t realize they were overbooked until the 11th hour? A last-minute deal where they were able to rent out the entire ship? 

    But, regardless why or when they were bumped, it’s very strange there was no carrot offered to them to get them onto a different cruise. These days the segment of people willing to fork over that kind of money on a river cruise is smaller than ever and the cruise literally had to take their money out of the bank and refund it to them while basically telling them “We don’t care if we never hear from you again.”  That makes no sense.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    You are my new hero.  Seriously, you got the company president’s maid on the phone?  You’re good.

  • S E Tammela

    Goodness me. You can take the local cruise ferries between those three ports for well under $100 for each leg, and well under $200 for a lovely room on each leg. Skip the cruise, just fly in, stay in a nice hotel in Helsinki like Hotel Kamp, and visit the free local tourist office here in the city where the city-provided travel guides speak excellent English. Almost $12,000… honestly, count your lucky stars that you got a full refund from a RIPOFF cruise company.

  • Lmhpsyd

    In addition to the uneveness of response if the customer wants a last minute cancellation or change, is the reality that even with a refund, these people now need to make last minute bookings for a new vacation (much more costly than making plans ahead of time) or re-schedule their vacation, which is not often possible.

    I work in healthcare where I need to schedule time off 6-9 months ahead of time. If I have a last minute cancellation of a vacation, I’m stuck with that time.  

    I once had a connecting flight changed that significantly interfered with my vacation.  The airline “offered” to refund my flight and cancel the remaining leg, “allowing” me to re-schedule my flights one week before my Caribbean vacation in February.  A $400 airfare was now $1200. 

    If overbooking was treated like involuntary bumping on airlines, companies would be more careful/reasonable.

  • People like the OP normally book far in advance to get a preferred cabin or pricing. Cancelling on them like this makes it difficult for them to find a comparable cruise. So, I think more than the $500 pp is needed, preferably also a discount on a future cruise. What’s to stop this from happening again with the same cruiseline (unlikely but possible).

  • nice post…..

  • Lindaco12

    Vantage is not a “cruise line” it is a travel company that sells many kinds of trips.  Also, I would be curious if the Mann’s had paid the trip in full, in cash at a very early date to save money off the cost.  If so, Vantage had their money for quite a while before it was actually due and earned some interest on it.  If it was by credit card, then that was not the case. 
    I am aware of overbooking with guarantee cabins, but the Mann’s were assigned a cabin number so it was totally unacceptable of Vantage to do this to the Mann’s.

  • Juan

    Probably the cruise line got more money out of another booking for the same cabin.

  • The refund is obviously not enough. Think how much time the couple had spent on the planning and preparation, and how disappointed when they found they did all for nothing!

  • sullydm

    Because of the Vantage overbooking policy, I NEVER plan to travel with this
    company again. We booked a trip to Portugal over a year in advance (7/2010 for a trip in 10/2011). At that time
    we were placed on a wait list which cleared in September 2010 and paid in full in March 2011. We received a phone call 30 days before the
    trip (9/2011) informing us that the trip was overbooked and we would not be
    vacationing with our 8 friends/relatives.  We were VERY upset
    and disappointed to receive this information with no warning. Vantage informed us that we still be receiving all of the travel informaion but we actually had been bumped. Vantage
    was able to ‘bribe’ someone else off the trip & we did enjoy it but the
    overbooking fiasco put a pall over our enjoyment. Vantge did not get our
    names on the boat’s booking and we sat alone in the lounge while frantic phonecalls were made.

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