Case dismissed: Insurance won’t cover my river cruise

Read the fine print. Donald Stumpf didn’t — technically, no one ever offered him a contract — and now he’s out $7,274.

Stumpf booked a river cruise through Viking River Cruises in 2009, including a travel insurance policy through Trip Mate and airfare.

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“Unfortunately we had to cancel in September, due to gall bladder attacks and eventual surgery,” he says. “We requested and received vouchers for a future cruise.”

But the rescheduled sailing didn’t go any better. “My wife needed to have a knee replacement, and her surgeon advised her not to take that trip due to the large amount of walking involved,” he says.

He adds,

When we contacted Viking and Trip Mate Travel Insurance we were sent forms for her and her surgeon to complete, which we did.

We received a letter from Trip Mate stating the protection plan would not cover us because we didn’t incur “non-refundable, out of pocket prepaid expenses.”

Supposedly, we were advised this at the time we purchased the insurance for the second trip. If that is true, I either didn’t remember or understand it, and were never furnished this policy in writing.

Well, not quite.

I found the policy on Trip Mate’s website. Here’s the applicable language:

Trip Cancellation: Benefits will be paid, up to the Maximum Benefit Amount shown in the Schedule of Benefits, to cover You for the unused non-refundable prepaid expenses for Travel Arrangements when You are prevented from taking Your Trip.

But Stumpf says no one offered to show him the policy when he bought the cruise and had no way of knowing this was in the fine print — or even that it would be interpreted the way it was.

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure that the reason Trip Mate says it’s denying the Stumpfs is the actual reason. If Mrs. Stumpf had a knee replacement surgery, then it could be considered a pre-existing medical condition. Also, vouchers are typically only good for a year, which means the Stumpf’s credit has long ago expired.

Still, I thought it was worth checking with Viking River Cruises to see why the $498 in travel insurance they bought through the cruise line didn’t work. The cruise line didn’t respond.

I feel terrible for Stumpf. This appears to be the end of the road for his grievance.

They informed use in the letter they were closing our file. I then contacted Viking Customer support and was told there was nothing they could do.

We are in our seventies on a fixed income and this was to be our one and only European trip, and to lose this large amount of money is devastating to us.

I share his disappointment. But as I review the circumstances, I’m not sure if Trip Mate would ever cover this cruise, particularly on his second cancellation.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “It could never happen to me,” think again. The fine print on insurance contracts can be ridiculously complex. If you don’t at least read it, you’ll never know what’s covered — and what isn’t.

Photo: Rol fh/Flickr Creative Commons

55 thoughts on “Case dismissed: Insurance won’t cover my river cruise

  1. Hmmm… if the previous vouchers were the proceeds from an insurance claim, I don’t see how they fail to qualify as non-refundable, pre-paid expenses.  If the previous vouchers were a “courtesy”, then I suppose they are kind of coupon-like, and therefore possibly not covered.

    I think it’s time to appeal to the state dept. of insurance.  Those vouchers had very real value, and were the result of spending quite a bit of money; sounds like out-of-pocket expenses to me.  They will of course have to supply the original invoice, and probably details on the last claim, but this is eminently appealable. $7,200 might even be enough for a consumer-protection lawyer to take the case.

    1. “I think it’s time to appeal to the state dept. of insurance.”
      – – – – – – – – – — – –

      That will be a good next step IF the OP actually purchased a travel insurance policy was ACTUALLY purchased.  The OP purchased a travel protection plan which is NOT an insurance policy.

      Trip Mate sells travel protection plans not travel insurance policies…for years in this blog, I have been writing about the difference.  Trip Mate partners with thousands of major travel suppliers, group operators and retail travel distributors.

      The first rule of buying travel insurance is to never buy it from the travel provider (i.e. airline, cruise, tour operator, etc.).  Because these plans are NOT travel insurance policies but travel protection plans.  More importantly, these plans are written to benefit the travel provider NOT the traveler.

      For example, it is very common for a travel protection to issue a credit if the traveler can’t make the cruise, tour, etc. which could be useless if the traveler can’t travel again due to a health condition, etc.  If the OP had purchased a travel insurance policy initially, they would have received money back and won’t be in this position.

      IMHO, there was no reason for the OP to purchase their river cruise package directly from Viking.  The price would have been the same if they had purchased it from a travel agent.  A professional travel agent would have recommend to the OP to purchase a travel insurance policy and NOT the travel protection plan from Viking since the typical travel protection plan is written for the travel provider, has fewer benefits and features than a travel insurance policy, etc.

      1. And again, like with the BerkelyCare plans sold by many other cruise lines you also claimed were not insurance, you are simply wrong.  They. Are. Insurance. Plans.  (Not the world’s best ones, and they aren’t cheap, but they are insurance.)

        If you go to the Viking River Cruises website, and pull up the Trip Mate plan, you can easily find the link to the full plan details for the current plan: http://www.tripmate.com/archive/wp365V-2010-04-14/tic.htm

        “The travel insurance is underwritten by United States Fire Insurance
        Company under Form series TP 401. In KS, LA, SD, TX, and UT Form #’s
        TP-401 CW. In WA under Form #TP-401-WA. In OR under Form #TP-401 OR.”  That sure sounds like an insurance plan to me.

        The only part of the whole policy that is not underwritten by the insurance company is the Cancel for Any Reason Benefit.  The remainder of the cancellation coverage is underwritten by the insurance company and is explicitly insurance.

        1. If you read the information provided by the cruise lines, they are ‘Protection Plans’ not insurance.  The most important point in these plans is that they can not provide for default. 

          1. The fact that they use the word “Protection” in the plan title does not mean it isn’t insurance.  These are insurance policies.  Period.  They are sold by insurance marketers, underwritten by fully-regulated insurance companies, have plans on file with the appropriate agencies, etc.  No, they do not provide default coverage (only 3rd-party plans do that.)  Just because they are lacking in that one benefit does not mean they are not insurance.

          2. I am not an insurance agent but there is a reason these are not called insurance policies/insurance coverage.  This is what we have been told by the companies that sell travel insurance.  There is a difference, but I can’t tell you exactly what it is. If you noticed, the pretrip cancellation is covered by Viking, which might be why.  They are self covering this part.

          3. Only the Cancel for Any Reason Coverage (paid in vouchers) is covered by Viking.  The rest of the policy is insurance.  This particular policy has fairly decent Cancellation coverage (paid in cash) that IS covered by TripMate.  (As a side note, not all 1st-party policies have any cancellation coverage outside of the Any Reason vouchers, so that’s actually a point in this plan’s favor.) 

            This, by the way, is why I suggested WAY back in my first post, that the original writer contact their insurance commission.  Those vouchers had real value, knee surgery should be a covered reason, and the vouchers were the direct result of spending real money.  (Albeit money that was paid years ago.)  To me that sounds like a non-refundable pre-paid expense.

          4. If you contact the insurance commissioner, you will see that these protection plan are NOT regulated by the state insurance commissioner.

            My wife works for a company with a self-funded health insurance plan.  One of my wife’s co-workers (who is a neighbor) submitted a claim for short-term disability and the claim was initially denied.  This co-worker submitted their appeal written by a lawyer which included “Please provide proof that the applicable insurance policy was submitted to and approved by the appropriate Department of Insurance.”  The employer responded back with “this is a self-fund thus does not need to be approved by the AZ Dept of Insurance”. 

            These travel protection plan is no different than a self-funded health insurance plan.

          5. Employer self-funded health plans are indeed not regulated by state insurance departments.  Why?  Because they are regulated by the Federal ERISA benefits law, which takes precedence over state regulations.  They are insurance, just not state-regulated insurance.

            That has nothing whatsoever to do with travel insurance policies and if they are actual insurance or not.

            The only part of a 1st-party plan that is not insurance is the Cancellation Penalty Voucher Waiver-For-Any-Reason part.  The rest of the trip insurance plan, including any cash cancellation coverage (which this particular policy has), medical insurance, medevac, trip interruption, etc. is all insurance.  They don’t print all those plan numbers, add the supplemental state-specific insurance language, etc. just for the heck of it.

        2. I used to work for a company for 11 years that had four divisions…one of them being employee benefits and another one being an insurance company…(stock brokerage and asset management the other two)…I was a senior compliance officer…I must disagree.

      2. I think you’re a little optimistic about a travel agent recommending a true insurance product vs. “travel protection”. Aren’t TAs given commissions for selling “travel protection”?

        Personally, I wish there was some way to regulate these “travel protection” agreements to force a disclosure to the consumer that he/she is not buying actual insurance. So many people (who don’t read this blog) get this confused, and these are the people who suffer the consequences. 

        I’m fairly certain if I hadn’t read this blog, I’d have no idea that there was a difference between trip protection and trip insurance until I tried to file a claim. I’m certainly grateful to know the difference, but I think most of the traveling public has no clue about this important distinction.

        1. What does it matter if a TA is paid.  Everyone who sells anything is paid to sell it in one fashion or the other.  The issue here is knowing what you are purchasing, how it works should you have to use it.  The one thing of importance to note on travel waivers vs travel insurance is that a company can not insure themselves against default, so cancellation waivers are useless with this. 

          What I would be going after Viking on, is that they allowed this passenger to purchase a waiver on a trip that according to TripMate had no value.   

          1. “What does it matter if a TA is paid.” 

            Are you serious? Please tell me that was a joke.

            When compensation is tied to “X”, you always get more of “X”. So if a TA is paid for issuing “travel protection” but not paid for recommending that the traveler go purchase true travel insurance on his own, guess what is going to be sold more often?

          2. No joke.

            I sell various components that we are not paid for.  I sell travel insurance and if you want to look around, go for it, but if you are booking travel with me, I will present what we offer and how or if we get paid for it isn’t your business, it is mine.  Same as for your job.

      3. “The first rule of buying travel insurance is to never buy it from the travel provider”… “IMHO, there was no reason for the OP to purchase their river cruise package directly from Viking.”
        ——
        That’s fine advice, but it’s not a defense for travel providers who aggressively market and sell these policies in conjunction with partners who aggressively look for dubious loopholes to deny claims that one would reasonably expect to be covered if “insurance” means anything.

    2. It’s because it wasn’t an insurance plan.  The vouchers were a courtesy from the company’s travel protection policy.

  2. Of course this is Monday morning quarterbacking, but perhaps they should have requested their money (rather than vouchers for a future trip) after the first cancellation. They basically gave the cruise line a free loan with limitations on how that loan could be recovered. 

    1. IF the OP actually purchased a travel insurance policy, the OP would have received money bacj NOT a credit for a future tour, cruise, etc.  However, the OP purchased a travel protection plan which is NOT an insurance policy.  These travel protection plans are written to benefit the travel provider NOT the traveler.For example, I read an article (it could have been on this site) about an older traveler that purchased a tour directly from a tour operator and purchased the travel protection plan.  The traveler developed a health condition that prevented him from traveling again.  He received a full credit for a future tour which was useless to him since he couldn’t travel and the credit was non-transferable.

      1. Based on the article (the only thing I have to go on), I think I’m going to have to disagree with you. 

        Here’s what the OP wrote:

        We received a letter from Trip Mate stating the protection plan would not cover us because we didn’t incur “non-refundable, out of pocket prepaid expenses.”

        Here’s from Chris:

        I found the policy on Trip Mate’s website. Here’s the applicable language:
        Trip Cancellation: Benefits will be paid, up to the Maximum Benefit Amount shown in the Schedule of Benefits, to cover You for the unused non-refundable prepaid expenses for Travel Arrangements when You are prevented from taking Your Trip.That suggests to me that the OP is entitled to cash back if all of the requirements are met. Where I think the Trip Mate is making a distinction is that there is no intrinsic cash value on a voucher (they paid X in 2009 for a trip, but the voucher would have entitled them to a trip worth Y [dependent on the “point in time” cost of the trip]), therefore they owe nothing. Mind you, this is just my best (uneducated) guess.The final nail in the coffin, though, is this from the OP: “We requested and received vouchers for a future cruise.”They may very well have been eligible for their money back but it sounds as if they asked for and accepted as compensation less than they were entitled to. Not the cruise line’s or Trip Mate’s fault.

    2. It is easy to be a Monday morning quarterback but the OP should have dealt with a PROFESSIONAL travel agent since they live on a fixed income; this was to going to be their one and only European trip; to lose this large amount of money is devastating to them; etc. instead of dealing directly with the travel provider who is NOT going to represent their best interest.  A river cruise may have not been the tour for them.  One drawback of a river cruise that they could be cancelled if the river level is low.  Another drawback is that you only travel to areas along the river instead of getting out in the countryside.

      If someone types trip mate travel insurance, the Google suggest is
      complaints trip mate travel insurance.  There are a host of complaints from travelrs who purchased a travel protection plan from a variety of tour operators.

      The travel insurance policies that I have purchased from squaremouth and InsuredMyTrip, there are no Google suggest of complaints for the respective insurance company that I purchased the travel insurance policy from.

  3. If you’re reading this and thinking, “It could never happen to me,” think again. The fine print on insurance contracts can be ridiculously complex.
    – – – – – – – – – –
    This is true; however, the OP didn’t have an insurance contract.  The OP purchased a travel protection plan which is NOT an insurance policy.  There are differences between the two…one being that a personcompany needs to be licensed as an insurance agent to sell travel insurance; whereas, a personcompany doesn’t need to be licensed as an insurance agent to sell a travel protection plan.For years on this blog, I have written that the first rule of buying ‘travel insurance’ is to never buy it from the travel provider (i.e. airline, cruise, tour operator, etc.).  Because these plans are NOT travel insurance policies but travel protection plans thus you don’t have the ‘protection’ or recourse of your state department of insurance to complain, appeal, etc.  More importantly, these plans are written to benefit the travel provider NOT the traveler as well as it very common if not the standard that these plans have less features and benefits than a travel insurance policy.

    For example, it is very common for a travel protection plan to issue a credit if the traveler can’t make the cruise, tour, etc. which could be useless if the traveler can’t travel again due to a health condition, etc.  If the OP had purchased a travel insurance policy initially, they would have received money back and won’t be in this position.

    1. You do not need to be an insurance agent to sell all types of insurance.  For instance, here in North Carolina, only sellers of Life, Health, Sickness, Property, Casualty, Personal, Title, Auto, and Surplus policies require a license.

      Travel insurance isn’t on that list, nor, for that matter are things like extended warranties (which are also insurance.)

  4. ARW, actually a simple google search for trip mate yields the following site.

    http://www.tripmate.com/tmwebsite/index.php

    On that site, on the very front page, they indicate that they sell “Travel Insurance”, underwritten by United States Fire Insurance Company.

    A Department of Insurance complaint may be a viable option.

    Unless of course this isn’t THE tripmate they’ve used. 

    1. I did went to their website. 

      It states “As a leading provider of travel protection plans, Trip Mate partners with thousands of major travel suppliers, group operators and retail travel distributors to ensure each year that millions of people enjoy their vacations free of concern.”  Also, the reference on their home page is from a VP of Globus, a tour operator.  Where is the reference from a consumer?  An individual can NOT purchase a travel protection plan directly from Trip Mate only from a travel provider.

      Trip Mate and companies like them put together travel protection plans for travel providers (i.e. airline, cruises, tour opertors, etc.).  They are like self-funded health insurance plans…the plan between the Third Party Administrator (TPA) (i.e. Trip Mate) and the travel provider (i.e. Viking River Cruises) is underwritten by an insurance company (i.e. United States Fire Insurance Company).

      Trip Mate is NOT an insurance company; therefore, is not regulated by the various state department insurance commissioners, etc.  Trip Mate uses United States Fire Insurance Company to underwrite the risks of the travel protection plans that they custom designed for each of their travel providers.  United States Fire Insurance Company does NOT issue an insurance contract to the individual travel insurance.

      Over the years, I have purchased several travel insurance policies from squaremouth, insuredmytrip, etc. and the policies came from an actual insurance company NOT a TPA, a third party, etc.

      1. Huh?

        All trip insurance plans (and, for that matter, most insurance policies in general) are sold by one organization, and underwritten by another (usually a subsidiary of the marketing organization.)  Often claims are processed by a different subsidiary.  For instance, TravelGuard, which is a rock-solid trip insurance company, uses policies underwritten by The National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh.  (Heck, my HO/Auto plans are “Travelers” policies, but underwritten by some company I’ve never heard of in Ohio, which is probably a Travelers subsidiary.)

        The fact that TripMate policies are underwritten by somebody else does not make them no longer an insurance policy.  You are making a distinction without a difference.

        1. ARW is correct – most of the things sold by the operators are “Protection Plans” and not true travel insurance.  if you want insurance buy it from someone who doesn’t have a financial interest in the operator.

          1. Hey, I’ll admit they aren’t the best policies out there, and they aren’t cheap, and they are designed by the trip providers, but they are Insurance.  With a Capital “I.”  They are underwritten by insurance companies, are forms filed with state Depts. of Insurance., are appeal-able with the govt., etc.  The fact that the title of the plan uses the word “Protection” does not make any difference.

          2. You are incorrect Sirwired. Protection plans are not insurance plans.  As I stated in my reply to your other post, these are inhouse coverages which can not insure against default.

            Some protection plans are self covered by the tour company.

          3. Read the plan for yourself!  http://www.tripmate.com/archive/wp365V-2010-08-05/tic.htm

            The only part of the coverage that is not insurance is the Cancel For Any Reason Coverage.  The rest of the plan (including other cancellation coverages) IS insurance. 

            Not all “real” insurance plans, sold by 3rd parties cover against default, so you can’t use that as a criteria to decide if it’s a real policy.

          4. Never said ‘real policy’ I said that a tour company can protect you with their coverage from default.

            I did read the plan which raises the question, why isn’t Viking covering this since he took out the coverage and they can issue a second voucher?  This portion is covered by Viking, not the insurance company as I am reading it.

    2. I might to write “Trip Mate uses United States Fire Insurance Company to underwrite the risks of the travel protection plans that they custom designed for each of their travel providers.  United States Fire Insurance Company does NOT issue an insurance contract to the individual traveler.”

      1. ARW – I’m not sure I fully understand the distinction you are pointing out between “insurance” and “protection,” but I want to learn more. Meanwhile, here is the complete text from the website, which sure sounds like insurance to me…

        http://www.tripmate.com/tmwebsite/index.php

        Ensuring a worry free vacation

         

        Travel should be worry free. But what if something happens? What
        if you or a loved one becomes sick? Your bags are lost or stolen? Or
        you need to cancel a trip due to an emergency?

        Who pays for it?

        On your next trip, protect yourself from the unforeseen with travel
        insurance from Trip Mate. As a leading provider of travel protection
        plans, Trip Mate partners with thousands of major travel suppliers,
        group operators and retail travel distributors to ensure each year that
        millions of people enjoy their vacations free of concern.

        Who underwrites our plans?

        Our plans are underwritten by United States Fire Insurance Company,
        a member of the Crum & Forster Group, a large and financially
        stable and respected group of insurance companies. Learn more about Crum & Forster group.

      2. From the website, I can’t tell if it’s travel insurance or travel protection. They use both terms, seemingly interchangeably. I would certainly forgive someone from being confused by it. 

        If they’re not offering the consumer a regulated product, I think the language that they use regarding insurance and underwriting is *extremely* deceptive. 

  5. I think that the OP is probably out of luck, which makes me sad for him and pissed off at an industry that seems to be geared towards making it as hard as possible to know how to protect your vacation. Travel protection v. trip insurance, both of which are written in legalese that tends to be confusing and misleading.

    And yes, it’s very true that the traveler should never buy protection or insurance from the people with whom he or she is traveling, and it’s also true that it’s best to book large, expensive, one-in-a-lifetime vacations through a reputable travel agent in case anything goes wrong. But it pisses me off. When did buying and protecting one’s vacation become a task as arduous as applying for a mortgage? It’s beginning to feel like you need to run the trip insurance/travel protection document past a lawyer before you buy any, just to make sure that what you think you’re getting is what you actually ARE getting.

    Poor OP. I voted ‘yes’ based on the facts of the case, but ethically and morally he should get his damned vacation money back.

  6. If that insurance was sold in the United States then a letter to the state insurance commissioner might be helpful.

  7. Trip Mate has many different plans. One supplier with whom I work utilizes TripMate and it is an affordable option. The policy I am referring to is an actual underwritten police (not sure who the underwriter is) but it is a cash back out of pocket reimbursement, medical coverage policy.

    There is a hybrid part to it where they offer a cancel for any reason (change of mind, unable to get off work, etc) where refunds are offered in funny money (vouchers).

    1. Now that’s interesting. I wonder if the OP filed a claim (or was tricked into filing a claim) under the “any reason” coverage instead of under the medical coverage. 

      There’s no way to know, however, since it seems TripMate offers many different products, and we’d need to read his actual agreement/policy.

  8. The standard response to every travel ripoff story printed in the last few years has become “always buy insurance.” So now that we’re starting to get scammed in the travel insurance itself, are we going to start seeing travel insurance insurance?

  9. Until the field of travel insurance is standardized and strongly regulated, the average joe or jane is required to read an incredibly complex document with convoluted language.  That is why it is just foolhard to buy any trip protection, cruise cancellation, travel insurance or whatever they want to call their product. 

    I buy my American Express travel delay protection plan through the credit card because it is clearly worded and specific.  No wherefore’s, whereas’s and notwithstanding’s.  Simple, clear and understandable.  No footnotes or obscure asterisks you cannot find on the same page.

  10. Unfortunately, it sounds like everything was set up to go wrong with this one.

    This sounds like it was a travel plan, not travel insurance (should this article be retitled?). Vouchers, etc.

    It must be nice for a company like this to be able to keep thousands of dollars like this on a whim.

  11. Did not read the details of any contract til after he buys it.

    Did nt understand what he received.

    Did not timely use the vouchers because he did not either read nor understand them.

    Ok then. This is our problem how?

  12. I almost never purchase travel protection, especially from the travel providers.  Every policy I have looked at recently has had so many clauses protecting them that it seems it would be impossible to ever get my money back.  I feel like I save money by not buying it in most cases, and eating the cost if I need to cancel.
     
    The only time I ever purchased travel insurance was on my honeymoon.  It was also one of the few times I used an agent.  We planned a trip to 4 islands in Tahiti and a few days in Vegas on the way back.  The agent offered a policy for $500 that would allow us to change dates, change flights, change hotels, and change anything at any time including canceling the entire trip for a full 100% refund of everything less the $500.  She funded this program herself.  I am not sure how she was able to; I think she had some very good deals with the airlines as she got us full fare refundable flights for $700 a person.  We did make a few changes, added Vegas at the last minute, etc. and we never had a problem.  She even said our airfare was the same price with the 2 day stopover in Vegas.  When we had an intra Tahiti flight get canceled on us, and Air Tahiti could not rebook us for 2 days, our agent paid for a helicopter to pick us up at our hotel and take us to the next island.  For our trouble, she gave us two free tickets anywhere in the US, not continental US mind you.  We went to Hawaii; she even sprung for Economy Plus.
     
    Unfortunately, I have not seen a travel policy like this since.  And who knows, if we had canceled, maybe she would have found a way out.  But I do think for once in a lifetime trips, using an agent and buying a policy can be good in most cases.  For smaller trips, its best to leave it up to the powers that be.
     
    Buying travel insurance is basically gambling that you won’t be able to travel.  Most of these insurance companies, and/or protection packages have the deck stacked against you.  That’s not a bet I am willing to take, which is why I read the fine print.

  13. Deja vu, didn’t we hear about various states going after phony trip insurance awhile back that marketed itself as trip protection? This may be a different company, but it still is setting off all the alarms for me. I’m thinking Mr. Stumpf has a solid case with the insurance regulator in his state.

    As far as not buying insurance or “protection” from the tour operators goes, while it may seem obvious to a frequent traveler it may not be to those who do so infrequently or are new to it. Everyone has to learn sometime, but I don’t think that entitles companies to cash in to the extent they do.

    Mr. Stumpf paid to have his trip covered, not once, but twice. If they are going to deny him on the fact that the 1st “pay out” doesn’t have real value and thus can’t be counted as a loss, then their original product is worthless to begin with and thus they cannot make the advertising claims they do nor should they have taken his money the second time around since there was nothing of value to cover.

    1. “As far as not buying insurance or “protection” from the tour operators goes, while it may seem obvious to a frequent traveler it may not be to those who do so infrequently or are new to it. Everyone has to learn sometime, but I don’t think that entitles companies to cash in to the extent they do.”
      – – – – – – – —  — –
      That is why an inexperienced traveler should use the services of a professional brick & mortar travel agent when planning for an once in a lifetime trip; an international trip; a weddinghoneymoon; etc.

  14. I’m not sure why the distinction between “protection” and “insurance”. in either case, you pay a company to provide you with a remedy in the unlikely event something happens in wich you cannot travel as planned or things go wrong. Call it what you will, but it sure sounds like insurance to me.

    Also, i would pursue this further as they were definately out money, in fact seven grand worth. It matters not wether they used credit, credit card, or cash to purchase the tickets. The tickets were not “comped” to them and were paid for by them in one way or another. Their claim is valid and should be pursued.

  15. The key paragraph here is that they didn’t respond to your inquiry. We were looking at Viking Cruises but won’t now. Any vendor that doesn’t answer a simple question from a travel omsbudsman is not interested in customer service, in my view. At the very least, they could have explained to you and your readers. Crossing Viking off our list.

  16. I do wonder based on the web site claiming its insurance when its a travel protection plan opens up the door for a lawsuit basically claiming its something it is not.

  17. This is another reason I love your blog Chris, it exposes and enlightens the traveling public to scams and company’s that do not stand behind their product.  Viking is just another one that didn’t count on all the bad publicity and have no idea how much busines they will lose over this 1 incident.  In the long term much better to pay the $7000 or issue a free cruise.

    1. I read this whole story and I haven’t a clue as to what exactly happened.    How can we protect ourselves and our bank accounts when we book a cruise?    I’m not a lawyer and reading the fine print on those contracts would not help me one bit.  I haven’t a clue as to what all that fine print means.   Is the only way to really protect your investment is to buy the highway robbery priced “cancel for any reason” insurance or protection or whatever it should be called?

  18. The OP doesn’t say, but if it were me, I’d have made sure the 2nd time of what the “insurance” covered or didn’t cover. If no cover, I probably would’ve gone ahead with the trip in a wheelchair rather than risk losing it. Worse comes to worst, stay on the boat and enjoy the scenery from the Lido deck… Reading between the lines, it seems like a LOT of time went by from the 1st trip to the 2nd to the back-and-forth with the insurer…

  19. It’s surprising to me that anyone would have sold the Stumpf’s a trip cancellation travel insurance plan because they had no prepaid & out of pocket trip costs that were incurred specifically for this trip. Vouchers, like award travel & frequent flyer tickets are considered to have a $0 trip cost.

    In addition, the Stumpf’s technically didn’t buy a trip cancellation travel insurance plan. Instead, they bought a pre-departure waiver plan that contains elements of insurance (medical & transportation). A pre-departure waiver plan is really just a promise to pay.

    See Christopher Elliott’s article “6 questions to ask before buying trip insurance” for more information:  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29556086/ . Even though I am quoted in the article, it’s a good read.

    Steve Dasseos, Founder, http://www.TripInsuranceStore.com

  20. I took a trip to the Caribbean (Beaches Resort) this summer and I knew
    that it was a risky proposition because it was hurricane season. The
    bought insurance through TripMate since the policy stated that there was
    coverage for trip interruption. Hurricane Irene struck the island of
    Turks and Caicos and our resort was flooded. Our room was flooded. The
    entire place was shut down. The airport was closed for days. Naturally
    we were trapped until our departure. There was was running water and
    some food but we were stranded for days until our departure. TripMate
    refused to pay us any benefit since they claim that we were unsatisfied
    with the amenities we received and stayed for the duration of our trip.
    What exactly was I supposed to do? Swim back to Florida? They claim that
    I did not incur any additional expenses to leave. How was I supposed to
    leave when the airport was closed? They claim that there is no benefit
    for amenities that were unavailable. I think that a hurricane ravaged
    island flooded by waters and airport closure, a resort room that was flooded with water with no place to go qualifies as “trip
    interruption.” I filed a complaint with the BBB and all they did was
    forward my emails to TripMate. I got nowhere. Even when the policy
    states that there is coverage for “trip interruption” because of “flood”
    or “inclement weather, ” their response was that will not pay unless you find a way to
    incur additional expenses to escape your demise and then have to file a
    claim after the fact for the “unused portion” of your trip. They told me that I am filing a claim because “I didn’t get the value I paid for.” Good luck
    trying to file any claim with them. They
    misrepresent the facts and twist the language of the policy to deny
    claims. I have yet to read any online posts praising them for paying a
    claim.

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