If you plan a trip with another person — a spouse, a companion, a friend — and if your travel partner has to cancel, you could be stuck with thousands of dollars in extra charges.
We don’t mean losing the money paid for the person who can’t take the trip.
We mean extra charges, just for traveling as a single.
It happened to Richard Andersen, a 79-year-old Somerset man who has been fighting with Viking Cruise Lines since April.
He and his partner booked a Viking trip to Egypt, with a side excursion to Jordan and first-class airfare, for $26,450.
Then COVID hit and the trip had to be delayed.
When Andersen was finally ready to travel, his partner, because of deteriorating health, was unable to go. He was willing to take the trip alone.
Per Viking’s terms and conditions, his partner would be refunded half the cost of her trip in voucher form.
But there was another wrinkle.
“The Viking agent said that I would have to pay an extra $9,898. When asked what this was for, the reply was that I would get vouchers for future Viking cruises that were worth more than the extra payment,” Andersen said. “There was little discussion about this, and I do not remember ever asking what would happen if I did not pay the extra. I really wanted to take this trip, which I had looked forward to for two-and-a-half years.”
Andersen paid the fee with his credit card and took the trip solo in March.
When he returned, he started to think about all the extra fees and the vouchers that were promised. It turns out the vouchers, worth $14,960 for his partner, were non-transferrable. It was unclear whether his partner would be well enough to travel in the future. But what about Andersen’s vouchers?
Andersen did some research. The cruise line’s terms and conditions raised some red flags, he said.
“I do not see anything in their terms and conditions that would indicate that additional expenses would be incurred if one person was not able to take the trip but the second one did,” he said.
He sent Viking a certified letter on April 10 asking for a cash refund of the extra $9,898 payment and questioning whether his partner’s vouchers could be transferred to another person.
A month passed with no response.
Over the next several months, he tried numerous ways to contact the company so someone could address his requests, without luck.
“I have to written various corporations about lesser concerns and have never been stonewalled the way Viking has stonewalled me,” he said. “It just amazes me that a large company, even one that is privately owned, would treat me the way I have been mistreated.”
He asked Bamboozled for help.
We reviewed Andersen’s letters and emails to Viking, and we asked the company to review his complaint.
While we waited for a response, we did a little looking around.
Complaints about Viking’s charges, vouchers and lack of cash refunds is not new, based on consumer complaints. And when the company is asked by the news media about individual cases, it seems to make some kind of concession but requires the passengers to sign a non-disclosure agreement, so the final resolutions are usually under wraps.
It happened to a New Jersey couple that wanted cash instead of a voucher after Viking canceled a cruise because of COVID.
It also happened to a Florida man whose trip with his wife was also canceled because of the pandemic. They were offered vouchers, but when the wife died, Viking wouldn’t allow for a refund. It later came to an undisclosed agreement with the husband.
There are others.
It makes sense that the company would charge more for a single traveler. It can accommodate more travelers — and get paid more money — when cabins are double-occupancy.
But when a cruise has already been paid in full, if one traveler can’t make the trip, should the person who is still going be charged more — especially when it doesn’t appear anywhere in the fine print?
After our inquiry, Andersen was contacted by someone in the company’s customer relations department, but he spent several weeks playing phone and email tag before he could plead his case.
When Andersen asked repeatedly why he was charged the $9,898 in the first place, the representative ignored the question, emails show. Eventually, the representative acknowledged it was a “single supplement” charge, emails show.
Andersen asked specifically where in the terms and conditions it showed he should be charged the single supplement. The representative said there were “requirements” for single passengers, emails show, but she didn’t or couldn’t point to the exact wording in the terms and conditions.
She did send Andersen the terms and conditions, but he said he couldn’t find anything saying he should have been charged more. We couldn’t find…