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

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By Christopher Elliott

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?


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.

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.


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. (Here’s what you need to know before booking your next tour.)

Unforeseen circumstances

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. (Related: My Antarctic tour never happened, so where is my deposit refund?)

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

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.

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Christopher Elliott

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

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