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July 2016    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 42, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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When Things Go Wrong…

Undercurrent readers disagree on cancellation compensation

from the July, 2016 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Last month we told the sorry tale of how Undercurrent subscriber Jeanette Hartshorn was disappointed and angry to arrive in the Galápagos to find her prepaid liveaboard trip had been canceled and she had not been informed. She received a full refund and had other expenses covered, by the Galapagos Sky, which accepted full responsibility, but she and her partner were out of pocket airfare and other expenses, saying they would have canceled the whole trip had they been informed of the cancellation and felt the compensation was inadequate.

Two other guests booked through a diver agent also arrived unaware of the cancellation; they were compensated similarly to Hartshorn, and chose to make a return trip on the liveaboard Galapagos Sky later in the year.

We asked you "Do you think Hartshorn and her partner received fair compensation from Galapagos Sky for the unusual cancellation of their cruise?" and provided a means to vote and comment. More than two hundred of you responded, with almost 2:1 believing that the Galapagos Sky had provided proper compensation for the major blunder.

However, comments were mixed. Here are some of those that accompanied the survey results. One reader who felt that Sky fell short said, "I feel that she would never have just booked the land portion of this trip. The Galapagos Sky was the highlight and when she was not notified of the trip cancellation, the tour company caused her to take a trip she would never have booked. Peter Hughes made a good faith effort to make the situation right, but given the circumstances, it's just not enough."

One reader suggested that if the Sky were a U.S. business, any lawyer in the USA would have been able to recover all trip-related expenses, including the extension, parking doggie kennel, as well as legal fees and possibly more for the inconvenience and disappointment.

On the other hand, another reader commented, "If Hartshorn had declined to stay in the Galápagos and returned home immediately, she would have had a fair case to demand a full refund of the whole trip. As it is she got a free week of land-based diving, which is obviously not as good as the Galapagos Sky cruise would've been - but it was free! She had to pay for the airfare but I think the cost of hotel, food and land-based diving offsets that."

Another made the same point. "They should have gone home right away. Instead, they stayed and included the extension. If they really wanted to dive, they should have taken the credit and come back [later]. Everyone deserves a second chance."

One reader was philosophical about such events, saying, "I would've have been happy with the outcome and understand the wish for more. Travel is an adventure."

The hard fact is that Hartshorn did not get the diving trip she had planned. One reader was less stoical. "They made the best of it, but when they're plunking down that kind of money for a once-ina- lifetime trip, they should be fully refunded, and then some." Another reader suggested, "Sometimes things don't go as planned. Seems Galapagos Sky did everything they could to arrange an alternative experience."

Yet another reader made the point, "These are not easy places to reach and the effort in planning is Herculean. So I believe that there should be compensation beyond all expenses incurred just for the time and effort put towards planning this as also the lost days due to cancellation."

Clearly, people disagreed: One wrote, "She was not fully compensated for all the time and cost," while another wrote, "Extremely fair. Why should she get a refund for the portion that worked?"

A majority of readers surveyed thought that they had been treated well. One wrote, "Kudos to the Galapagos Sky personnel for not only covering all the land expenses, including upscale accommodation, diving and personal expenses for the week - plus refunding the full amount for the liveaboard trip. This is extremely generous and complete compensation."

Another commented, "I do not think the extension to their trip was the responsibility of Galapagos Sky. I think they assumed responsibility for what was a really disappointing situation."

One wrote, "When traveling to far-flung locales, anything can happen, and you have to be mentally prepared for that. I would have been equally upset at this turn of events, but I believe Hughes tried his best to make it right."

However, one respondent added, "as the owner of a dive shop specializing in dive travel this would be high on my list of worst nightmares. Bite the bullet and cover 100%f their expenses! If we'd have booked them we would have taken the loss and done what was needed to at least salvage them as customers.

Notably, there is one last valid point, "This has been an on-going problem with having to pay for trips in full so far in advance. One should only have to pay a 25% deposit and the balance on arrival. Paying in full [in advance] is way out of hand."

And, that's a point well-taken.

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