Harvey Wasserman and his wife Arleen have always loved to travel.
“Since we’ve been together — last 37 years — we’ve done an enormous amount of traveling,” Wasserman said.
The couple has pictures in Paris, Vienna and places around the world. So when they got a brochure to take a 15-day Viking cruise through the Panama Canal and Central America, Wasserman said his wife couldn’t resist.
“The very first cruise that Arleen and I did together was through the Panama Canal,” Wasserman said. “And we were really excited about going back and seeing it again.”
According to Wasserman, they paid more than $12,000 for the cruise, including money for travel insurance. The travel insurance was purchased with Tripmate through Viking, Wasserman said.
They also invited their good friends Deborah and Alvi Blankenship.
“We were kind of excited about going with them because we’re close friends,” Alvie Blankenship said.
The Blankenships paid more than $10,000, which included trip insurance. But then they were notified that their cruise was canceled due to COVID-19. The couples chose to rebook on a future cruise and accepted a voucher for Future Cruise Credits.
However, before they could take the cruise — Arleen passed away.
“At 75, it’s not a life I planned. I don’t even know how to go forward,” Wasserman said.
Wasserman keeps his wife’s remains close by, but after the service, he decided he could not take the cruise alone.
“The idea of going to someplace new and enjoying myself, it’s upsetting to just think about it,” Wasserman said.
Wasserman said he tried to get a refund but was denied for the same reason as the Blankenships — here’s why:
When they agreed to be rebooked on the second cruise, they accepted a voucher for a future cruise credit worth 125% of what they originally paid — the caveat: vouchers don’t allow for cash refunds.
“It was never really explained properly,” Wasserman said.
Then the couples turned to their trip protection plan, which said it covers trip cancellation and 100% of the trip cost. One of the covered reasons for cancellation is “death of you, your traveling companion or your family member,” according to the protection plan documents.
Wasserman submitted a claim and included his wife’s death certificate but was notified “records from Viking cruises indicate the booking was paid using previously issued travel vouchers and such vouchers are non-refundable.”
So accepting that voucher not only forfeited their right to a future refund but also nullified their trip insurance.
“What the hell did I buy the insurance for?” Wasserman asked.
News 6 tried contacting Viking on April 19, 20 and 21. We followed up with phone calls, more emails and even messages to some of the company’s executive team members — but still no response.
“I don’t understand why, especially under the circumstances, why it’s so difficult for them to honor my wishes,” Wasserman said.
Since we started investigating this, Viking did offer to refund his wife’s portion of the cruise, but not his, according to Wasserman.
Wasserman has not accepted that offer.
We spoke to a very experienced travel agent who said this doesn’t happen often, but he said the one time he has seen it it was with Tripmate — the travel insurance provider in this story — and with Viking.
We reached out to Tripmate as often as we did Viking. Tripmate planned to have a statement for News 6, according to a company spokesperson. It did not happen by the time we aired this report.
If we hear back from Viking or Tripmate, we will include any comments they have with this story.
If you purchase trip insurance, read the policy thoroughly. Also, if you want advice on companies and their coverage, call a travel agent; they can get insurance for you, even on a trip you booked yourself.
And the last thing is: your travel insurance does not have to come from the company you booked your travel through — so shop around.
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