My tour operator canceled my Antarctic cruise – why should I take the hit?

G Adventures cancels Shelley Piontek’s Antarctic cruise after its ship breaks down. But neither the tour operator nor Piontek’s travel-insurance company will refund her transportation expenses. Why not?

Question: It’s been a goal of mine to travel to all seven continents. Antarctica is no easy feat, so I’ve been saving and doing research for several years. A few months ago, I booked a cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula with G Adventures. I was set to leave for the trip last fall, so I had a long time to prepare and look forward to the trip.

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Just three days before I was set to leave, I received a heartbreaking call that my entire trip had been canceled. The reason? There was an engine problem with the ship. G Adventures offered to refund the cost of the cruise and 15 percent off a future sailing, but since prices go up so much per year, that didn’t do much.

I scrambled to try to salvage what I could, and filed a claim with my trip insurance. And that’s where I had a problem. I am out $821 in flight and travel costs that I feel I am owed. G Adventures refuses to pay, since the company feels it should be covered by travel insurance.
My travel insurance covers medical emergencies, death and weather-related cancellations, but not a mechanical failure.

I feel as if G Adventures should be the one to reimburse me if it can’t keep its ships in running order. But I’ve gotten nowhere. This trip is still a dream of mine, and I am hoping to go this year, but not if I can’t get back the money I am already out for the trip that G Adventures canceled on me. Can you help? — Shelley Piontek, Sacramento, Calif.

Answer: If you insured your Antarctic adventure, you should have been covered. And by “covered,” I mean you shouldn’t have lost any money when the vessel you were supposed to be sailing on had a mechanical failure.

From your tour operator’s perspective, this is an open-and-shut case. It canceled your cruise and it refunded the cruise — plus it offered a discount for a future sailing. Likewise, your travel insurance company has rules, which it followed. And its policy doesn’t cover a mechanical delay.
Problem is, you’re left with an $821 bill for a ship that broke down. Effectively, G Adventures is asking you to share some of the responsibility for its faulty engine, at least from your perspective.

It looks as if G Adventures and your travel insurance company can’t agree on the definition of “unforeseen circumstances.” Your tour operator believes it’s any event “outside of the reasonable control of G Adventures,” while your travel insurance company begs to differ, suggesting with its policy exclusions that the condition of a cruise ship is something the tour operator can control.
Nothing could have prepared you for this. You did everything you could have possibly done, and you followed all the right steps in trying to resolve this. I see a strong paper trail, and you were always polite.

In the end, you appealed to G Adventures to make right on its pledge to “lead” with service, and reminded the company of its claim that 99 percent of its customers were happy with their tours.
I contacted G Adventures on your behalf. The company agreed to refund the transportation expenses you incurred as a result of its cancellation.

The story originally appeared on May 7, 2015.

20 thoughts on “My tour operator canceled my Antarctic cruise – why should I take the hit?

  1. I blame the insurance company. Policy should cover this unless the cruise line was negligent in servicing the ship. Cruise line really went above and beyond. Timeline is confusing “booked the trip a few months ago for last fall”.. TIME MACHINE! But.. That really has no bearing on the case.

  2. Good job Chris!
    Of course your intervention should not be necessary if “personal” responsibility of the G Adventures was there to begin with. They caused the damage – they should pay. Insurance denial is dubious too. As I understand it was the passenger’s insurance, not G Company’s insurance. For the passenger the trip cancellation was by the G Company, so it was beyond passenger’s control and it was both sudden and unexpected and it was mechanical death to the trip not just a “mechanical delay”.
    Insurance that does not insure disruptions with which the insured has nothing to do – is simply a fraud – regardless of what they right in the policies. Selling insurance for not possible and not probable and not occurring events should be declared and regarded as fraud.
    Chris – why do you always give out names of the wronged people – as you know they can be punished by the perpetrators by being kicked out of e.g. frequent flyer programs, denied services etc with 2104 SCOTUS blessing — you give the names of some perpetrators but you do not give names insurance companies involved in denial of cover or delivering substandard pservice?

  3. I can’t for the life of me understand WHY the right thing wasn’t done in the first place! Why did it take a phone call from you to make them do that? So I say Booooo G Adventures!

  4. Normally the cruise line should cover the costs and I am very surprised that G Adventures didn’t. It isn’t up to the travel insurance, it is up to the supplier who cancels at the last minute.

    It’s a shame you had to get involved, but G Adventures was wrong in the way they handle it. I don’t know of any insurance that covers for supplier cancellations regardless of the reason.

  5. The cruise company should cover this, not insurance company. Most do up to a certain dollar amount. Why should the insurance company be out any money when the onus is on the supplier to supply the trip and they cancel, regardless of the reason?

  6. The cruise line is the one responsible for the costs not covered when they cover. There is no insurance company that has coverage for a supplier canceling a trip. The cruise line is the one who should cover the non refundables when they cancel. You should pursue it with the cruise line.

  7. Yet another company that apparently requires a public shaming to get them to do the right thing. As an aside, if I want to travel without taking a personal financial risk, is there any kind of insurance available that actually allows that, or do I have to run the gauntlet of the fine-print exceptions for every policy offered?

  8. Huh. I wonder what policy she had? Most trip insurance companies DO explicitly cover cancellation due to mechanical problems.

  9. My travel insurance company (Travel Insured International), under trip cancellation states this:

    “If Your Travel Supplier cancels Your Trip, a benefit will be paid for the reissue fee charged by the airline for the tickets. You must have covered the entire cost of Your Trip including the airfare cost.” It also states: “Trip Cancellation and Interruption are up to the lesser of the Trip Cost paid or the limit of Coverage for which benefits are requested and the appropriate plan cost has been paid.”

    Apparently there is at least ne travel insurance company that has coverage for a supplier canceling a trip.

  10. I think this just adds another layer into what poor travelers have to look at when purchasing travel insurance.

  11. on a free trip? this was a comped cruise – the cruiseline would have no reason to cover her OTHER expenses, as it already covered the BIGGEST chunk!

  12. You obviously didn’t bother to read that they already had COMPED her entire cruise – not she wants THEM to pay for her other expenses — sad.

  13. Actually, I DID read the entire post and I realize they comped her cruise but she’s was still out the airfare. Glad that worked out, as it should have. Why should she have been stuck with airfare to… nowhere? I do so appreciate your comment to my comment though. Very enlightening, thank you.

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