What happened to my refund from Scenic River Cruises?

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By Christopher Elliott

Winston Bateman is sure that Scenic Cruises owes him a refund after it cancels his Danube river cruise vacation. But after months of waiting, is there more to the story?


My wife and I have been trying to get a refund from Scenic Cruises for more than eight months. We paid $14,910 for a Danube River cruise from Bucharest to Budapest scheduled for May 2020. That included airfare and an upgrade. We also bought a travel insurance policy.

Scenic River Cruises canceled the cruise in early May of 2020 and I assumed we would get a refund. We received an option via email for a cruise credit or refund from Member Travel Privileges, our travel agency. We have this email.

In a follow-up email, our travel agent advised us we would receive a refund of $13,338 for the cruise and an additional $1,572 travel credit. However, they also advised that the refund may take up to 90 days.

After 90 days, we filed a claim with our insurance company. Our claim was denied. The reason for the denial was that COVID-19 was not a covered reason for cancellation.

Since then, we have gone back and forth with Scenic Cruises in our efforts to get a refund. We get cut off each time we call. In one of the emails from Scenic Cruises, they wrote that we would have to work with the booking agent to get our money back. We would like to get the promised refund. Can you help us? — Winston Bateman, Roseville, Minn.


So much went wrong with your cruise, it’s hard to know where to begin. But maybe we should start here: If your travel agent promised you a refund, you should get one. Period.

But there were other unfortunate circumstances, and I’m not just talking about COVID. You booked a trip with a reputable cruise line and took out a travel insurance policy. When a travel company cancels a tour, a cruise — really, anything — it should offer either a full refund or a credit.

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top-rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at TravelInsurance.com.

Your travel agent who booked the Scenic Cruises trip said you could get a credit or refund. You chose the refund. But when the money wasn’t forthcoming, you filed a travel insurance claim.

I would have contacted your travel insurance company as soon as your cruise line canceled your trip. Ask if you are covered at that point. You probably aren’t, since most travel insurance assumes you’ll receive a full refund if your cruise line cancels. But it’s worth asking. You can find out more about how travel insurance works in my guide to buying and using it. 

You kept a great paper trail between yourself, your travel agent, and Scenic River Cruises. Maybe, you could have also escalated your complaint to a company executive. You can find the names, numbers and email addresses of the Scenic River Cruises executives in our company contacts database.

Finally: Your refund from Scenic River Cruises

I contacted Scenic River Cruises on your behalf. It said that its policy after the pandemic was to offer a credit, not a refund. “It seems their agency gave out incorrect information regarding refunds,” a spokesman for Scenic River Cruises told me. “If the agency offered a refund, it falls on the agency to make such a refund.” (Related: They canceled my cruise. How do I get a cruise credit refund?)

I reviewed your case. “We sent out a communication to you asking if you preferred a cash refund or a future cruise credit for your canceled booking, only to later find out that Scenic would only be able to offer future cruise credits to its passengers,” your agency said in a letter to you. (Related: Help! I’ve waited a year for my river cruise refund.)

Your agency agreed to issue a full refund of $14,910. That’s the total of the refund and credit you were offered in the follow-up email.

Looking for more cruise-related articles before you go? Check out our cruise fiascos library here. 

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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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