Q: My wife and I paid $10,096 for a cruise and tour on the Viking Idi for April. When the coronavirus pandemic flared up, Viking informed me that it would allow postponement of our trip for up to two years. In early March, I asked Viking if the trip had been canceled, and it said no. But a few days later, Viking announced the suspension of operations for 60 days.
I immediately asked Viking for a full refund and got a rejection. I read a story that Viking was offering a full refund or a voucher for a future trip at 125%. But I had only been offered a future voucher at 100%.
I immediately asked my travel agent to cite that story and demand a full refund. As of today, there is no response from the cruise line. I think Viking is ignoring refund requests.
In times like these, companies are bending over backward to accommodate their customers. Viking is holding my money ransom and shows utter disregard for keeping its word and corporate decency. I want my money back — now. Please help.
— Vincent Liu, Los Altos Hills, California
A: Viking should fully refund your cruise. But does it have to? Technically, no. Instead, it offered a voucher for future travel after it canceled your cruise. It promised refunds later, when it suspended operations — but not to you.
This is a common problem during the pandemic. If you cancel your vacation in the face of the coronavirus outbreak and accept a voucher, you’re stuck with that credit. However, if the company cancels, it should offer a full refund. That’s true for most travel companies except for tour operators, which often have fine print in their contracts that allow them to keep your money. But I digress.
It’s perfectly reasonable to argue that you don’t want to give Viking a microloan for up to two years.
Something about your case is not sitting right with me. Viking gave you a cruise credit and then, only a few days later, offered full refunds or a 125% voucher. It just seems unfair even though technically Viking is allowed to do it.
Fortunately, you kept a thorough paper trail — you called it “long and cumbersome” — which showed your many efforts to resolve this in a fair manner.
I can’t make Viking refund your cruise because, as I already mentioned, it’s allowed to keep your money. But you have options. A polite appeal — which you’ve already tried — is a reasonable first step. You can also accept the vouchers, as thousands of other passengers have. And then there’s the nuclear option — disputing the charges on your wife’s credit card and forcing Viking to refund your cruise.
You chose door number three. Your bank promptly returned your money.
If you need help with a coronavirus-related refund, please contact me. You can send details through my consumer advocacy site or email me at email@example.com.