Sometimes, the cruise line will offer nothing more than an apology. In at least one instance, however, a cruise line offered a family a do-over, covering the cost of a new sailing.
When Al Chapper’s Vantage river cruise turned into a bus cruise earlier this year, the company cut several days from his itinerary, he says. Technically, it hit most of the planned places, but as with Frost, via a decidedly less glamorous roadway.
“The company did bus us to some of the sites we were supposed to visit,” he says. “But it had to cancel some others.”
In a letter to Chapper, Vantage explained the reasons for the rescheduling. “As you know, dangerously high water levels along the Rhone and Saone prompted French authorities to close all navigation along these rivers,” it noted, offering him a $500-per-person future travel credit as compensation.
Kevin Wallace, Vantage’s chief operating officer, says that the company tries to equitably compensate passengers like Chapper whose vacations are affected by flooding. But “we can’t control the weather,” he added. The company’s website, he noted, has a disclaimer specifically saying that “acts of nature are not under our control.”
Viking also stuck to its 50 percent compensation offer for the Frosts after I asked about their case, telling me that it prefers to work with guests directly, “and not in a public forum” such as this column.
Indeed, if there’s a common thread among these flooding cases, it’s that the riverboat cruise operators feel as if they are also victims of the extreme weather.
The takeaway for anyone planning to take a European river cruise is clear: Don’t expect it to actually be a river cruise if the weather won’t allow it. You can minimize your chances of participating in an overpriced bus tour by planning your tour during the fall, which promises generally more stable weather.
Keep in mind that your cruise line may not even be required to tell you of the rescheduled vacation until you arrive at the port. (Some river cruise lines, including Tauck River Cruising and Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, belong to the Cruise Lines International Association, whose new passenger bill of rights requires them to offer “timely information updates” as to any adjustments in the itinerary of the ship resulting from an emergency.)
And provisions for compensating passengers are as easy to forecast as, well, the weather.
Christopher Elliott is the author of “Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals” (Wiley). He also writes the Travel Troubleshooter column, which appears on page J2.