Q. In early 2021, my girlfriend and I booked a fall foliage riverboat cruise with Tauck. At the time, there was no requirement for us to be vaccinated for the COVID-19 virus.
A year later, just before our cruise, I received an e-mail titled “COVID-19 Policy Update for Your Upcoming Journey.” It required all guests to be “up to date” with their vaccinations.
We would have never booked this tour if this requirement had been in place in 2021. Tauck changed the terms of its agreement without our consent.
After receiving the COVID-19 policy update, we canceled the tour. Tauck gave us eVouchers for our next reservation, which are useless to us because of their COVID-19 policy.
I want a complete refund of the four eVouchers. Can you help me?
DARYL DeCROW, Simi Valley, Calif.
A. If Tauck changed its terms, you should be able to get a full refund. But your story is more complicated than that.
You had made a reservation with Tauck as far back as 2018, but could not go on the cruise because the tour operator canceled it in the wake of the pandemic. Tauck eventually offered you vouchers for the purchase of a future insurance policy, which you used for your fall foliage cruise. The vouchers were not refundable.
Tauck’s non-refundability rule on its vouchers is normal. Your fear that it would always require a proof of vaccination might not be valid. Many cruise lines have dropped their vaccine requirements, so you never know. Still, you thought you were stuck with worthless credit, and you wanted your money back.
And this case gets even more complicated. It turns out Tauck had mistakenly issued you two additional vouchers after you canceled your latest cruise. Oh, boy, that’s confusing.
You could have sent a brief, polite appeal to Tauck. It looks like you tried to contact one of their vice presidents twice by mail. I list more names, numbers and e-mail addresses of the Tauck customer service executives on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org. You might have persuaded someone higher up to review your case and run the numbers on the refunds.
It gets worse. Once I brought this case to Tauck, you faced another delay. The reason? Ironically, the person handling customer service was out sick — with COVID.
“We recognize that there are extenuating circumstances here, including communication shortcomings on Tauck’s part related to our vaccination policy and the error we made with the travel vouchers,” a Tauck spokesman told me.
Tauck agreed to give you and your girlfriend a refund for the vouchers, which you accepted.
Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy (elliottadvocacy.org), a nonprofit organization that helps consumers solve their problems. E-mail him at email@example.com or get help by contacting him at elliottadvocacy.org/help/.