Q – We are really looking forward to booking a Seine river boat program with Uniworld that begins in Paris. But the flooding earlier this year and really given us pause- we’ve been speaking with our agent asking for some sort of guarantee or written policy so we will know that, in the event the ship can’t operate, we will know what kind of program will be offered. My wife suffers from motion sickness and we just don;t want to be stuck on a bus tour with no out.
Our travel agent has been unable to provide an answer to my rather specific question. So I’ll ask you – what is the policy when the river boat can’t sail? You have a wonderful site but I just don’t see the answer to this question detailed. I am not putting down a deposit until I get a definitive answer from someone in your industry.
A – It is our policy to never take responsibility for our “industry”. In fact, the very point you raise is one that we have been asking of river boat executives for the past six months. We have tabulated responses from every one of them and they are all virtually identical – “we handle each water-related issue on a case-by-case basis.”
That is the policy under which most river boat vacations in Europe are sold. You have no specific idea of what will be offered should your itinerary fail to operate as described. There is no line that offers anything like a “Guarantee” regarding water-related issues.
Most of the lines have a policy where they determine the number of nights the boat could not operate and they take that room night cost percentage from the total creating a monetary value that is offered to booked guests already in Europe as a future credit. It is not worth cash.
Should you arrive in Europe only to discover that your river cruise will not be operating as scheduled, you will normally be offered the option of returning home. But you will not be offered the future credit.
This is our current real life best advice to put the odds in your favor in terms of a favorable outcome to flooding or low water level issues:
THE CHURCHILL & TUREN LTD. TEN-POINT EUROPEAN RIVER LEVEL CHECKLIST
01 – Check the weather forecast for your cruising destination 48 hours prior to arrival. If flooding is predicted, contact your agent to re-schedule the date.
02 – Use an agent who belongs to a consortium that represents millions of dollars in revenue to the line. Never book as an individual – you have zero clout.
03 – Do not deal with the line directly. Have your consultant do the negotiating on your behalf.
04 – If you arrive in Europe to find that your schedule has been dramatically impacted, consider flying home. Better still, have your flights arranged to meet your new schedule and have your consultant plan an alternative vacation for you within 24 hours.
05 – Do independent air – do not rely on the river cruise line’s air package.If they control the air – they control your vacation.
06 – Make certain that your consultant puts you in touch with flight monitoring specialists. They will make the necessary air changes.
07 – Never scream at on-board staff. Decisions are being made thousands of miles away from your boat. Let your consultant deal with headquarters directly and communicate via e-mail or phone.
08 – Never assume that the river cruise company will sit down with you to try to plan a new vacation when the ship can’t operate normally. They do not have the staff to do this nor would they assume liability.
09 – Assume that guests in the top-tier suites and those booked by top-selling consultants, will receive preferential treatment when it comes to an interruption offer.
10 – With certain lines, such as AMA, you can purchase “Cancel for Any Reason” insurance. This is a definite advantage but be aware that the coverage offers a future credit – not cash in return. Never assume a river boat will cover any portion of your expenses not associated with a component they booked.