In the past month, pleas for help from distressed customers, vendors and even employees of Vantage Deluxe World Travel have flooded my inbox at an alarming rate. That’s the Boston-based company that announced bad guys had hit it with ransomware at the end of April. At that time, the tour operator’s website went offline, as did its call center – for an entire week.
Since then, it’s been all downhill for the customers of the once well-respected and beloved operator of luxury tours. Today Vantage Travel appears to be in a state of suspended animation. It has officially canceled all its cruises and land tours through Aug. 28, 2023.
(Post-publication update: Vantage Travel shut down completely and filed for bankruptcy on June 29, 2023)
Although Vantage Travel has not publicly announced that it will continue to cancel more cruises, it is inevitable.
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Vantage Travel: We are postponing all departures through 8/28
You might be asking how I know that Vantage will cancel more tours. Well…
A troubled Vantage Travel employee sent me an internal memo this morning that announced that the company will cancel all tours through Aug. 28, 2023. Another staff member told me that the company will update customer portfolios in the coming days to reflect the mass cancellations.
Vantage Travel ocean and river ghost ships
The once-lively vessels of Vantage Travel are turning into immobile ghost ships without passengers or crews.
Unknown to the thousands of customers who have upcoming trips scheduled aboard the River Splendor, the ship hasn’t moved for months. The ship, moored just outside Amsterdam since the beginning of the year, is a ghost ship.
This week the Ocean Odyssey and Ocean Explorer sailed to France and docked side-by-side in Caen without an explanation from Vantage – although recently published news reports predict the ships will be there until at least August.
But despite the fact that these ships aren’t sailing, Vantage Travel will not inform its customers of the truth. Instead, the customers are receiving last-minute cancellation notifications – sometimes at the airport as they are preparing to check in for flights that Vantage never paid for.
Now, the unfulfilled refund requests are piling up in a virtual towering heap in my computer.
It isn’t just Vantage Travel customers asking for help
Vendors, current employees, and ex-employees of Vantage Travel are contacting my team with disturbing stories as well. From unpaid crew members to call center employees being encouraged to “fib” about the company’s status and upcoming tours to employees discovering that their health care benefits have been canceled at the CVS pharmacy counter, I’ve received hundreds of pleas for help on all sides of this situation.
And even as the company’s future remains unclear, Vantage continues to market new, heavily discounted trips. If the customer is willing to pay with a bank transfer, the discounts get even bigger.
Unfortunately, a high percentage of Vantage Travel customers are elderly people who aren’t internet savvy. These unaware travelers are choosing to book new tours based on their past positive experiences with the company. And soon, they end up on my infamous, seemingly never-ending “waiting-for a refund from Vantage” list.
Today customers of Vantage Travel have questions – lots of them.
To help those bewildered would-be passengers navigate these very rough consumer waters, here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this situation.
If Vantage Travel cancels my trip, should I file an insurance claim?
No. When a tour operator like Vantage Travel cancels your trip, it, not the travel insurance company, owes you a refund. Travel insurance is a highly regulated industry and only events indicated in your policy will be covered.
If Vantage cancels your trip, you will likely receive an automated form from the company giving you a few choices. The last choice on the list is a refund. Make sure you respond to that email and make your request known.
Note: If you’ve purchased travel insurance from a third party, you may be in luck. Some policies will cover the complete cessation of operations of a travel provider. If Vantage should cease to operate entirely, you can file a complaint with your third-party insurer if such protection is provided.
I bought cancel-for-any-reason protection from Vantage. Can I cancel for a refund?
Many customers who purchased travel protection directly from Vantage, ask about the “cancel-for-any-reason” clause. That’s Part A of the policy and concerns pre-departure cancellations. Unfortunately, many travelers didn’t read this document before purchasing it.
Here’s how the travel protection sold by Vantage works:
- A customer cancels their trip before departure and files a claim with Allianz.
- Allianz reviews the claim and approves it and sends its findings to Vantage.
- Vantage is responsible for paying the approved claim.
If a customer cancels for a covered reason listed in the document, Vantage will owe the customer a cash refund. For any other reason not listed, the customer will receive a future trip credit – with Vantage.
Part B claims (post-departure cancellations, delays, interruptions, and medical coverage) go to Allianz for review as well. But this part of the policy is an actual travel insurance policy. If Allianz approves your post-departure claim, it will pay you directly.
I found out Vantage canceled my travel protection without informing me! Now what?
In the past two weeks, a disturbing situation has come into focus for Vantage Travel customers. Many are receiving alerts from Allianz that Vantage canceled their policies during the “look-over” period (10 days after purchase) months ago. Unfortunately, Vantage did not inform the traveler or refund the policy.
After we began receiving many similar complaints, I went straight to our executive contact at Allianz to figure out what might be happening here.
I wondered if there has been any change in the partnership between Vantage and Allianz since we last spoke about it, that you can publicly confirm? 😬There are unconfirmed reports that I’ve received (from Vantage employees and former employees) that they (Vantage) are no longer allowed to sell the hybrid policy that includes Allianz.
Also, more disturbingly, many Vantage customers have received notification in the past week or so from Allianz that Vantage actually canceled their policies months ago. These cancellations seem to have occurred during the “look-over period” without Vantage notifying the customer and without refunding the customer.
I currently have hundreds of Vantage customers begging me for help — and now even vendors who are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars from Vantage are contacting me. It’s a terrible situation. And even though Vantage is not currently operating any tours, they are continuing to market new tours to people who are unaware of the problems with the company.
Any information you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!Michelle to Allianz
Fact: Allianz has terminated its relationship with Vantage
And I soon received a clear and definitive answer from Allianz: the partnership between the companies is no more.
I’m very sorry that Ms. **** has not received her refund from Vantage. I did ask a member of our account services team to reach out to Vantage to let them know she has not received her refund.
We have terminated our relationship with Vantage, and they are no longer authorized to offer our insurance products, either separately or together with Vantage’s cancellation fee waiver (Part A). We are in the process of communicating to customers relevant information about how they can contact Vantage about their Part A product or claim, as well as about how to contact Allianz for assistance with their Allianz post-departure insurance product (Part B).
For customers who canceled a Vantage trip because they won’t be traveling, they are entitled to a refund for the price they paid for their Part B product. Vantage should provide this refund directly, but any of our customers who have not received a refund for their Part B product should contact us at 800-284-8300 or at email@example.com.Allianz to Michelle
Vantage Travel sent me a reminder for payment for an upcoming tour. Do I have to pay?
The Vantage Travel contract, just like other cruise contracts, makes it clear that if a customer doesn’t pay the balance by the due date, it will cancel the consumer’s trip. (See: Did Norwegian Cruise Line really cancel this family’s cruise over a $112 ground transfer?)
Depending on what phase of the contract the customer is in, Vantage Travel may be legally allowed to assess a 100% penalty. That means no refund for the customer.
But if the customer pays the balance, based on the pattern of behavior of Vantage Travel, it may still cancel the trip. As previously mentioned, if Vantage cancels your trip before you do, it owes you a refund. In this case, you will join the thousands of other customers waiting for a refund.
If you find yourself in this situation, in which Vantage is demanding payment for an upcoming tour or threatening to cancel your trip, please let Vantage know, in writing, that you will only pay via credit card.
When you pay with a credit card, you have the power of your bank and the Fair Credit Billing Act behind you. Should your future trip not operate, and you’re not able to get a refund from Vantage, you can ask your credit card company to file a chargeback.
Can I file a credit card dispute about my Vantage Travel trip?
There are a number of things to consider before you file a credit card dispute about your Vantage Travel cruise.
Do you qualify? Unfortunately, a number of consumers who have contacted our team do not qualify. If you’ve canceled too soon (before Vantage did) OR if you are traveling on cruise credit from another trip, you will not be able to file a credit card dispute.
Before you go down a path that could only be frustrating and unproductive (See: This is what happens if you don’t want to tip on your cruise), make sure to confirm that your situation should lead to a refund. Call your credit card company and discuss your specific details. I recommend that you ask to speak with a supervisor who will be more knowledgeable about complicated credit card disputes.
Sept. 20 update: Who is fighting Vantage customers’ valid credit card disputes?
Vantage Travel owes me a lot of money. Where can I complain?
Some Vantage customers have asked me if they can file a police report against the company. That is not the correct entity to file your complaint. There are a variety of places for you to lodge your complaint against Vantage Travel.
- The attorney general in Massachusetts: The attorney general (AG) in any state should investigate complaints about businesses licensed to operate in their state. At this time, it has been reported that the Massachusetts attorney general has received around 800 complaints about Vantage Travel since 2020. Recently, consumers who are located out of state are being advised by the Massachusetts attorney general to file their claims in their own state. I recommend that you do both. Here’s how to reach the Massachusetts attorney general’s office.
- The attorney general in your home state: Your home state attorney general’s office may refer you back to the AG’s office in Massachusetts, but you should still make every effort to file. You can find your state’s AG’s office here.
- The Department of Transportation: Although the Department of Transportation (DOT) primarily handles complaints about airlines, it has been known to investigate other sellers of travel if a high volume of problems are lodged about a particular company and the complaints involve airfare. Consumers can file a complaint with the DOT here.
- File a complaint with your state’s insurance regulator: If your Part A refund was approved by TripMate or Allianz and Vantage has not processed it, you can file a complaint with your state’s insurance regulator. That’s the organization charged with making certain that claims are adjudicated properly in your state. Here’s how to find your state’s insurance regulator.
- Consult with an attorney: Many of the refunds Vantage owes to its customers are in the mid to high five figures. If the company owes you a lot of money, you may wish to consult with an attorney for further guidance. You’ll want to make sure you’re doing everything you can to protect your ability to get your cash back. You can find a list of licensed lawyers in your state through the American Bar Association.
Follow our consumer guide here: Consumer Rescue’s self-advocacy guide.
The bottom line
This situation with Vantage Travel continues to evolve. Requests for help have inundated our helpline. If you need assistance, reach out to our team here: Consumer Rescue advocacy team
Unfortunately, at this time, our ability to retrieve your refunds through mediation is limited. We can only successfully advocate cases with companies who are willing to participate in mediation. Right now, that isn’t happening.
I wish I had better news to report today. But I’ll continue to shine a light on this problem and update you as I know more. (Michelle Couch-Friedman, Consumer Rescue)
June 20 Vantage Travel update: The end of the line?
At just after 9 a.m. today, I began receiving messages from Vantage employees. In a remote meeting, the Vantage Executive team informed all its remaining employees that they were fired. Vantage then closed the call center without any explanation from the company.
I reached out to Rossella Mercuri, the general counsel for Vantage Travel, to ask what this means for Vantage customers. She has an auto-responder set and predicts she will answer in 7-10 days.
Hello, Your email is very important to me and I am happy to assist you. At this time my response may be delayed and I expect to respond within 7-10 days.
I appreciate your patience as I strive to address any matters that come to my attention.
Thank You,Rosella Mercuri
June 29 update: Vantage officially files for bankruptcy
Vantage Deluxe World Travel officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy petition revealed that the company owes over 170 million dollars to its creditors. Those secured and unsecured creditors include vendors, contractors, suppliers, customers, and others). Its assets are minimal. United Travel Pte. petitioned to buy what’s left of Vantage — primarily the customer database — for one million dollars.
July 16: So here’s what customers need to know now that Vantage Travel is officially bankrupt.
Dec. 1, 2023 is the deadline for filing a “Notice of Claim”
Nov. 20: The deadline for Vantage Travel customers to file a formal “Notice of Claim” Form 410 is Dec. 1, 2023. If you were owed a refund from Vantage Deluxe World Travel at its bankruptcy, you can file your 410 claim electronically via Stretto here. If you’ve already filed your claim, you can check that it’s been successfully registered here. Enter your last name only and your information should appear.
Update: Dec. 31: Depending on how you paid, if you’re a victim of the Vantage Travel bankruptcy, you might still be able to get your money back. Here are our latest efforts in our refund crusade for Vantage Travel customers. If you need help from our team, submit your request for free mediation assistance to our consumer advocacy team, and we’ll be happy to rescue you, too.