COVID-19 has really messed up my spring. It forced us to work from home, suspended basketball season when my son’s below average team was just about to play that one team that was even worse than theirs, completely scrapped soccer season, and Easter is a total bust. My kids are receiving a substandard home education. It will be a miracle if they can still read by August. We are one backwards “R” away from going full on Shining.
[This post is a guest post written by Adriane who is a blogger with Put on Your Party Pants – And Keep Them on Until 8pm]
I was cool with all of that, because we have our health and all, but then, COVID-19 canceled my Disney cruise. The Alaskan Disney cruise we have been planning for 14 months. After onboard check-in. When I got everything I wanted. Not cool, COVID-19.
Cancellation of a major trip is a headache for anyone, but even more so when one booked every portion of his or her trip for multiple generations of family members using different points and miles and 8,000 Disney gift cards. Re-booking everything has been an adventure.
Our Alaskan cruise was supposed to be in June. I got a little concerned when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau freaked out because his wife got COVID-19 and closed Canada’s ports to large cruise ships in mid-March. I watched as other cruise lines folded and canceled Alaskan sailings. Disney held on for a while, probably longer than it should have, but finally canceled on April 6. There was an enormous amount of frustration expressed on social media about how long Disney took to pull the plug.
To Disney’s credit, it extended our placeholder and offered us a 125% travel credit to be used within 15 months. A refund was also an option, but we still want to go. On top of that, a refund isn’t a good option when it will be spread across the 8,000 gift cards. I initially placed a hold on an August cruise, but with all the uncertainty, I ended up booking the same cruise for next June. I thought we might get a windfall with the 125%, but the prices for next year were substantially higher than what we paid for this summer on opening day. We basically broke even. We will have a small onboard credit to use, but we will be in the same type of room. My kids, who only have first world problems, are super annoyed about losing their summer vacation.
We planned to fly into Vancouver two days before the cruise on American Airlines. After the cruise, we were going to visit Seattle for two days, then fly home on Delta. We used two different airlines because I don’t really care for paying for airfare and the miles worked out. All airlines are not created equal.
When Disney canceled, I called both airlines immediately. Delta reinstated the miles with no fee, no questions asked. American Airlines on the other hand, told me there would be a fee that totaled hundreds of dollars for our family because they were only waiving change fees through May 31. I tried a manager as well, but no go. I didn’t understand. Don’t they know how lucky they are to have us fly with them for free all the time? All of this freeloading must make us valuable customers.
A couple of days later, American took their cockpit out of their rudder and started waiving change fees through the end of September. Since that time, I have been re-booking other flights at lower mileage rates with zero guilt.
I booked Hyatt properties in both Vancouver and Seattle using Hyatt points. The points were transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards. The rooms were easy to cancel online at no fee. The points cannot be transferred back to Ultimate Rewards points, but I will use them to rebook our hotels for next summer, so I am fine with it.
We booked a rental car to drive from Vancouver to Seattle after the cruise using Citi ThankYou points. After one call with a relatively long hold, that was canceled without a problem.
I booked two excursions independently to save money. The prices are usually lower with a third party. While I still plan to do that in the future, there is something to be said for booking through Disney during a health crisis.
The first excursion we booked was the Skagway Sled Dogs and Musher’s Camp with Alaska Shore Tours. Alaska Shore Tours proactively emailed to offer a 10% rebate for re-booking for next summer as opposed to canceling. When I called them, they pulled up my reservation before I even provided my name. The big brother phone system is a little disconcerting, but the customer service is great. I was able to take care of the re-booking and get 10% back without asking in three minutes. Two big thumbs up.
Then, there is Alaska Seaplane Tours. This is where Disney would have come in handy. I booked a tour that could be canceled and refunded up to 14 days before the tour, so I was not worried about this one at all. Over a period of days, I left multiple messages and emailed. All of said communications explained I would be happy to re-book for next year and was not seeking a refund. No response. No one is answering the phone. Their website has a banner that says they are closed because of COVID-19 and to try back later with no specific date on when they will bother to respond. While I appreciate that COVID-19 has left them in a bad way, it is unacceptable to check out when countless people need to address their reservations. I finally bit the bullet today and called Citi to dispute the charge. How long was I on hold to speak with someone at Citi to do this? 130 minutes. Yes, 130 minutes. The dispute process takes months, but at least something is happening. I will book a seaplane tour next summer, but not with Alaska Seaplane Tours.
Re-booking our trip has been tedious to say the least. I wasted precious hours I could have spent watching the Real Housewives of New Jersey parenting on the phone. I can only imagine what travel agents are going through right now. To be fair, my never ending quest to get the best deal added a couple of hours to the process. I could have saved 130 minutes on the phone today alone by booking my shore excursions through Disney, but I also would have paid more for the exact same experience.
Overall, I am grateful to have a happy and healthy family, none of whom have been institutionalized for cabin fever to date. I was very fortunate to get out of this ordeal without losing money. We’ll reset the clock on the app and keep moving. Disney Wonder, see you in 2021.