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

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