Dear Tripped Up,
After two pandemic-related delays, we were finally set to take a $34,309 Nile cruise with Viking, leaving Oct. 25 and including several days in Cairo and additional excursions to Jerusalem and Petra, in Jordan. But the war broke out, and the Middle East is very unstable. Viking canceled our excursion to Jerusalem, refunded that money and rebooked our flights for Oct. 29. But we don’t think Egypt or Jordan is particularly safe right now either, especially for Jews. We are older, and are heartsick at not seeing Jerusalem and terrified at the thought of being targeted as American Jewish tourists during this war. Viking still has $29,435 of our money. We only want a voucher to take the same trip in the future. Can you help? Joseph and Antonia, Oakland, Calif.
Dear Joseph and Antonia,
Every traveler calculates risk in their own way, often through a mix of personal experience, news reports and emotion. That’s why it is unsurprising you are far from alone with your worries about traveling now — in recent weeks, plenty of consumers on online discussion boards have echoed your concerns.
This is also a high stakes issue for the travel industry, and it is hardly isolated to travel to countries surrounding Israel. Wildfires, earthquakes and, of course, the pandemic have disrupted travel in the last few years, and often people fear traveling in proximity to natural disasters and human-created emergencies. But does the fact that you are afraid for your safety require a tour operator to refund you your money?
I emailed Viking on your behalf on the morning of Oct. 24. Three hours later, you received a $29,435 credit toward a future cruise, good as long as you book within 12 months.
Was this a coincidence? I honestly don’t know, since Viking responded to neither my initial email nor multiple other requests for comment.
But the credit did represent an about-face from the company, whose replies to your earlier repeated inquires via email had included mostly boilerplate language. “We completely understand your concern and we are sorry to hear of your disappointment,” Viking wrote in one response. “You should know, the safety of our guests and crew is our highest priority.” They also told you they “work closely with our global network to understand the situation firsthand” and “are prepared to make any future adjustments as needed.”