TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Cruise lines continue to cancel sailings amid rising fears of COVID-19 infections. That leaves some passengers, especially those who booked at the beginning of the pandemic, wanting their money back.
John Douglass booked a Viking European River Cruise in July 2019 totaling more than $7,500. Then COVID hit, and you can imagine the rest. Five days before the cruise was set to sail in March 2020, John canceled.
The cruise line offered Douglass a voucher instead of a refund for the cancelation. Feeling unsafe to travel, Douglass agreed to take the voucher. Two days later, he said Viking canceled the whole cruise and issued refunds – but not to him.
8 On Your Side’s Shannon Behnken called Viking about the refund, but the company cited Douglass’ cancelation as the reason he didn’t get his refund.
Douglass has been waiting for the right time to use his cruise voucher, but he’s been watching as major cruise operators canceled sailing on more than 20 ships in the past month due to the ongoing pandemic. Like many passengers who accepted COVID-related vouchers, John’s voucher is expiring soon, and he’s still not ready to cruise.
The government is looking into changing cruise refund rules, but right now each cruise line can decide how to deal with it and, as you may imagine, the companies have different policies.
Megan Moncrief of Square Mouth, a travel insurance company, told 8 On Your Side there are many travelers holding on to vouchers.
“A lot of travelers were able to receive a voucher early on,” she said. “Now we’re two years out, going on three years out. The likelihood of being able to use them seems to be getting smaller.”
Vouchers, she says, aren’t covered under travel insurance. Moncrief recommends a “cancel for any reason” policy, but it will cost you 50% more and only covers up to 75% reimbursement.
8 On Your Side reached out to Viking but have not heard back. However, the company’s website says people who cancel get vouchers, not refunds.