I double-booked my shore excursions. Why can’t I get a refund?

If you double-book a shore excursion on your cruise, are you entitled to a refund for your missed tour?

Diane Kolett and her husband would like to know, because they experienced this on a recent vacation.

Kolett’s case is a reminder to always check travel confirmations immediately on receiving them, and not to wait until the day of a trip to make any changes or contest errors.

Kolett and her husband had booked a cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas in Canada and northeastern U.S. through Shore Excursions Group, as well as five shore excursions through Royal Caribbean and five through Shore Excursions. Two of these, Gray Line’s “Classic Trolley, Freedom Trail and Harbor Cruise” and “Concord, Cambridge and Lexington Tour,” would take place when the ship was in Boston.

Unfortunately, Gray Line’s tour bus was extremely late to pick up the Koletts at the cruise terminal in Boston for the first tour, and the operators complained about traffic.

While reviewing her instructions for the second tour, Gray Line’s “Cambridge, Lexington and Concord Tour,” Kolett realized for the first time that the tour date was listed on her confirmation as the previous day. She called Gray Line to find out whether she and her husband could take the tour that day. Gray Line’s agent confirmed that there were two spaces available that day for the tour.

Kolett then asked whether Gray Line would guarantee that the Koletts would return to the cruise terminal 30 minutes before they were required to be back on the ship before it was scheduled to depart. When Gray Line refused to do this, Kolett decided that she was “uncomfortable taking the excursion” and asked for a refund for the tour. Gray Line’s agent told her that she would have to seek her refund through Shore Excursions Group. She immediately called Shore Excursions Group, whose agent promised to look into her situation.

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But Shore Excursions Group notified Kolett that its management team, after reviewing her reservation, “decided not to move forward with a refund.”

Kolett responded that

We had a great time on the other four excursions we did with you and, if it weren’t for the fact that the tour operator couldn’t guarantee that we could return to the ship on time, we would have loved to have taken the other tour.

I called Shore Excursions later that afternoon to request a refund of the $110 we paid for that excursion. I explained what happened to whomever I spoke to on the phone and they said they would discuss among management and notify me. I got an email on Oct. 10 denying my request. That was very upsetting to me considering your satisfaction guarantee. Please consider honoring my request.

Kolett then asked both our advocates and our forum for assistance in seeking a refund.

Our forum members pointed out that Shore Excursions Group’s refusal to issue Kolett a full refund is consistent with its cancellation policy, which provides that

Unless otherwise noted within the tour description, customers can cancel a tour up to 14 days before departure and receive a full refund. All tours are non-refundable if not canceled by customers before 14 days before tour departure.

No refunds will be made to any customer who fails to show up for a tour departure at the designated time and place, or who leaves, or otherwise does not use all of the services scheduled to be provided by an excursion.

They also told Kolett that while it’s understandable that she wanted to make sure she had enough time to return to her cruise ship after the transportation problems with the previous day’s tour, Kolett herself is ultimately responsible for not checking her tour confirmations to make sure that the scheduling worked prior to 14 days before the scheduled dates of the tours.

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After our advocates contacted Shore Excursions Group, its agent offered Kolett a 50 percent refund, but Kolett indicated that “I won’t be happy without a full refund.” She posted in the forum that

I did finally hear from Shore Excursions Group again. At first they said they were again denying my claim. I just don’t get why they won’t do the right thing and am very disappointed with the company. … They said they sent me an email notifying me of the conflict and I told them that they didn’t. They checked again and confirmed that they didn’t send that email so they said they will refund half the cost. This [is] a big company and this could have been avoided if they had sent that email. How is this my fault?

Kolett thought she was entitled to a full refund as a goodwill gesture from Shore Excursions Group. The forum members reiterated that Kolett should have checked her tour confirmations when she received them. They added that a 50 percent refund of the tour costs is a gesture of goodwill.

Although Kolett is not pleased with the outcome of her case, it stands as a warning to travelers: Always immediately check any confirmations you receive from a travel company, both before and after completing your purchases. Otherwise, like Kolett, you may not receive what you’re paying for, and will have to say “Bon voyage” to your travel fares.

Should Shore Excursions Group refund Diane Kolett the full cost of the tour she didn't take?

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Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

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