Earlier this week, the world’s longest round-the-world cruise — a 335-night epic on Cruise West’s Spirit of Oceanus — was unceremoniously cut short in St. John’s, Newfoundland, about six months before its scheduled end in February 2011. Cruise Critic reports that Cruise West (best known for its small-ship Alaska voyages) has canceled the rest of the world cruise, will sell the ship and will “work towards a restructuring of the company and its operations” in response to recent financial woes.
World cruises are typically sold in segments, so it’s likely that many passengers were already planning to disembark in St. John’s. But any cruisers who were planning to stay aboard the ship for the next segment, as well as the hundreds of other passengers who were booked on future segments of the cruise, are now left scrambling for options (and refunds).
If the “stranded traveler” story sounds familiar, it should; just a few weeks ago, Mexicana Airlines suspended its operations, leaving passengers high and dry in Mexico and many destinations beyond. And Kiss Flights, a British airline, disrupted the plans of some 70,000 passengers when it folded last month.
Getting stranded far from home is a worst-case scenario for travelers. So how can you protect yourself against the bankruptcy of an airline, tour operator, hotel or cruise line? A few suggestions:
-Always pay for your travel purchases with a credit card so that it’s easier to dispute charges and get refunds if necessary.
-Buy travel insurance — and do so through an independent source, not through your travel provider. This way you’re protected if that provider goes belly up. Be sure your policy includes protection in the case of travel supplier default.
-If you reserve your trip through a travel agency or booking site, program its number into your cell phone so you can call for help at the first sign of trouble.
-Look for alternatives. Other travel suppliers often step into the void when a company ceases operations. For example, both AeroMexico and American Airlines added additional flights and offered personal assistance to aid accommodate passengers who’d been stranded by Mexicana.
What suggestions would you add? Have you ever been stranded by a travel company?
–written by Sarah Schlichter