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The Travel Troubleshooter

Shortly after Jack and Pat Davies book a river cruise to Ukraine, the country begins to fall apart. They ask the Travel Troubleshooter if they can get a refund.
BY CHRISTOPHER ELLIOTT Published: July 27, 2014
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DEAR TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER: In mid-February, we booked a Viking River Cruises trip to Ukraine for this summer, beginning in Kiev and continuing throughout the country to Zaporozhye, Odessa, Kherson, Sevastopol and Yalta. Some of our ports of call were in Crimea. We paid for the total cost of our trip, including three nights in Istanbul and an additional five days in Turkey on our own before our return flight.

On Feb. 18, Kiev exploded in flames, as protesters toppled the government. The next day, we contacted Viking and asked what the expectation was for the Ukraine cruise. A representative replied by email that it “should be fine. We will let you know otherwise. No worries.” But on Feb. 21, the United States Department of State instructed Americans to avoid “all nonessential travel to Ukraine.”

We immediately contacted Viking River Cruises to withdraw our trip reservation because of this warning and our own judgment. Viking suggested we wait it out, but the situation only worsened.

A few days later, we contacted Viking again and explained that, because of the worsening aggression in Ukraine and because of the continuing warning from the Department of State, we were not going to Ukraine. Viking imposed a 15 percent penalty for cancellation. We think that, under the circumstances, we should be getting a full refund of the $11,596 we paid. Can you help us?

— Pat and Jack Davies, Minneapolis

A: It seems highly unlikely Viking will be sailing to Crimea anytime soon, so I’m not sure why it won’t refund your vacation.

Oh wait, maybe it’s because, buried in the fine print of its terms and conditions (http://www.vikingcruises.com/terms-conditions/index.html), it specifically says it’s not liable for any security problems beyond its control, including a “civil commotion, riot, insurrection, war, government restraint, requisitioning of the vessel, political disturbance, acts or threats of terrorism, inability to secure or failure of supplies including fuel, acts of God, or other circumstances beyond [our] control.”

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