On Feb. 18, Kiev exploded in flames, as protesters toppled the government. The next day, we contacted Viking and asked what the expectation was for the Ukraine cruise. A representative replied by email that it ďshould be fine. We will let you know otherwise. No worries.Ē But on Feb. 21, the United States Department of State instructed Americans to avoid ďall nonessential travel to Ukraine.Ē
We immediately contacted Viking River Cruises to withdraw our trip reservation because of this warning and our own judgment. Viking suggested we wait it out, but the situation only worsened.
A few days later, we contacted Viking again and explained that, because of the worsening aggression in Ukraine and because of the continuing warning from the Department of State, we were not going to Ukraine. Viking imposed a 15 percent penalty for cancellation. We think that we should be getting a full refund of the $11,596 we paid. Can you help us?
ó Pat and Jack Davies, Minneapolis
Anwer: It seems highly unlikely that Viking will be sailing to Crimea anytime soon, so Iím not sure why it wonít refund your vacation.
Oh wait, maybe itís because, buried in the fine print of its terms and conditions (www.vikingcruises.com/terms-conditions/index.html), it specifically says itís not liable for any security problems beyond its control.
But does that mean it gets to keep your 15 percent? That appears to be Vikingís position. Again, referring to the companyís terms, if youíre canceling between 120 and 90 days before your departure, you have to pay a 15 percent penalty. Eventually, Viking canceled some of its Ukraine itineraries, but itís not clear if it would have refunded the 15 percent after the fact, or kept it because you decided to cancel first.
This situation could have been prevented by doing a little research before booking your vacation. Political upheavals usually donít happen without warning, and there were signs that Ukraine might be a problematic vacation choice. Although few could have predicted what happened after you bought your cruise, a quick check of the State Department website (www.state.gov) might have left you with some reservations.
Technically, Viking was correct. You canceled, so it was entitled to keep your 15 percent. But letís not get hung up on technicalities here. You werenít sailing to Odessa this summer, even if the company imposed a 100 percent penalty. I wouldnít have.
I contacted Viking to see if it intended to keep your $1,739, regardless of whether it operated its Ukraine tours this summer. A representative called you, told you that your request had been routed to the wrong desk and agreed to refund the remaining 15 percent.
King Features Syndicate, Inc.
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