Without having the benefit of a travel agent to act as an intermediary or booking directly with a responsible and responsive provider, I discovered, after months and months of inquiries that I had to forfeit $12,000 and even more than that later on. This is related to what I call the Vantage Disadvantage.
What I assumed from reading the brochure, listening to the pleasant booking folks, and paying $798 for trip insurance through Trip Mate that a cancellation three weeks before traveling to Brazil would be refundable-without question. And that this would be especially true when it was based on a readily verifiable cancer discovered in my neck, from what I thought was a simple and annoying lump. Instead, what my wife and I were to discover over the course of several months was the flip side of the seemingly customer oriented Vantage Deluxe Travel Company and its partnering insurance organization, Trip Mate.
Compounding the error of our ways in dealing with Vantage and our trusting attitude towards them and their partnering travel insurer, (thinking our coverage was guaranteed and the funds would be forthcoming), we re-booked basically the same trip for a later date. However, we were to learn later on that not only were we to forfeit the complete cost of our original trip (including added fuel charges, Brazilian taxes, and host of expenses that would not have been incurred by Vantage in the absence of our appearance), but that the second booking had to be cancelled in writing or it would not be honored, and that the cancellation still would result in being charged $150 per person regardless of the basis for the cancellation. Those booking your travel at Vantage would not provide such insights.
What I also discovered much too late in the process for the first booking were two very unsettling issues. First, Vantage was totally unhelpful in providing me with any cautions on having to cancel because of a medical problem, particularly one that could be defined as a preexisting medical condition cancellation. When we called in our cancellation, customer service was so nonchalant about it that we were left to believe that it would represent no problem for us at all. Had they led us to believe otherwise, I would have taken and suffered through the entire trip, postponed radiation, and, at least had the satisfaction, of receiving service for payment.. That was not to be.
Second, I found in follow-up attempts to a totally fruitless exercise to try and establish a dialog with Vantages customer service department. . Conversations with customer service were absolutely by the book and without any deviation, e-mails were ignored, and a letter sent directly the CEO went unanswered (the reassuring voice you will hear when going through the lengthy process of calling customer service and listening to his many promises that you can largely forget about.)
Dealing with Vantage was worse than the surgery, radiation, and rehab that I had to go through with the cancer itself. And Trip Mate, the insurance company that received $798 to protect my financial interests for the trip, was not much better. After several months of providing mountains of paperwork, chasing after doctors, and calling repeatedly, Trip Mate very politely and firmly denied our claim. They may deny your own in the future if you are not extremely careful about what Trip Mate covers and does not cover. But even if Trip Mate eventually agrees to pay your claim, you may have weeks or even months of review before it is honored.
On discussing our situation with two couples who recently toured Russian with Vantage, we learned of their disappointment with related to discrepancies between what was promised by Vantage and what was actually delivered by them. Neither of these couples intends to travel with Vantage again.
I am sure that this is not some isolated incident, with temporary financial benefit to the Vantage bottom line but concurrently leading to its disenfranchisement from the traveling public-people like you and me. There are probably countless others out there who equally experienced the Vantage Disadvantage, and perhaps with Trip Mate as well. I hope this message triggers responses from you as well, so that travelers can see another side of Vantage that cannot be painted over by extravagant marketing overtures to travelers.
Good luck in making a better traveling choice than we did. Remember, BUYER BEWARE.
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Tour type: Group
Tour length: Over a Week
Tour format: Various