“My riverboat vacation turned into a nightmare”

Photo of author

By Christopher Elliott

Gennaro Ottomanelli and his wife were left high and dry when his riverboat cruise was canceled at the last minute. His AAA travel agent offered two choices: Either cancel his vacation or go on the substitute bus tour. He decided to stay home, hoping to get a refund.

He didn’t.

My riverboat vacation turned into a nightmare. Although I purchased travel insurance at the company recommended by AAA, the travel insurance company advised me that I was not eligible for a refund since the travel insurance did not cover a cancellation by the ship’s operator.

Neither AAA, the travel insurance company or the ship’s company would take responsibility for the $2,860 airfare payment that I lost because of the late cancellation.

My multiple efforts to obtain a refund from AAA were ineffective, despite numerous attempts and contacts with various agencies.

Too bad the Ottomanellis didn’t review the terms of their insurance before they bought it. But even if they had, would they have known to ask about the cancellation policy? Probably not. Instead, they relied on the recommendation of their travel agent, who assured them they’d be protected if their cruise on the riverboat was canceled.

And believe me, folks, this last-minute riverboat-to-road switch isn’t the first one I’ve encountered.

My advocacy team and I asked AAA to take another look at Ottomanelli’s case, hoping it would consider a refund. A few days later, it responded:

Global Rescue is the world’s leading provider of medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services. Founded in 2004, Global Rescue has exclusive relationships with the Johns Hopkins Emergency Medicine Division of Special Operations and Elite Medical Group. Global Rescue provides best-in-class services that identify, monitor and respond to client medical and security crises. Learn more about Global Rescue.

AAA’s philosophy is one of extraordinary service and we believe that we have worked sincerely, caringly and diligently with the Ottomanelli’s.

The low river level, which prevented the ship from sailing on the date the Ottomanelli’s were scheduled, was extremely disappointing. The trip was to be a first class two week adventure and we recognize the planning and excitement which precede a trip of this magnitude.

We also share the couple’s concerns over the late cancellation decision and notice given by the cruise company. As a result, we investigated that decision with the cruise line and found that the situation was highly unusual. The forecast in the days leading up to the cruise called for rain, thus the cruise line had every reason to believe that the river would be at an acceptable level and the ship would depart as scheduled.

The late cancellation, while we find challenging, was a result of Mother Nature, a force over which none of us have control. While we were not at fault in this situation, we have work tirelessly on behalf of the Ottomanellis and have now obtained a 100% refund of all their expended funds.

We believe this to be above and beyond reasonable under the circumstances.

Nice work, AAA. (Here is our ultimate guide to planning your next cruise.)

Photo of author

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.

Related Posts