HomeTravelCruisingAussie cruisers' $15k refund nightmare

Aussie cruisers’ $15k refund nightmare

Australian couples who paid $15,000 deposits for a residential cruise that seemingly ‘doesn’t exist’ are fighting for refunds from European cruise line, Victoria Cruises Line (VCL).

The cruise line has reportedly failed to refund customers’ hefty deposits for the supposed 29-month voyage around the world.

The highly promoted residents’ cruise did not sail as scheduled due to lack of passenger occupancy. Customers, some of whom sold properties to afford the world trip, aired their disillusionment following the extended delay and difficulty in obtaining refunds.

Some customers reported difficulty getting refunds due to “missing or incorrect” details on the application form, unexpected errors, and deleted contracts and refund requests from the company’s Google Drive.

VCL’s booking conditions stipulate that refund requests should be honoured within a 90-day window after cancellation. However, this hasn’t been the case for many. Some Australians noted that even after persistently contesting their rights as customers, the refund is yet to hit their accounts.

VCL, which primarily targets retirees, operates from Cyprus, Greece, but is registered to an address in Budapest, Hungary. It’s customers were instructed to transfer money to the cruise line’s Hungarian account.

One Australian couple withdrew their booking and applied for a refund given health considerations and the multi-year cruise’s uncertain schedule.

Despite their rightful claims, they were asked to repetitively provide details – even though they had already fulfilled all requirements. The company then ‘confirmed’ a refund date, yet failed to honour it.

Another Australian cruiser, Taryna Wawn, reported similar experiences.

Ms Wawn and her partner Dennis put down a deposit on 13 April 2023 and applied for a refund in October 2023, saying they were “sick of waiting” for the cruise line to announce a sail date.

“Now we’re retired, we want to live life and see more of the world while we’re still able,” said Ms Wawn.

“I still haven’t got my money and they are now claiming I attempted to blackmail them and are refusing to pay the refund.”

Furious customers online shared angry sentiments about the company’s shady practices.

The company continues to blame the customers, withhold refunds, and restrict direct interactions, and passengers are fighting to retrieve their hard-earned money amidst the resulting chaos.

A VCL sposkperson told news.com.au: “It is stated on our website, in the booking conditions and in the charter contract that the departure date may be subject to change due to changes in occupancy levels.”

He highlighted the minimum booking for departure must be 80 per cent and they can only sign a charter contract “for any vessel” if this level is reached.

“This is a pretty high amount if you are informed monthly, so we do not sail. You don’t think that a company starts by immediately chartering or buying a ship for a residential ship project,” he argued.

“It’s a financial expense that will bankrupt any company by default. There are several projects underway that have started or are planning to start with a similar residential ship character (sic).”

When asked why the cruise line hasn’t refunded the Australians couples’ deposits, he said: “We also informed the Australian customer that the solution to the problem is not extortion and threats, as in all such cases our lawyers will take the necessary legal and criminal action.”

Have you ever had a similar experience with refunds from a travel provider?

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