My river cruise turned into a bus trip – how about a refund?

Anibal Trejo/Shutterstock
Anibal Trejo/Shutterstock
Al Chapper’s trouble with Vantage Worldwide River Voyages isn’t just the most common river-cruise question I get. It’s the most common cruise complaint, period.

Which is why I’m thinking of mediating it.

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Chapper just got off a “river” cruise of France’s Burgundy and Provence region. And I put “river” in quotes because although they followed the Saône and Rhône rivers, they were not on a ship.

They were in a bus.

“The company did bus us to some of the sites we were supposed to visit but had to cancel some others,” he says. “The result was that we missed perhaps two or three days out of the 13-day itinerary.”

To its credit, Vantage addressed the problem right away in a letter:

On behalf of of Vantage Deluxe World Travel, I’d like to thank you for your patience and understanding over the course of your French Waterways journey. As you know, dangerously high water levels along the Rhone and Saone prompted French authorities to close all navigation along these rivers.

We regret that this act of nature forced us to cancel our river travel as scheduled in order to ensure your safety, which is always our top priority.

We of course recognize the disappointment this may have caused you. I would like to extend a $500 per person future travel credit as compensation. Feel free to use it toward any advantage trip of your choice departing by December 31, 2014.

As a seasoned world traveler, you know that acts of nature and other unforeseen events often require us to change the best laid plans. We are glad that in spite of the sailing ban we were still able to deliver the majority of our scheduled sightseeing and cultural activities, and we appreciate the hard work of our regional teams, who acted quickly to arrange alternate activities for you.

Hmm, a $500 voucher for another river cruise? That assumes Chapper wants to come back to Europe within a year, and considering that a river cruise is a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, that’s highly doubtful.

“Is that reasonable?” he asks. “We have reason to believe that they knew of the problem in advance of the trip and should have given us the opportunity to cancel without penalty. We do not want to be greedy, but we feel that the $500 offer is too low.”

Vantage’s tour participation agreement (PDF) is pretty clear.

Without limiting the foregoing, Vantage is not responsible for any losses or expenses due to delays or changes in schedules, overbooking or downgrading of accommodations, defaults by any third parties, including Suppliers, mechanical or other failure of airplanes or other means of transportation, or the failure of any transportation mechanism to arrive or depart on time. Vantage is not responsible for acts of God or force majeure events, sanitation problems, lack of medical care, sickness, weather conditions, strikes and other labor activities, acts of terrorism, acts of war (declared or undeclared), quarantines, embargoes, blockades, criminal activities or any other act or event beyond the direct control of Vantage.

In other words, it lets itself off the hook for the river closures. (Incidentally, Vantage’s terms are a really fun read. Did you know that by going on one of its tours, you agree to be photographed and for the images to be used in a Vantage ad? Wow.)

Vantage’s adhesion contract is meaningless, because it’s an agreement that says it doesn’t have to deliver a meaningful product. I believe there’s an implied agreement that Chapper would get a full 13-day river cruise. I’m not at all persuaded that an unredeemable voucher represents a good-faith effort to fix a problem that Vantage may have known about well in advance.

I’m very tempted to take Chapper’s case, even though I know that the cruise line will point me back to its terms and will tell me that $500 represents more than the three missed days as a prorated portion of a trip.

It’s just that I’ve seen too many of these river navigation problems to turn a blind eye. If they can’t navigate the river, they should start selling motorcoach tours. N’est-ce pas?

Should I mediate Al Chapper's case?

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174 thoughts on “My river cruise turned into a bus trip – how about a refund?

  1. They did get a motorcoach tour of course, so a full refund wouldn’t be appropriate, but how can one calculate what would be fair? Are river tours more expensive than bus tours (one assumes they would be, but I don’t know this particular market)? If so, maybe a it’s possible to find the price of a comparable bus tour and ask for a refund of the difference? Keep in mind that the tour operator would have possibly saved money on the tour if the buses were cheaper to operate than the riverboat. The company shouldn’t be making money off this arrangement, even if it was due to an “act of God.”

    1. It’s an interesting idea, but keep in mind that the cruise company likely didn’t “save” anything because they still have to pay for the ship whether or not there are any passengers on it.

      1. Yes, there would be some fixed costs like the depreciation & insurance on the ship (which might be owned by someone else entirely who would take the loss due to a cancelled charter), but operating costs such as fuel, crew (if on casual contracts), port fees, etc, would be eliminated.

      2. And Vantage had to hire coaches, pay for hotels (assuming the OP was planning on-board accommodations), pay for meals (if the meals would have been provided on-board.) I think Mother Nature hit everybody for a loss, so it’s not that Vantage is making out on this.

        Vantage made the best of a bad situation, and that’s fair. They offered a $500 voucher which also seems fair. It’s not Vantage’s fault the river flooded, nor is it the OP’s fault. Sometimes things just happen, like rain, and everybody has to make the best of it.

    2. I think you’re missing the point. He wanted to go on a cruise. He paid for a cruise. If you booked a cruise to Acapulco, and the ship’s engine blew up, would you be happy if the cruise line said, “No problem. We’ll just bus you to Acapulco”.

      1. Well, we don’t know what options were presented at the time it became clear that the ship couldn’t sail – this isn’t explained by Chris. If the cruise was the sole reason for the trip, and they would get no enjoyment out of other transportation methods, wouldn’t they have gone home once they realized the boat option wasn’t possible? No, they did take the replacement offering and apparently saw most of the advertised destinations – that’s why I don’t think a full refund is due.

        1. It seems pretty clear to me they were NOT offered the option of just not going. Right in the article the OP states: “We have reason to believe that they knew of the problem in advance of
          the trip and should have given us the opportunity to cancel without
          penalty.” Clearly they were not offered the option of cancelling.

          And while not explicitly stated, it also seems obvious to me that they were not informed that they would be on a coach tour instead of a cruise until they arrived in Europe. And then, not being offered the option of canceling without penalty, they would have felt they had no other choice but to get on the bus. Are you suggesting they should have just booked a flight home (at their own expense – likely NOT a cheap last-minute option) and headed on back to the US, hoping they’d get some kind of refund? That’s completely unrealistic.

          I side with the OP: they booked a cruise. They got a coach tour. Not the same thing. While I do not believe they are entitled to a full refund, they should receive a partial refund commensurate with the difference between a coach tour (which is far less expensive) and a cruise.

          1. Actually LeeAnn, this isn’t clear. Did they stay on the river boat at night and just do day trips? Were they moved each day by bus to a new hotel? He isn’t complaining about what they were given and what is it, 2 days or 3 days?

          2. While I agree that it would be good if Christopher would clarify some things, I’m commenting based on what IS said, and my interpretation of it. Read the rest of the comments below…the common interpretation is that the entire trip was by coach (not boat) and they missed 2-3 days of the trip completely. I Hence, it was a coach tour, not a cruise, and they missed a couple of days altogether (I believe that means they missed the *sites* they were supposed to see…that’s my interpretation anyway.)

            Until Christopher clarifies, that’s what I’m going with. Any updates or clarifications may cause me to alter my opinion. 🙂

          3. In some cases, Vantage did put travelers in multiple hotels because they couldn’t dock the ship where travelers could board safely. So again, it was not at all a cruise, and should have been canceled, but no, Vantage didn’t want to lose all that money. Instead, they lost the confidence of the passengers and the public who reads this and other negative reports. The companies that did cancel trips, Viking & Scenic to name a couple, gained the confidence of current and future passengers for their actions. I go on a river cruise more for the cruising than the sites and would have been very disappointing had I been in this situation. That is why I will look into getting “cancel for any reason” insurance in the future.

    3. The idea of being on a bus for more than 30 minutes gives me hives! There’s a BIG difference between being able to lounge out on deck and watch the world go by than being cooped up inside a bus watching the river go by. Vantage probably knew about the river conditions in time to cancel the trip, but then they’d have to issue refunds. Much better for the bottom line to put passengers on a bus and then offer credits most of them will never use.

    4. The point is that Vantage should have canceled the trip altogether because they couldn’t deliver the RIVER trip. Several cruise lines did just that.

      1. But that was all dependent upon when the cruise was scheduled to sail (they ALL don’t leave on the same date, after all!) – some knew the day before, some several days before – the day before would have done them no good in regards to the pre-packaged travellers.

  2. I think I’m with the cruise company here. These things are unavoidable. Does the cruise line have the responsibility to contact everyone booked for their cruises to say that something *might* affect the itinerary? Or is it on the consumer to be informed? (We missed a stop on my last cruise due to a freak medicane… c’est la vie).

    If the OP proactively contacted the cruise line before the cruise started and said they wanted to cancel (given the OP’s assumption was that the cruise line knew well in advance), I’d say that’s another issue and I would’ve fully supported that they be given that opportunity. But in retrospect? No.

    Curious, though… What exactly does the OP think is fair compensation? And what did he pay for the cruise?

    1. Then it’s up to the company to cancel the tour and refund the money. It’s not up to the OP to show up and be given something entirely different. Nor is it up to the OP to call the cruise line repeatedly to ask “will there actually be a cruise”?

      Using your logic, if you showed up to take a flight and instead the airline gave you a bicycle and said “here’s how you can get to your destination because the winds are too strong”, that’s your problem and not the problem of the airline.

      1. If that’s in the terms of carriage, and you accept riding the bicycle then fine. But it’s pretty common knowledge that if something happens other than a mechanical malfunction (eg. civil unrest in a port, weather conditions), the cruise line can alter the itinerary in whatever way it sees fit. They’re obviously going to try to give value to retain customers. But your comment seems to imply that you think every cruise line should cancel every cruise that *may* experience a change of itinerary and sorry, that just doesn’t happen in the real world.

        Your comment also says that it’s not up to the OP to ask “Will there be a cruise?” Don’t follow your logic here. If there is no cruise, everyone gets their money back. If there is a cruise but you don’t get to all the ports, that’s a different issue. For instance, if I know there’s civil unrest at one of the ports of call, then it’s up to me, the consumer, to call and ask about it. If I don’t and the cruise goes ahead but skips that port, then there’s no recourse for me.

        1. Hmmm. Just read more of the comments below.

          Chris: Please clarify: Did they only miss 3 days of their cruise (ie. spend the other 10 days on the boat) or did the entire cruise get swapped out for a bus trip? Re-reading, I can see both interpretations.

          If’s 10 days boat, 3 days bus, I stand by my comment. If it’s 13 days bus, then yes, they definitely deserve something more than than a $500 voucher.

        2. Uhhh, I think there is a big difference between missing one port of call vs. substituting a bus tour for a cruise.

          1. what exactly is a port of call in the rhone or saone river?
            it is to get out of the barge, ride a bus and go the real destination 🙂

          2. So you think that people who book river cruises really don’t care about the cruise, itself. OK, nothing more I can say to that.

          3. No guarantees on a cruise or in most tours. That’s what I am saying. If you like guarantees then do not buy these things.

        3. Which is yet another reason why I’ll never book a cruise. You can never be sure you’re going to actually get what you pay for.

          I think the most hideous travel story I’ve ever seen was a case where a guy booked a cruise from LA to Acapulco. He flew from Seattle to LA to board the ship only to find out that the itinerary had been changed to – wait for it – Seattle. Since he couldn’t get a flight back, he went on the cruise and could literally see his neighborhood from the ship. And then, he wanted to get off the ship in Seattle, but they wouldn’t let him because of cabotage laws. So he had to ride the ship back to LA so he could fly home.

      2. Not according to the contract – this situation hit a lot of people LAST MINUTE, and the cruise lines did scramble to make something up for them.

  3. Was the cruise a liveaboard cruise? If so, what were the actual land accommodations like during the bus tour? That would be a major issue to me.

    I usually disagree with those who insist that “funny money” not be used as compensation for certain less tangible issues that affect the quality but not substance of a service. In this case, the outcome was so materially different that I think some cash compensation would be required.

    And here’s a question for trip insurance fans: Could the Chappers have invoked trip cancellation insurance in this case had they been informed of the river closure ahead of time?

    1. I’m a big believer in trip insurance but I’m not aware of any policy that covers non-delivery of contracted services. If they had a “cancel for any reason” policy, maybe.

    2. Vantage runs only liveaboard cruises. A bus/hotel tour is going to take quite a bit of time out of planned activities because they can’t move you through night like a riverboat, and they’ll be time spent dealing with hotels and transporting you to/from them.

      And only a Cancel for Any Reason policy would have provided any sort of payout. And only a partial one, at that. “Normal” policies explicitly exclude situations like this.

    3. Trip insurance will pay for an unforeseen and non-reimbursed loss (or expense).
      From what I read the tour diversion they went through was not a loss.

      1. Then wouldn’t it be better – at least for some of those holding trip insurance – for the company just to cancel the cruise? Then those who wanted to go on the alternate bus ride could pay for it out of their refund, and those who wanted a cruise could bail out entirely with no other loss.

        If I had insured this trip and was forced to ride a bus around to the different sights, I would have viewed the travel provider’s alternate arrangements as a disservice to me.

        1. If Vantage had cancelled the cruise, they’d (quite properly) be on the hook for full refunds themselves, not the insurance company. The insurance company would only possibly be on the hook for the flight if that was purchased independently of the tour.

          1. yes, thank you, that’s what I meant. If they had canceled, the travelers could have invoked insurance for their transportation to the ship.

          2. They should have cancelled the cruise! And Vantage should have been insured for their inability to provide what they were paid for.

          3. That’s easy–because, as others have said, they wanted to cruise. That’s why they bought a cruise rather than a motor coach “only”tour. The two are not remotely interchangeable for many. If I dreamed of biking through Italy, I will not be happy if I am told the bikes were destroyed in storm and I will have to bus through Italy. Two different animals. OK, they didn’t need to cancel for everyone. but they should have provide that option to each passenger. And, yes, I do understand the costs involved.

          4. If they wanted 100% guarantee then they should not have signed the contract. No river cruise company will take them and they can stay home in America 🙂

  4. That photography clause is becoming much ,ore common, BTW. In some cases, it is a condition of employment. In others, it is part of the travel deal.

  5. My problem with the previous comments is that a cruise, even a river close is so significantly different from a bus tour, its like saying regardless of what we promise you or what we sell you, we can get out of it by just throwing the value of something else at you and we’re not liable anymore. What if an airline took your money to fly from point A to point B and then when you got to the airport, put you on a greyhound bus and transported you from point A to point B, and then gave you some FF miles, would that be acceptable? What if you singed up for a Caribbean cruise, paid your money and when you got to the port they put you in a room and showed you slides of the Caribbean for 5 days, you saw the Caribbean, here’s $500 for a real cruise, next time. At some very real point, the experience of what you bought, transcends the fundamental cost and value. As my very recently married, female friend put it, “Marriage isn’t about the piece of paper…It’s about the wedding”. Like the river cruise, their is a “compositional” expectation that form and function of the experience will be congruent. Chocolate will be brown and taste like chocolate, a beach will involve sand and water, wine will be made from grapes, a car will have wheeled and an engine, a plane will have wings and fly, and a river boat cruise will involve a river and cruising… on the river using a boat. I know there will be posters with all kinds of examples of exceptions, but nowhere in this vacation experience does it say otherwise. These people bought a cruise, it should involve cruising, so yes mediate.

    1. For what it’s worth, there are plenty of cases where airlines have substituted buses or trains to get you from point A to point B, as the contract of carriage doesn’t really require it to be in an airplane. Normally these are in cases where the plane can’t make it to the destination airport for some reason, but makes it to some other nearby city. If the distance is close enough that a bus or train is reasonable alternative to cover the last few miles, this may end up being more convenient for all involved. (For example, Continental Airlines would do this regularly to transport misconnected passengers from Newark airport to places like Philadelphia or Baltimore on Amtrak trains – I’m not sure if this is still done under United.)

      1. In my opinion, this is not an appropriate analogy. A plane flight is solely a means of transportation from A to B. As to a river cruise, the ship is as much a part of the vacation as the ports. Also, I would imagine the passengers lost significant time at the ports because of the extra time spent on the bus during the day rather than sailing at night.

        There isn’t enough information as to exactly what happened to these passengers to know whether a refund is in order, though. I’m curious, as other commenters are, as to how much time was spent on the boat or were they accommodated on land. Too many questions.

        1. I agree with you, but I was responding to the portion of PsyGuy’s post where he referenced a plane being replaced by a bus as unacceptable – when this isn’t necessarily the case. Yes it’s a bad analogy.

  6. The OP writes: “The result was that we missed perhaps two or three days out of the 13-day itinerary.”

    “Perhaps”? First red flag. Did they miss two days? Three? Only one?

    You know that northern Europe is experiencing crazy weather this year, with rivers and waterways flooding left and right. I don’t see how the cruise company should be on the hook for this. Part of travel is rolling with the punches, dealing with unexpected things that come up. Sounds like the passengers spent most of their time on the boat.

    1. “Sounds like the passengers spent most of their time on the boat.”

      It does?

      “…because although they followed the Saône and Rhône rivers, they were not on a ship. They were in a bus.”

      “We regret that this act of nature forced us to cancel our river travel as scheduled”

      “The company did *bus* us to some of the sites we were supposed to visit but had to cancel some others,”

      “As you know, dangerously high water levels along the Rhone and Saone prompted French authorities to *close all navigation* along these rivers.”

        1. It doesn’t read that way to me at all. Nothing in the dialogue indicates they spent any time on the ship. The “3 out of 13” means that the overall length of the trip would have been shortened. The visited SOME of the intended sights via bus, but entirely canceled some others.

          1. I think what they were trying to say is that, because they were on a bus instead of the boat, that they missed approximately 3 days worth of the sites they were promised. The other sites were either unreachable on the bus (probably due to the high water in the rivers) or the time spent in hotels instead of overnight cruising on the river cut the distance covered.

          2. That’s kind of what I got out of this — but this was a case of a LOT of companies getting caught last minute with even airports closed one day after having checked on this situation (had clients going myself), and there not having been the problem it soon became. I think they obviously tried to deliver the experience as best they could, and would like to hear just what he thinks is appropriate compensation???

      1. How navigable were the roads for the buses? If you looked at some of the pictures of the damage from the flooding, it impacted the cities and sites of many of the areas, maybe not in France, but certainly in Central Germany the some roads were impassable. Finding hotel space for 150 people as well as restaurants of the same 5* quality must have been a nightmare! Another reason why they should have CANCELED at least some of the cruises. They finally did cancel a few cruises recently, I guess after realizing that doing otherwise was impracticable. And did the bus riders enjoy looking at all the damage?

  7. The major reason I would choose a river cruise is to avoid the packing and unpacking each day to go from hotel to hotel. Unless they slept on the bus (a bus that was like a sleeper train if such a thing exists?) they had that additional bother every day and the loss of time involved. This was a very substantial change and I think I would have walked away on the first day.
    Since I am planning a river cruise, I will now be sure to check on the river conditions before I go! Thanks for the warning!

    1. Based on the “contract”, even if you knew the river was closed, they probably wouldn’t let you cancel. 🙁

  8. Ok… I’m normally the first person to side with a company, even cruise companies, but not here. At least when ocean going cruise companies change their itineraries you end up with a “like” vacation. You may be going different places but you’re still on a ship and its still a cruise vacation. The OP signed up for a cruise vacation. They did not sign up for a bus tour. The two are very different products. They signed up to unpack once, to move around as they traveled and to enjoy the amenities of the ship. They received none of that.

    Sorry but the cruise company should have given them the option to cancel, without penalty, prior to the beginning of the “cruise.”

    Go get’em Chris!

    1. I’m not entirely clear if that’s what happened, though. Did they really substitute a bus tour where you lug your bags around with you and stay in different hotels each night, or did the boat just park itself at the starting location, with bus tours to each site during daylight hours? That would make a big difference in my opinion. If they got to stay on the boat, but just had to be bused to the tour sites and missed a few, then perhaps a $500 voucher is sufficient. If they didn’t get to enjoy the boat at all, though, then that’s a different story.

      1. The OP is only complaining about the missing sights according to the article. Were they even accessible with the river conditions?

        1. HIs words “The company did bus us to some of the sites we were supposed to visit but had to cancel some others, The result was that we missed perhaps two or three days out of the 13-day itinerary.”

          Vantage sweetens the pot my including some land tour packages to the boat ride. The current one has 11 sightseeing tours included:

          There is no guarantee this tours will run due to bad weather. Why can’t the OP understand that? There is no guarantee your river boat will dock according to schedule, also. You are on a river and you can drown if it goes wild!

    2. The primary difference being that on an ocean cruise they may have the option to cruise to different destinations to avoid weather problems. On a river cruise, they are locked to that river.

      Pure speculation on my part but it sounds as if they probably lived on the stationary boat in one port, and were bused from there to the various destinations as day trips. Nothing was said about hotel or meal changes. Hopefully the Chris or the OP can clarify.

      1. Ok but in the best case scenario the OP spent unplanned hours on a bus (the cruise path is just over 4 hours by car start to finish) where, unlike the river barge, you can’t move around or do other things and lacked the flexibility to explore destinations on their time schedule. I still standby my initial reading that this wasn’t a “like” experience.

    3. Depends on WHEN the cruise line was informed – I know quite a few who did not get a final cancellation from the rivers until the day before – if that is what happened, they had to scramble to do something for all those already set to join them

  9. I voted yes but only to get the compensation as something the traveler could use such as cash or credit for travel that does not expire. I think that the amount is fair and you cannot blame the company for the government closing the river.

  10. I think crazy cruise contracts could be a story all by themselves. According to most ocean cruise contracts, they can strand you in a foreign port because of a mechanical problem, don’t have to get you home, and don’t have to provide any sort of refund. Since no cruise line that doesn’t want to go bankrupt would actually do this, you have to wonder why they bother putting such silly terms in there.

    This issue (non-navigable rivers) is unique to river cruises. (Oceangoing cruises can divert to different ports as long as they can leave the home port.) For cashflow reasons, they cannot simply cease operating every time the river is low; they have high fixed expenses (namely payments for the ships) that need to be paid no matter if the ships are running or not and a limited tour season in which to pay them.

    I think that in an ideal world, an ideal solution would be to offer insurance that would pay out a full refund if the ship tour had to be substituted for a bus/hotel tour. Unfortunately, you’d have plenty of people who would refuse the insurance and still be upset they ended up with a bus tour. Otherwise, that’d be a win/win… the cruise company would get to sell insurance at a profit, and the traveler gets to insulate themselves from a risk they’ll be disappointed by their vacation.

    P.S. As pointed out by somebody else, the “publicity release” is pretty standard for tour contracts in general… I don’t personally have any problem with it; seems pretty reasonable to use genuine pictures of passengers in marketing materials, and I wouldn’t expect to be paid for it.
    They aren’t going to issue an automatic refund (partial or otherwise) for the bus tour vs. the ship tour because while bus tours are cheaper for you than river cruises, we can guess that putting you on an all-expenses-paid bus tour probably results in a net-loss to the cruise company. (Because as I mentioned earlier, their fixed costs to run a cruise company don’t change…)

    1. “This issue (non-navigable rivers) is unique to river cruises. (Oceangoing cruises can divert to different ports as long as they can leave the home port.) For cashflow reasons, they cannot simply cease operating every time the river is low; they have high fixed expenses (namely payments for the ships) that need to be paid no matter if the ships are running or not and a limited tour season in which to pay them.”

      Well shouldn’t the river cruise operator take out insurance for itself for cases like this? As travelers, we are expected to insure ourselves for unforeseen/acts of god. Why shouldn’t the cruise operator?

      1. Leisure travelers are notoriously price-sensitive; if only one company provides this coverage, it raises their prices too high to compete. You might think that they could make up for it by advertising this unique benefit, but “We provide free insurance in case the river is flooding or bone-dry!” isn’t exactly a catchy tagline.

        1. If these kinds of forced substitutions are prohibited because they are unconscionable/adhesive — and a company that advertises X has to either deliver X or give the customer the option to cancel rather than except a substitute — then your objection becomes moot. Then it just becomes a question of whether the company wants to self-insure or use an insurance company.

      2. I would think they do have insurance for this. But probably a big deductible and don’t want rate to go up next year! But it all comes down to the bottom line for the cruise company rather than the customers experience.

  11. I have never been on a river cruise so not sure what types of differences there are between a river and ocean cruise. The one thing I was wondering about is if the river cruise had food available all during the day like on an ocean cruise. If so, did they provide that on the bus?

    I’m not sure about the bus they use, but I had to commute on a “tour” style bus almost 2 hours each way for almost a year. They were not the most comfortable seats. I know my wife can’t ride like that all day so if we were in that situation, we would not have been able to actually take the “cruise” because of physical limitations. Would they have refunded in that case?

    I would suggest at minimum they at least file a credit card dispute if they paid that way. Not sure if it would be possible but even small claims if they have a US office?

    1. I don’t think they provide food all day; they expect you to be seeing the cities they are taking you to. Unlike an ocean liner, there isn’t much at all to do if you never leave the ship.

      The river cruises don’t travel THAT far overnight, so while you will be in a bus for a while, you won’t be spending all day on one at any point.

      1. True on how far the river boats travel overnight, but still the boat can stay late in city A cruise the short distance to city B while the travelers sleep and then have all day in city B for planned activities. If you have to park the bus, unload everything, find dinner, sleep, get up, eat breakfast and then travel that short distance to city B, you lose a lot of site seeing time. Maybe for one day this would not be much of a loss, but if it is every day for the entire trip it amounts to a lot of lost opportunities – the 3 days worth the OP mentioned.

      2. Not necessarily true. We took a river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest-on Vantage-and the distance is significant. No way you could see each site and return to the ship each nite. Plus the docks were under water in many cases. Additionally, many of the sewage plants overflowed, and where do you think that went?

  12. I think the issue is simple, a cruise was booked and the cruise was cancelled. If the company had contacted them prior to sailing and explained the cruise was cancelled, but there will be a bus tour covering most of the sites instead and if you still want to go we will give you a $500 credit towards the next trip and if not we’ll refund your money and let booked something else instead, then I’d be OK with it. That is not what happened here, they pulled a fast one. I get it, things happen. Royal Caribbean had to change some ports of call around on a cruise I too with them a few years ago due to some political unrest. They didn’t try to pull a fast one though. They posted the new itinerary on their website for me to see, they contacted me directly, and most importantly I still was on the ship I booked for the number of nights I booked it for. Sorry, but a bus tour is not a river cruise.

    1. But you are comparing apples to oranges – an ocean-going vessel can sail ANY of the 7 seas – these rivers can close, leaving the boats stranded, so how else DO they accommodate the clients in a last minute situation like this? I think they did as good a job as they could under the circumstances.

  13. I have taken the Saone and Rhone river “cruise” on Peter Deilmann before it went bankrupt.
    I hesitate to call it a cruise because it ain’t anywhere like those ocean cruises of the big cruise lines.
    You literally are on a river barge turned into an opulent dining room with guest rooms that “slowly” floats on the river. The barge has to go through a series of locks to navigate it’s way up and down the river. Both rivers are not that wide so you can see both of the banks at most times.

    That said, where your barge can go and dock is entirely dependent on the state of the river and the traffic at the dock(s). During high season the boats are tied side by side together and the only way to go out is by jumping on and off and going through other boats. If the river’s current is quite swift then docking might be tricky. If the docks are congested with other boats, you will be forced to use another dock and get bussed to your destination.

    One thing you will notice is that some companies seem to have more docking rights on the river quays. Maybe this is a factor against using the tours operated by these 2 warring brothers from Boston.

    That said, I want to know what they mean by “missing perhaps two or three days out of the 13-day itinerary“. Did they visit the same locations using a bus rather than the barge?

    In my experience you need to get off the dock and ride a tour bus anyway to visit the places they have on the tour. In fact, for many stops if you miss the barge you can take a taxi or road transportation to the next stop to meet the barge. In some places, the road is parallel to the river. The barge is really just a dining room and your floating hotel. Did they miss meals? Were they able to sleep on the same barge or a hotel courtesy of the tour company?

    What exactly did they miss?

    1. “What exactly did they miss?”

      I’d say cruising up and down the river.

      Judging by the pictures and videos on the Vantage website, they are selling the river cruising experience. They show people standing on the deck of the boat, scenes of towns floating by, and the river vantage point.

      If they want to equate that experience to the one they delivered, they should probably just stick to showing the ports of call and mentioning the means of travel in small legalese at the bottom. I can’t imagine they’d do that though….because the cruise is what they’re selling.

      (Although I am also interested to know if days or sights were actually subtracted, as well)

      1. Again, having done the tour myself (mine even better than Vantage’s), unless I missed the boat completely to dine and stay in a room, I cannot see a day or two of not docking would change much for a 13 day itinerary. You will miss industrial sites and nuclear plants near the river, so what? The bus will still take you to the cities where you were supposed to go. In fact, after the long river tour we did, we came back to Provence and hired a Frenchman who drove his private Mercedes bus all over Provence (and more) for us 🙂

        Anyone taking a river tour should know that flooding can occur. It is happening right now in Germany if I am not mistaken. When that happens, your itinerary will change. I believe that is part of the agreement we signed when we booked the river boat tour.

        That is why I ask the OP what exactly do you think you missed?

          1. A tour on a bus. As I said, the tour is on a bus anyway. The barge floating up and down the river is merely for dining and sleeping. I have done it so I know first hand. In fact, our boat could not use one dock so we docked in another quay and were bused from there. NO BIG DEAL, in my opinion.

          2. If they loaded up on Burgundy while on Beaune (like we did), you would have plenty to drink while waiting for the rain to stop 🙂

    2. You got me thinking. My interpretation is that they were never on a boat, it was just all by buss, and due to that they saw a few days less worth of attractions. But perhaps they were still on the boat and just bussed to places? If that’s the case I still think they deserve something back, but am okay with funny money. If they spend days on the bus checking in and out of hotel, I do think they should have had the option to cancel, and I would hope the cruise line would return some money, though I know they don’t have to.

      1. I did not read it that way. It is hard to believe that most of the 13 days would NOT be on the barge since the barge is your hotel and dining room. Actually a lot of Europeans who go on this river tour and stay on the top deck just for the sun. They don’t take the land tours because they already have seen the sites.

        Now that said, the quays are not usually that near to the sites you want to visit. Some of the sites are castle like structures on top of mountain while you are below on a river. Therefore, buses come and get you from the quay to the sites. I can tell of only one or two places where you can walk out of the dock and walk around of the city. That is in Lyon and Arles, but I doubt Vantage rents good Quay spots there.

        It looks like the OP missed a few land tour sites. That can easily happen on tours like this. Or the boat did not dock on the intended city or town. That can also easily happen on tours like this. But I seriously doubt a majority of the 13 days were anything like he described.

        I would like to get more details from Chris because I know the area. I did the trip planning for 2 back to back trips and can still recall (have pictures and all GPS coordinates) of the dock sites as well as the popular sites in the area.

        Most of the sites (except Lyon) in this itinerary by Vantage–Highlights-of-Burgundy-and-Provence/Itinerary would need some kind of road transportation to get to. Why object to riding a bus?

        1. If they would have taken a buss anyway and were still on the boat, than it does change my mind. The few European tours I have been on, were all by bus. Double Decker bus no less with a bar downstairs. Very fun. I need to go to Europe more.

  14. Yeah no full refund. However, they didnt buy a bus tour. They probably should have been given the option to cancel, but now they have travelled, a full refund is not appropriate.

    Maybe $500 cash?

  15. I have taken many….like 8…trips with Vantage and have found them to be an excellent company. Of course they can’t control the weather but I do feel that for the price of these cruises ($10,000 each or so when you factor in airfare to Europe) they should provide more than the little voucher of $500 and then put a time limit on it. In all fairness, the traveler does not have to take another river cruise as Vantage has many other types of trips but a voucher of far more than $500 that does not expire would be appropriate. These cruises are upscale; a bus trip is not and who knows what kind of hotels can be booked for 160 people at the last minute. Come on,Vantage….do the right things for people who pay your prices!

  16. Having taken the same cruise on a different line a couple of seasons ago, I can attest that a bus tour of those same little towns would be nothing likes the authentic cruise experience. She deserves more than a voucher she can never use.

    1. I agree. I did this cruise in 2011 with Uniworld. These are expensive trips and cruising the river is part of the experience. We often walked into the towns we cruised to for tours and the few bus trips we took from the ship were ones arranged by the small group I was traveling with to go to specific vineyards.
      A full refund isn’t in order, but perhaps something along the lines of a 50% CASH refund.
      Take this one on, Chris.

      1. 1 or 2 days out of 13 days or 9 days is not 50% of the whole trip.
        And during those 1 or 2 days, they still got something rather than nothing.
        So where are you getting your 50% CASH figure? They did not miss HALF of the 13 day trip, did they?

  17. What Vantage did was hire a river boat to tour their clients. I do the same planning with my tours every winter. We cannot control the weather and the clients did get from point A to B. But there is no comparison to a river cruise and a bus tour. He is able to make a claim against his insurance, which I hope he purchased independently of Vantage. I do agree the voucher is probably insufficient. Vantage should have done more, extend it to all of their travels and given the value as a 3 day loss it I am sure the value was that of 1 day per person, as well as extend it for 2 years for all types of travel that Vantage offers. I think the traveler should file with insurance before Chris mediates.

    1. They can make an insurance claim? Really? Because I thought simple “failure to provide services as agreed” was not usually covered. (Because that’s a matter between the consumer and their travel provider and their contract, not something for insurance to cover.)

      If this was a canceled flight, it would be covered, but since Vantage still got them from their origin to destination as scheduled, the normal “Common Carrier” Delay and Cancellation benefits don’t apply.

  18. Whoops! Math mistake on my last post: Vantage River Cruises plus airfare to Europe are about $10,000 per COUPLE, not individual. That does make a difference but the Vantage offer is still only 10% with an expiration date. Not enough IMHO

  19. I have taken a river cruise in the past and yes they are quite a bit more expensive than a comparable bus tour. As other posters have mentioned, on a river cruise, you get to unpack once vs a different hotel every night. However, most of Europe is experiencing record floods right now. Certain cities on the Danube are seeing flood levels not seen since 1500.

    In all of the literature that I looked at when researching my river cruise, every company had a disclaimer that in the event of high water (flooding or levels so high that a river cruise ship can’t fit under the many low bridges on the river) or low water (too low to safely navigate the river), they reserve the option to turn the trip into a bus tour. Every passenger is aware of this when booking and before boarding the ship.

    Do I think $500 per person is a low credit? Yes. However, the OP still received a 13-day vacation. Yes it was at levels of accommodation less than what they would have received on the ship, but they still received a vacation. The cruise companies have to have flexibility to change the itinerary as conditions warrant. They could have cancelled the trip completely and the OP could have been left in France, on their own, with no hotels, flights home early, etc. I do think there should be a way to give a refund based on the difference in cost that reflects the change in level of housing but how do you fairly calculate this? I don’t think Chris should get involved, because if he does this one, there are hundreds, if not thousands of passengers on cruises that occurred last week that were impacted by the floods that could come demanding that he mediate their case as well.

  20. The main advantage of the river cruise the OP took (or rather wanted to take) is that you don’t have to pack up every morning and haul your stuff to the bus and then back to a new hotel every night. Depending on the traveler, that might be a very important factor in determining if they want to take a river cruise over a bus tour. Since the OP did not get the benefit of the unpack once and not repack until the end of the trip, which is touted in the advertisements, I feel that there should be a cash refund of some portion of the cost (but not the entire amount paid), not a short dated voucher.

    I’m sure the tour company had to scramble to find the buses and hotels needed and it cost them more than they probably had planned. But that is part of the cost of doing this type of business and they should have a good insurance that will cover their expenses when something like this happens. Since the tour company knew they would not be able to use the river as planned before the tour started, I feel they should have offered a chance to reschedule to anyone who did not want to do the bus ride. I’m sure many of their passengers would have still opted to take the tour at the scheduled times because of the difficulties most people have in planning trips like this. This to me is completely different than if the tour had already been underway when conditions changed to prevent further river cruising and they would have then substituted busses and hotels to complete the tour.

  21. My 80-year-old in-laws are looking at a similar trip for next year. They know they physically can’t handle the rigors of climbing on and off a motorcoach and changing hotels every one or two nights for a two to three week European trip, which is why they want to do a river cruise, where they know they can opt not to get off the boat for day trips if they need to rest, and packing/unpacking is minimal. In their case, a change to a motorcoach tour would endanger their health and safety, so yes, please mediate this. I feel strongly the consumer should have the choice in what sort of tour they end up with, since they paid for it – the option to cancel without penalty should be in place before they step on that plane to Europe.

    1. I would be very careful booking a river trip for people who are not moderately mobile. As some have mentioned, sometimes the boats double up and to get on or off you have to climb up and down the stairs of another ship to reach your ship. Not all have a chair lift that goes up the stairs, and some are narrow and steep. River cruises are not appropriate for wheelchairs nor are the cities that have cobblestones or dirt walk ways. Also, they will have to ride the bus from the airport to the ship and back. Staying on the ship is fine for a few days, but not 2-3 weeks.

      That is why we all need to travel when we can enjoy it fully! Good luck for your in laws.

  22. Isn’t this the same company that Chris looked into before when they booked a large party with many children on an adults only cruise?

  23. They should have offered a refund when they knew they couldn’t sail. I know if it were me going, I could have cancelled my plane ticket for $300 and gone on a cruise tour another time.

    As for the agreement to be photographed and be in a Vantage ad, they can get stuffed. If I go on a cruise, I surely don’t think it should involve being in advertisements. I guess I’ll never be going on them.

    1. Publicity rights clauses are quite common for leisure activity providers in general. You’ll see it in concert ticket contracts, theme park tickets, tour contracts, and yes, cruise lines.

  24. Give me a break. The line can’t be held responsible for water levels. We were on a cruise with AMA Waterways in 2008. The problem was low water. The ship had to keep moving while they could, so it couldn’t wait while we saw the sights in town. So, they let us off to tour the town, then bused us to where the ship was. We were impressed that they could organize this so well. If the guy wanted just to sit on the boat and cruise, he should have taken an ocean cruise with lots of days at sea. The towns one visits are as important as the cruising, so that he got to see the towns makes the cruise successful. Get over it!

    1. Give me a break. What you went through is nothing compared to what happened to the OP. At least every night you were able to get back on the boat and not have to deal with a new hotel every night. And you actually got to river cruise on your trip unlike the OP.

      1. the point of my post was…the line did the best they could under the circumstances. THEY AREN’T RESPONSIBLE FOR HIGH WATER!!! THEY didn’t ruin your cruise, nature did. So sue Nature!

        1. LOL. But seriously, I think any good company will think of something else for the passengers to do (as a substitute). I don’t think the OP was left stranded doing nothing in the middle of the rain. I would like to know what was Vantage’s alternate itinerary.

    2. “The towns one visits are as important as the cruising, so that he got to see the towns makes the cruise successful.”

      if as you say, the cruising is as important as the towns you see, how can it be successful if half of the important part is missing?

  25. I don’t know the total cost of that cruise but I think a $500 pp voucher is fair. I do think it should have been valid for 18-24 months though.

    Was on a cruise in Mexico that ended up with more ground transportation
    than aniticipated and we always ended up back at the same dock in the
    morning. They offered a $600 per person voucher for another cruise
    booked within a year as the itinerary was ever changing. However, what
    they did provide was still great and we did decide to go back. The
    booking within a year was a big difference from Chapper’s offer because
    you could book at the end of the year deadline and the booking could be
    for up to 12 months from that date. That really gives you 2 years
    before actually cruising again. This was a small cruise line with only
    114 passengers so that may have given them more flexibility but either
    way, customer service was excellent.

    1. The voucher is valid for 18-24 months, or at least over 18 months, since December 31, 2014 is more than 18 months away from now, plus whatever time it has been since Vantage offered the voucher. The problem is that many people who take a major vacation such as this river cruise in 2013 are not in the market to take another one during the next 24 months. And even if they were, they would probably want to seek out a different travel company than the one they just had a disappointing experience with.

      1. The disappointment isn’t with THIS COMPANY – but with a closed river system – EVERY river boat cruise was affected.

        1. Think about what Vantage had to do. Maybe 3-4 bus loads of Americans (max 176 passengers) on the road from Paris toward Dijon with no certainty about embarking because of bad weather. I doubt the boat was even in that part of the Rhone they scheduled for embarkation. They do have a new boat ms River Discovery II for the cruise so why risk any damage. They will probably repositioned it on a safer port and started the cruise from there.

          If Vantage was able to pull this one despite the bad weather then kudos to them.

          People in this forum may not have any clue how hard it is to divert a tour group of 170 people. So they go about shooting the Tour Operator.

          IMO the river boat tour in So France is one of the best “barge cruises” one can take, most especially if the land tours included visits to some of France’s most beautiful villages
          And since this tour includes Burgundy then also this

        2. I think that the customer is indeed disappointed with this company, because he’s asking Christopher to mediate with the company, not with God or Mother Nature.

          That said, a voucher good only through the end of 2014 still isn’t of much use to the customer.

          For comparison, say you went to McDonald’s and you had to wait 20 minutes for your fries, so they gave you a $2 gift certificate good through the end of 2014. That certificate would be easy to redeem, because it doesn’t require much time or expense or commitment to use it. By contrast, a gift certificate for $500 off a vacation requires a lot of time and expense and commitment to be able to get any benefit from it.

      2. I went on a Christmas Market River Cruise two years ago in Germany The previous group of passengers were leaving for home as I waited for my ride to the boat. They had missed most of the cruising as the water was too high & had to do a lot of it via coach. coach. As it was we had to spend the first night in a hotel but water low enough to complete journey on boat. But it was the coldest winter in a decade & although it was beautiful I was always cold.

  26. I ordered a $40 steak. The waiter brought a nice cheeseburger, with ample fries. I was told the steak vendor didn’t deliver, so I must be satisfied with the burger. Also, the server informed me that I couldn’t leave until I had consumed the burger, paid for the steak, and tipped my server.

    Methinks Vantage should invest in cancellation insurance.

      1. There are dozens of “all-coverage, any cause” policies… including acts of God. I purchase them regularly. Yes, they’re more expensive, but well worth the cost. One may cancel for ANY reason!

  27. I voted yes because I think there is something there to mediate. I think they deserve something more than a voucher with an expiration date that they will probably never use. Dear Chris I would love to know the result should you decide to step in. Thanks

  28. Of course the company knows that he won’t use the credit and therefore it’s not costing them a single Franc. Perhaps the OP should be given the option of using the credit, or selling it to someone who will use it. Let’s say he sells it for half. Given the choice, would he take the $250 cash or a worthless $500 voucher?

  29. According to the OP, they missed 2-3 days of the itinerary. So it is the sights that they missed that they are complaining about, not the transportation, not the accommodations, not the meals. Were admissions to things of interest included in those sights that they missed? Did they get other sights included instead? Where the missed sights unavailable due to the river conditions and unsafe to visit? What did they do for those 2-3 days and why is that not mentioned by the OP? Did they get their monies worth and still see things of interest? Since the OP isn’t complaining about the adjusted itinerary, where they stayed, the meals, it seems like they still had an intact trip, just inconvenienced with something different than planned, due to safety, for only 2-3 days…which was it as this is either one or the other? The voucher seems appropriate and nothing else needs to be done.

    1. I completely disagree with your interpretation. The 2-3 days of missed itinerary were in ADDITION to the fact that they were on a bus tour instead of a cruise. They were not on a cruise – the ship couldn’t sail. That is clear.

      From the article:

      >>Chapper just got off a “river” cruise of France’s Burgundy and Provence region. And I put “river” in quotes because although they followed the Saône and Rhône rivers, they were not on a ship.

      They were in a bus.

      “The company did bus us to some of the sites we were supposed to visit but had to cancel some others,” he says. “The result was that we missed perhaps two or three days out of the 13-day itinerary.”<<

      The missed 2-3 days of the itinerary were the result of the fact that they had to cancel some of the sites they were supposed to see. That is in addition to the fact that the ENTIRE TRIP was on a bus.

      1. Your assumption isn’t stated. It was only 2-3 days of ‘missed itinearary’, but something was substituted due to safety and this happens on a lot of tours/cruises. I would be upset if they didn’t offer something else.

        1. OK if the boat didn’t sail where was it?
          DId they embark near Lyon instead?
          Too many missing parts to this story.

  30. I have to change my response. They did not receive any river travel. They are entitled to a lot more compensation than they were offered.

  31. I’m sorry for the confusion about the number of days missed. The way the complaint is written, he did a full 13 days but missed two or three days out of the published itinerary, due to the closures. So he was there 13 days, but didn’t get to enjoy all of it, at least as the cruise line had promised.

    1. Did they stay on the riverboat and bus to other locales during the day? Did they have to pack up, get bused from town to town and in hotels for 2-3 days? Where, in the course of the trip, were the 2-3 days adjusted? Our agency has had ‘adjusted’ itineraries for high water/flooding for clients river trips and there are various ways this is handled. What did the OP get instead? He isn’t complaining about. These type of things happen and it is in the T & C that all clients have access to BEFORE purchasing the trip. As of now, it seems to me that the offer given isn’t a bad one.

        1. Also please tell me what docking sites were missed and which tour sites were missed. I did a lot of research for this similar tour because I wanted to sell it a few years ago.

        2. If they cut 2 days out of the river portion, then they likely embarked in Lyon (see itinerary).

          OK so what did they do those 2 days? Did they visits Beaune and Cluny Abbey. Those were the 2 highlights of the first 2 days.
          You need a bus to go to both places. What did they miss – sleeping on the boat? Is a hotel a decent equivalent?
          If they missed all of Burgundy, was something else substituted? I hope they didn’t watch French TV in a hotel for 2 days? 🙂

  32. I voted yes, I mean come on, even the horrible airlines give a refund when a fligth is canceled or delayed substantially due to weather. I can’t believe the contract says that they don’t have to do anything if they are downgraded. So you pay for X, and get Y and its too bad so sad? Wow, I was considering a Vantage cruise in the future, but now they are off the list.

    ETA: I would have liked for them to tell people in advance, and give them the option to re-schedule or get a refund. Just like the airlines when they issue weather advisories.

  33. There is no comparison between an ocean going cruise and a river cruise: Tony A, although a bit acerbic about river cruises, gets to the point – the river boat is a floating “barge” with a lounge and a restaurant, for 150-120 passengers max. The ocean going ship with 10 times that number of passengers is totally different. That said, although the river boat may not have the range of amenities/activities, the whole point of the cruise is to view the landscape from the river, and that is also totally different from viewing it from a bus, even the most comfortable bus you can think of. Yes, you get to visit sights by taking short bus tours, but those are secondary to the main purpose of the trip.

    So, Chris, you should mediate, and Vantage should have offered something better, but above all, the possibility of canceling the trip without penalty to those who clearly understood what they believed a river cruise was about. Surely they carry insurance to cover these contingencies – it cannot be that expensive for them, as it occurs relatively rarely. Take up this case, please.

    1. Please don’t get me wrong. I would never cruise on a big ship (again) even for free.
      I will go again and again on a river barge 🙂 But I prefer the ones with Europeans on them,
      I do not take any tour that is 100% composed of Americans like OAT/GCT/Vantage etc.

      1. Well, then I woud fit in your framework, being a European, and not only that, but we own an apartment in Lyon, just off the Place Carnot (Gare Perrache), and know very well where the river boats dock; you can see a lot of Lyon from the docking quay on foot, or by using the excellent metro and trams of Lyon, plus the buses.

        1. I envy you. I wish I could visit Lyon more. A long time ago, my Dad used to take us there when he worked with (not for) Institut Merieux. So it is kind of nostalgic for us. A few years ago, I stayed at the Mercure at the end of the turnaround at Gare Perrache (near your apartment I guess). Nowadays, Lyon is on our map just to eat. Some of the best food in the world and a perfect stop before a visit to Valrhona Chocolate factory 🙂

          So when we chose our Saone and Rhone river cruise, we chose to start and end in Lyon (near Bastille day to watch the fireworks). I think the Vantage cruise starts in Tarascon and works its way up the Rhone then makes a stop in Lyon and maneuvers up the Saone River up to Burgundy. So they ain’t seeing much of Lyon 🙁

          1. Yes, our apartment is at the south end of the Rue Auguste Comte, a half block off the Place Carnot. Auguste Comte is the street of the upscale antique dealers; a very agreeable walk up to the Place Bellecour, and then on to the center of the city along the Rue de la Republique to the Opera and the Hotel de Ville. And yes, the cruises usually continue up to Chalons-sur-Sâone, an easy bus ride to Beaune and the Cote d’Or, and then back on the TGV from Dijon to Paris. Friends from the US recently did this cruise, fortunately for them before the rise in water levels.

            Unfortunately, we are now getting too old to travel much, and visit Lyon much less frequently; a great pity.

          2. When I go down the escalator (with the plastic cover and the velib station on the left) from the station towards Place Carnot, there is a Campanile on the right. Your place is probably the next block behind the Campanille toward the Rhone; correct?

            Back to this case, I really suspect all the hundreds of passengers were brought to Lyon directly. I don’t know know of any city large enough to handle that many passengers from several river boat companies. Besides there are many things to do in Lyon 🙂

            That said, how to compute the price difference of the tour? I have no clue.

    2. Unless this was right at the beginning of the trip, which isn’t stated in the article, why would they offer to cancel at say day 7? A 2 day itinerary change is only one night on a trip. Other things to see and do were substituted and he isn’t complaining about that.

      River flooding, high water, is often an issue on these type of vacations. I live by a river, They often predict flooding then change that or don’t expect flooding and then the storm lingers longer and it happens down stream two days later.

      1. WE have an apartment in Lyon, starting point for many of the Rhone cruises; yes, the river flow does vary, but not quit as unpredictably. The Rhone is well managed just to avoid floods in big cities – not always successful, as the current situation in Passau and Magdeburg shows. The extreme weather which has led to the current flooding was predicted many days in advance, and I do think the cruise company could recognize that a total loss of cruising on the river totally changed what the travelers expected.

        1. I suspect the cruise embarked near Lyon (instead of Chalon-sur-Saône) for calmer waters.
          So the OP’s group was either bused all the way down from Chalon-sur-Saône or they cancelled the first portion of the boat ride and put them in a hotel in Lyon (direct from Paris).

          I think Vantage would have positioned their barge down river knowing that the areas in Bourgogne were quite bad.

          But I am just guessing.

          1. Very likely: the Sâone is much narrower and shallower, and much more affected by variations in rainfall than is the Rhône, which effectively enjoys a constant flow out of Lac Léman, and is highly regulated by the barrage at Génissiat. But I have seen some very high water and a rapidly flowing Rhône right through Lyon.

            By the way, i/we share your views on ocean going cruising; we tried a few, way back when, and I was lecturing for a while back in the 1990s on Crystal, on the Cunard “Vistafjord” and on Silversea; for me, the only one worth while was the Silversea – luxury ships with under 300 passengers, but so expensive if you have to pay that we cannot even think of it. But it was great for me back then.

          2. I still get my constant mail and regular email from Silversea. Way too expensive for my almost retirement income. If I want a personal waiter serving me tea and biscuits (or snacks) I will go to a Philippine Island, hire a bunch of maids or servants, and enjoy hot weather all year wearing only shorts the whole day. Nowadays, it is mostly multi-generational travel for us. We are blessed having 4 generations and we travel all over the world together (but NO CRUISES). We hire a private coach (with a bathroom) wherever we go. Has worked for us for quite a number of years. Cheers,

            PS. We actually took kids on the Saone-Rhone River tour with Peter Deilmann. I find that Europeans actually love well behaved kids who know how to dine with a formal setting. My young teens were seated on a table together with a very old Englishman. They all had a wonderful experience.

      2. The tour started in PARIS not the Saone River !!!
        Why is everybody NOT READING the damn itinerary ???
        The T.O. has every right to divert and change the itinerary since the Saone was flooding. All we need to know was whether the changes were decent or comparable.
        Do we know if many on the same trip are complaining?

        Aren’t we all glad the OP did not drown in the flood?

        Elliott gave us the link:–Highlights-of-Burgundy-and-Provence/Itinerary

  34. I voted yes. While $500 may represent an appropriate refund for the 3-day non-cruise portion of the trip, a $500 voucher does *not*. If they would chose to deliver a partial refund in actual money, I would think they had done the right thing.

  35. I am not sure of this one. All of the European River Boat companies are experiencing the same problem. Some are offering cancellation and rebooking and others are resorting to buses. How long ago did tour occur? Was it right when the rivers started overflowing and governments closes navigation because the boats could not make it under the bridges? Telling me when would tell me how to vote. I know you have more information but, again, you have given us a yes or no question without enough information to make a truly informed decision.

  36. I would state as usual that there is information missing. Did Al and family have insurance? Flooding would normally be an emergency. I just called our carrier and they suggested that a claim could at least be filed.

  37. To all: please read the link to the tour’s itinerary that is provided in the article.

    The 2013 French Waterways: Highlights of Burgundy & Provence itinerary is 13 days long.

    But days 1-2 are not on the boat. In fact they are in Paris. On the third day you ride the a chartered bus towards Dijon. The 12th and 13th day are also off the boat. You are only spending 9 nights of the 13 days sleeping on the boat. Only at the end of Day 3 do you embark at Chalon-sur-Saône. But note where you actually go for Day 4 and 5:
    Day 4 Chalon-sur-Saône (Beaune & Burgundy) and Tournus
    Day 5: Tournus and Macon

    Anyone who knows the Saone River can tell you that the boat did not move much on Day 3/4/5. Essentially you are using it as a hotel and dining room so you can visit Beaune, Hôtel-Dieu, Cluny Abbey and few other places on the way.

    Since the floods hit the Saone River, maybe there was some disruption. The question is what kind of disruption? Were they not able to embark on Day 3? Did they embark on a different port? Did they embark on Day 3 but did not disembark on the scheduled docks on Day 4/5? Did they miss visiting Beaune, Hôtel-Dieu, or Cluny Abbey?

    If you are going to ask for some money back you better be clear exactly what you missed and did not get.

    1. Why did Tony get a negative mark for this post? Often facts are missing, as is in this case, to really know what did or didn’t happen. I hope Chris will be able to fill in the missing information after contacting the OP.

      1. Maybe some people here do not want to know the facts, that’s why.
        No need for research. Just gut feelings.

  38. One thing I’m wondering is, Chapper says “We have reason to believe that they knew of the problem in advance of
    the trip and should have given us the opportunity to cancel without
    penalty.” What reason did he have to believe that Vantage knew of the problem in advance-especially if an act of God is involved?

  39. They purchased a cruise, not a motor coach tour. The two are not inter-changable in any sense of the word. If the passengers had been given an opportunity to back out for a full refund or take the bus tour and a small voucher and they chose the latter, then Vantage would be right to deny them anything else. I highly doubt that the passengers were given this option. Vantage should not be allowed to force and enforce what seems to be a truly meaningless contract on its passengers. The company should insure itself against such loses. Yes, the cost of the cruise would go up, but at least paying passengers would get what they paid for or get their money back.

    1. Please read the itinerary. They purchase BOTH a river cruise and a bus tour. Those inclusive tours are mostly by bus unless it is a walking tour.

      1. I repeat. They purchased a ship cruise, not a “bus cruise.” Nice meals and drinks aboard the ship. Coasting the river and enjoying the wonderful views while sitting in comfy deck chairs. River smells, not bus fumes. Sleeping while the ship cruises so you get to see more on land. And yes, then taking bus rides to see specific sites.

      2. I appreciate the details you added TonyA. And if the OP wanted a full refund of the purchase price post-trip, or something else really out of line, I’d cite exactly what you did.

        But whether the regular tour’s bus portion was 5 days, or 7, or 9, what the OP got was different in a substantial way. Was it 70% different? Unlikely. 50%? Maybe not. But 30%? 20%? 10%? I definitely think so.

        Again, the website doesn’t show people happily loaded into a motor coach, smiling out the window. It doesn’t show the bus pulling up to a tourist attraction with happy travelers following the leader with the umbrella. It shows, by and large, people cruising. Standing on the deck. Toasting each other in the dining room. The town’s castle looming over the river as the boat goes by.

        A substantial portion of the cruise is still the part about riding in the boat. Sleeping in the boat. Eating in the boat. Whether they’d be cruising by nuclear plants or hopping from boat to boat to get to shore, the company is selling the idea of a cruise.

        I don’t think that suggesting the $500 in vouchers should instead be returned as cash is going overboard. That’s about 10% of the purchase price, and I’d find it hard to believe that anybody would argue that they got over 90% of what they bargained for when they signed up for the cruise.

  40. I suggest that the bus tour would have cost the compnay much more than the cruise.
    The cruise boat is a hotel, so they had to fork out for other additional hotels.
    Get over yourselves.
    The com[pnay went above & beyond. They could have just said, the tours off (we aren’t allowed to operate the boat), claim on your insurance.

  41. what would you have preferred, the cruise went ahead & you drowned ?
    Seriously, some people are never happy.

    1. AUSSIEtraveller, thank you! Hubby and I are sitting here laughing our a**es off (not allowed to say a**es at this blog). And agreeing. If the boat had gone ahead (not that it could have, since the rivers were closed) and somebody got hurt, then they’d be suing the company for that.

      Travel is an adventure. S**t happens.

      1. actually with French law think they’d have no chnace of suing.
        When skiing in France if you go out of bounds & get injured or die, that’s your problem. You can’t sue anyone.
        THink maybe you should seriously start shooting the lwayers in the USA. We call them Corn Flakes lawyers.
        Many must have got their degrees in a cereal packet.
        Worst part is most of our politicians are lawyers, even our dodgy prime minister.

      2. The are a couple of bridges on the saone that are quite low. even on a normal river depth, you can almost touch the bottom of the bridge.
        With the river raging, it could be quite dangerous.
        We could be reading an article about the American cruiser who got his head knocked off by a French bridge because he insisted on cruising:)

  42. As a long-time cruise editor who is also a lawyer, and happened to spend time in-house at a river cruise line, let me say this. River cruise water levels and navigability are not knowable in advance. They are subject to hourly fluctuations, and the vicissitudes of officials in various jurisdictions (often different countries) along the way. Believe me, river cruise lines don’t take disruptions lightly, they in fact spend thousands of extra dollars hiring transport and accommodations for their guests. They would much prefer to not have to pay a full crew on an empty ship, have food go to waste, etc.
    Everyone should know that weather conditions sometimes cause itinerary disruptions. That is true during hurricane season in the Caribbean and during flood season on the rivers of Europe. Cruise lines try to provide an experience as close as possible to the original tour. The amount of compensation a good line provides will depend on what was “missed” and what was substituted in good faith.

  43. Considering that most people really won’t have the opportunity to use a voucher for another river cruise in Europe, I think the company is trying to get off without providing any real compensation here. I would suggest that a partial cash refund would be much more appropriate with the option of a higher value voucher offered for those who could use it.

  44. As I say every time, if I pay for the vacation in cash, I want my refund in cash, not in mileage, or a future vacation. When will someone finally stand up for that?

  45. I knew that I would be seeing this sort of discussion as I returned Sunday from a river cruise on Avalon Waterways. The itinerary started in Prague with the river segment from Passau to Budapest. The river water level in Prague was spring rain rushing and a long way from flood stage. Two days later we boarded the cruise ship in Passau on the Danube. The next day Avalon decided to disembark the passengers because the water was now rising very rapidly. Along with 160 of my close friends, I was now on a bus tour rather than the relaxing river cruise I had expected. HOWEVER, I believe Avalon responded rapidly and with the best options possible. The rapid rise of the water appeared to stun most of the Europeans we spoke with; this was not your normal spring thaw. Simultaneous hail storms and continuous rain have also taken a toll on the food producers in Europe. Avalon was not the only cruise company out there scrambling. Their response was information updates (several times an hour if necessary, a voucher for future travel, no charge for city excursions, and a 50% return on the cost of the cruise. The hotels were 4/5 star, the food (and wine) good and the extra local guides excellent. Did Avalon have to do all of this? This was an “act of God” if I ever saw one, and there were many other company’s in the same boat (excuse the pun!). I was tired and soggy, but life happens and those who were flooded would have liked to have my options, I’m sure. And, no, I have nothing to do with Avalon, I read these comments all the time and think some common sense and compassion would go a long way.

  46. Wow – I’m interested in seeing how this turns out. If Vantage Deluxe World Travel doesn’t do any better than this, then it’s not a company I’d ever book with.

    Especially insulting is the part of the Vantage Deluxe World Travel participation agreement that says: Vantage is not responsible for any losses or expenses due to delays or changes in schedules, overbooking or downgrading of accommodations. So – they get your money – but heh no promises about what you’ll get in return!

    A company with integrity who value their customers would do the following:

    1. Let people know immediately about the problem – so the customers have the choice of not flying to Europe for a cancelled cruise. And fully reimburse the customers.

    2. If customers have arrived then Vantage Deluxe World Travel should give customers the choice of going on the bus tour (and providing some reimbursement) or the choice of taking care of their own trip at that point and providing a full reimbursement of the cruise cost

    3. Any travel credit provided for the customers significant troubles should be good for longer than December 2014.

    Basically it sounds like Vantage Deluxe World Travel is offering a “pot luck” trip – the customer provides a set amount of money and Vantage Deluxe World Travel will give them whatever happens to be available when they show up!

  47. Chris you’re going to be seeing many more of these because friends were on a river cruise (Danube?) just week before last. Europe was inundated. Most people do not know that Budapest is really two cities divided by the Danube. The bridge between Buda and Pest was closed due to high waters. The friends did NOT find the bus tours to be how they imagined they would be seeing this part of the world. Plus they are from Southern California and do not know how to deal with rain!

  48. No. If they booked a European ski vacation and it failed to snow, is it the fault of the travel agency? Weather (along with other stuff) happens while you’re on vacation and you need to accommodate it.

  49. We went on a Scenic River Cruise to the South of France on 19th May and had 2 days cruising 700m the first day and 2 hours on the second last day and 10days coaching would you like to mediate for us?

    1. A better way to phrase your request might be “would you please mediate for us.” That being said, if you would like Chris to consider mediating for you, go to the top of this page and click the “Connect” link. On the page that opens, follow the instructions for presenting your case to Chris. Good luck.

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