Part of our trip was canceled, so where is our refund?

By | March 24th, 2017

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.

Related story:   Is this enough compensation? Here's a refund for your airline tickets, but there's this little fee ...

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.”

  • sirwired

    Actually, insurance would likely not have helped, as 3rd-party CAFR claims usually require at least 48 hours notice.

    And it’s very nice they are apologetic now, but there’s no excuse for cutting off contact after making this supposed “clerical error”.

  • James

    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.

    So the original poster should have paid a third party money to get back what they should have (and did) received bck anyway?


    Snickering a bit at the mention they might have purchased the offered insurance through a Trip Mate brand—the same insurance company featured in the previous post for their efforts to avoid paying a valid claim.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I’m glad that they got their full refund back – that was the right outcome, and kudos for helping them get it done.

    I disagree with the comment that trip insurance would have been any benefit at all. This was not a voluntary cancellation by the passenger – it was a cancellation of a large part of the trip by the travel provider. “Cancel for any reason” insurance is EXPENSIVE, and in this case it would have been a total waste of money since they were legitimately due a full refund without having to use insurance.

    Worse, if they HAD purchased travel insurance and tried to obtain their refund through a claim, it seems likely it would have ended up in a big mess. Note that the travel insurance company they offer happens to be Trip Mate, a company with a “B” rating with the BBB and a history of offensive stalling tactics and refusal to pay valid claims, as noted in the article just before this one. Can you imagine the chaos that might have ensued?

  • LeeAnneClark

    HA! I just posted the same observation. LOL!

  • PsyGuy

    Really, they could have cut him a check to begin with.

  • Lindabator

    but we do not know how long they waited – sounds like they jumped to Chris quickly – those South American cruises run only certain season, which was JUST past

  • Nathan Witt

    “You might have benefited from purchasing travel insurance…” I understand the benefits of travel insurance, as it’s quite a bit cheaper than only booking fully changeable/refundable travel, but I don’t like to see travel insurance used as a panacea, because asking insurers to pay when the error or issue stems from the travel service provider (and not the traveler) drives up the price of travel insurance and removes any monetary incentive to the travel service providers to get it right the first time. Also – and I need help from the site’s experts here – would “normal” travel insurance have reimbursed the full deposit in a case like this?

  • LDVinVA

    We have taken several wonderful trips with Uncommon Journeys and I was, at first, dismayed to read about the poster’s experience. We met Christopher Kyte and know him to be a stand-up guy (he assisted us when we had a bit of a snafu with a reservation), so I am not surprised he made things right for them, even if late.

  • Michael__K

    Last tour would have started Dec 1 2016. So over three and a half months.

  • Kairho

    Refunds should always made to the original form of payment. For credit cards, this is in the merchant’s agreement. It’s advantageous to the company, too, as the discount is returned to the company upon refund.

    In this case, there may be a reason they could (eventually) do a check refund such as some time restriction in that agreement. In which case the company ate the discount, too. Good for them … finally.

  • PsyGuy

    It should also be made timely and in compliance with DOT regulation. Regulations supercede policy and best or even common practices. The idea a merchant can hold onto a consumer’s money for months because of “policy” that defies rule and regulation is absurd.

  • jsn55

    Great story, Jennifer … so nice to read that ‘justice has been done’. Astonishing to think that a small, easily fixed issue like the CC security code held up the refund. Not that it happened, but that the company employs such incompetent people; employees who have access to your CC and all your personal information.

  • Fishplate

    The extra $50 – in actual money! – was a nice touch.

We want your feedback. Your opinion is important to us. Here's how you can share your thoughts:
  • Send us a letter to the editor. We'll publish your most thoughtful missives in our daily newsletter or in an upcoming post.
  • Leave a message on one of our social networks. We have an active Facebook page, a LinkedIn presence and a Twitter account. Every story on this site is posted on those channels. The conversation ranges from completely unmoderated (Twitter) to moderated (Facebook and LinkedIn).
  • Post a question to our help forums or ask our advocates for a hand through our assistance intake form. Please note that our help forum is not a place for debate. It's there primarily to assist readers with a consumer problem.
  • If you have a news tip or want to report an error or omission, you can email the site publisher directly. You may also contact the post's author directly. Contact information is in the author tagline.