Which? Legal member Barry Robinson faced waiting up to four months to get his deposit back after a cancelled cruise. Barry booked to go on an American Waterways cruise, which was due to depart in September. He and his wife put down a deposit of £3,334 – with half paid directly to the operator, Fred Olsen Cruises, and the rest to a travel agent, Readers Offers Ltd (ROL). The pandemic meant the operator was forced to cancel the cruise in July, and it advised Barry to get in touch with ROL to request a refund. ROL said that it could take up to 16 weeks for the refund to be processed.
Barry benefited from protection under the Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018. Under Regulation 13, when a package travel contract is cancelled, even for extraordinary circumstances, the customer is due a full refund. Regulation 14 also states that the refund is to be provided within 14 days of the cancellation date. A short delay would be tolerated, but a 16-week wait would be considered unreasonable.
We advised Barry to make a formal complaint to the travel agent and cruise operator, setting out his position under the legislation and to request that the refund be processed in a more acceptable timeframe. Just over a week later, he had received a refund of the deposit in full. ROL said: ‘At the time, we advised that refunds could take up to 16 weeks, but we were able to process Mr Robinson’s full refund in just over eight weeks. We sincerely apologise for the delay he experienced.’ Fred Olsen Cruises told Which?: ‘We have a ‘no quibble’ refund guarantee for cruises affected by COVID-19 and we promise to refund monies as soon as possible. Generally, this has been in under eight weeks, including the refund for this guest.’