His SeaWorld vacation is sunk — where’s his refund?

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By Christopher Elliott

If you want to save a little money on your next SeaWorld vacation, booking it all in the same place might be a good move. That’s what Jim Strasbaugh thought when he found a two-day package at SeaWorld Orlando through SeaWorld Vacations.

He was wrong.

It took a personal tragedy to find out about some of the restrictive terms and conditions on his package that made it not such a good deal.

A death in the family — and more bad news

“After spending the first half day in the park we returned to the hotel, only to find that there was a death in the family that day,” he says. “Needless to say we had to cut our vacation short. The hotel was very accommodating and checked us out in the morning to show that we only used one of our two night stay.”

Kudos to the DoubleTree on I-Drive for helping Strasbaugh in his time of need, by the way.

But then things came unraveled. There was still the matter of the unused all-day dining, the tickets, two premium “adventures” and the actual hotel refund, which would be up to SeaWorld Vacations, not the DoubleTree, to refund. I’ll let Strasbaugh explain what happened next.

At first they were very accommodating, refunding the additional monies we had paid for the premium adventures and said to get confirmation from the hotel that we had checked out. We said that would not be a problem and we would like to continue our stay at a later date and we would be happy to be issued vouchers for the unused portion of our vacation or refund what ever was easier for them.

They said they would most likely just refund the hotel but the additional day in the park as well as the all day dining would be lost. They stated that the additional day in the park had to be used with in the week and the all-day dining would not be honored.

After speaking to a supervisor, we were later issued a voucher for the additional day to be used within a year.

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SeaWorld vacations have restrictions — lots of restrictions

Bear in mind that package deals are highly restrictive. Even if you buy these items a la carte, they still can’t be used any which way.

Five days later, after not hearing from SeaWorld Vacations about the hotel refund I called them.

The vacation specialist knew nothing of the request for hotel voucher or refund. She wrote an email to the hotel department for follow up.

The hotel department did call back one week after our vacation ended and said since no voucher could be issued for hotel stay we would receive a refund for the second night of the hotel.

By this time, Stasbaugh had become frustrated. All of the same people who, after he had to cancel his vacation under dreadful circumstances — circumstances that were beyond his control — seemed to be turning their back on him. (Here’s our guide to resolving your consumer problem.)

He called SeaWorld Vacations (l also list executive contacts for SeaWorld on this site) to demand an immediate refund, but it refused. When he mentioned contacting a lawyer and a consumer advocate, he says a representative hung up on him. (Related: Her Great Value Vacations refund problem isn’t so great.)

I’m sure that according to the rules, SeaWorld is correct. He forfeited the rest of his vacation when he flew home.

Some of you might be thinking that he should have bought travel insurance. I’m not sure if that would have covered him. It depends who died and under what circumstances. For example, if it’s a distant cousin who suffered from a mental disorder, then he might have some trouble with a claim. Many policies exclude pre-existing medical conditions and also mental illnesses. What’s more, they only cover deaths of close family members or business partners.

A final “no” from SeaWorld

My advocacy team and I asked Strasbaugh to start a paper trail. Here’s SeaWorld’s final “no.”

After reviewing this situation again, I am sorry to say that I am unable to honor your request and refund you another portion of your Vacation Package. The All Day Dining Deal is a promotional component in the package you purchased, and I am happy to offer you park admission at SeaWorld, per my previous email. Also, I would like to confirm that a refund of $84.38 has been processed yesterday on your behalf, for one night you did not spend at the hotel.

So SeaWorld finally pulled through with the promised room-night refund, but said “no” to the rest. That’s a bittersweet resolution, and not what Strasbaugh was hoping for.

“It really upsets me that I really am not asking them for anything more than to be allowed to finish the little vacation that we started,” he says. “They are very much taking the stance that they are doing us favor by even doing what they have done.”

Actually, knowing what I do about the other vacation components, I think SeaWorld Vacations has gone above and beyond what it was required to. Could it have done more? Sure. Did it have to? No.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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