Zelma Friedling booked a Caribbean cruise a year in advance but canceled after two hurricanes hit the islands they were scheduled to visit. The cruise line refunded the money she paid for the cruise, but neither the cruise line nor the travel insurance company will refund what she paid for travel insurance.
Will we help her get her money back?
In early 2017, Friedling booked Viking’s West Indies Explorer cruise for March 2018 and purchased Viking’s Travel Protection Plan to protect her investment. She paid more than $8,500 for the cruise and $719 for the Travel Protection Plan. Then the 2017 hurricane season came along and devastated much of the Caribbean.
The itinerary begins in San Juan, and includes ports of call on several islands severely affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria: Tortola, St. Lucia, Guadeloupe, St. Kitts & Nevis, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
As of this writing, while Viking’s Updates on Current Sailings indicates that “it is still too early to know what adjustments will need to be made,” I can certainly understand why Friedling might want to cancel her cruise, and that’s exactly what she did.
According to the Viking contract on Friedling’s cruise, if a booking is canceled 121 or more days prior to a sailing a $100 per person penalty is charged and the remainder of the amount paid is refunded. She received the full amount due on her canceled cruise soon after the cancellation.
But what about the amount she paid for the travel insurance? She didn’t automatically receive a refund for that cost. She specifically requested a full refund from both Viking and Trip Mate, the provider of the Viking Travel Protection Plan, but her request was denied.
Instead she contacted us, and our advocate reviewed her contracts.
Travel insurance policies typically have a cancellation period, and many correspond with the cancellation policy of the travel program you purchase: When a cancellation penalty becomes effective on the tour program, you can no longer cancel your insurance policy and obtain a refund. Other policies have a more specific cancellation period, whether it is 24 hours, seven days, or some other period of time.
In this case, the Viking Travel Protection Plan has no cancellation period. Once the plan is purchased it is fully nonrefundable, and this is clearly stated on Friedling’s contract.
Friedling didn’t think this was fair. She told us:
According to Viking’s cancellation schedule, you are able to cancel a trip
121 days or more prior to departure with just losing $100 with or without having their
Travel protection plan. This cancellation has nothing to do with Trip Delay, Missed Connections, Health or Medical Reasons, etc. It has to do with going to an area that is off the radar and cut off from the world. Having to pay for insurance in this type of situation is unfair and a deceptive practice….
I definitely understand why she would have that opinion, but insurance isn’t typically something you get a refund for because you didn’t use it. It’s in place in case you have to use it. If you sell your car without ever having used your car insurance you don’t get a refund on the amount you paid.
For this reason, and because the travel insurance cancellation policy was fully and clearly disclosed, we had to dismiss Friedling’s case.