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Vantage Deluxe World Travel - Russia

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I booked the Vantage Deluxe World Travel tour to Russia called the Imperial Russian Waterways Moscow & St. Petersburg in September 2013. My research indicated that everyone was very pleased with this river cruise/tour and this tour had benefits of staying in the center of Moscow and St. Petersburg that similar tours did not.

However, their tour participation agreement says they overbook and that you can be bumped from your tour. Involuntarily, you can be moved to a different tour date as late as 7 days before your tour begins. If you are involuntarily bumped, you may or may not be given a cash refund but the trip protection coverage cannot be refunded. Who can afford to incur the airline and other costs if Vantage cancels you at the last minute? Their optional trip protection does not seem to provide coverage in this event.

Vantage agreed to amend the terms of my participation agreement by assuring me that I would not be bumped due to overbooking and, if they canceled the tour for other reasons, I would get a cash refund. I canceled the expensive trip protection coverage ($2,298) in writing within the short time-frame allowed and I was told in writing to delete the charge from my final invoice which would be due in 6 months.

A month later, when I was discussing another matter with a representative, I asked him to remove the trip protection from my invoice as it had been canceled. He told me it was non-refundable and could not be removed despite the emails I provided from the other representative. He said that the other agent didn’t realize what he was saying and then asserted that I’d repurchased the coverage verbally during a subsequent telephone conversation. Vantage says that all of their telephone conversations are recorded so I asked him to review the conversation. He did not respond.

When I still objected, he said that I needed the coverage because my Aeroflot Business Class tickets were non-refundable. He was the agent who arranged the purchase of the airline tickets and he said, because Vantage does not have a contract with Aeroflot, I had to pay full published price the day of purchase for the tickets. I never received the Aeroflot tickets and, although I called Vantage to confirm that I had reserved seats and was told that I did, I was not on Aeroflot’s passenger list. Aeroflot confirmed that higher price Business Class tickets were fully refundable. Not wanting to pay the extra $2,298 for their trip protection, I gave Vantage and ultimatum to remove the trip protection from my invoice and deliver the fully refundable airline tickets or allow me to purchase the tickets directly from Aeroflot. Two days later, after no response, I canceled the tour and contacted my credit card company, Chase.

My credit card company investigated and reversed two months’ charges for the deposit, trip protection and airfare. I was fortunate that my husband was late in paying the first month when some charge occurred or I might have not received a refund for the initial deposit and the trip protection.

I still regret not being able to take this tour because it seems exceptional. However, I couldn’t move forward on a trip that would cost over $20,000 without better practices. I’ve seen a couple of other reviews in this same vein and Vantage works hard to have these reviews removed from various sites.

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