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Aged care front line worker Melinda Manley wanted to push the boat out when her partner retired. And since he had never been out of the country, she booked their dream – a $60,000 European land and cruise tour.

But like so many travel dreams, it was dashed by COVID-19. Their Scenic holiday was cancelled by the line 42 days before their departure.

At the time, huge numbers of holiday plans lay in tatters, and travel companies were under enormous pressure as travellers demanded refunds. Ms Manley’s claim was among them.

At first, she was offered a cruise credit. But, as a front line health worker, she didn’t know when she could get time off work for an extended period again, so asked instead for a refund.

The luxury travel group was only prepared to refund the couple $9,429 while the remaining $59,877 was deemed a “total cancellation fee” according to Ms Manley and partner Michael Butler.

“Because I’m a frontline worker in the government sector, I don’t know when I will be eligible to take my long service leave,” said Ms Manley. “And what Scenic had offered is a future cruise credit which we could use for up to December 2022, but we might not be able to take the trip in that time.”

The couple had booked a panoramic suite on a 14-day Amsterdam to Budapest voyage, return business class airfares with Emirates as well as an 18-day land tour through England and Ireland.  Everything was booked through Scenic.

The couple recently purchased a home in the Melbourne suburb of Eltham shortly after the trip was cancelled and were hoping to receive a full refund to put towards their new home.

But so far, talks with the line and their agent have not resolved the situation.

“We are worried we might not be able to choose our sailing date. As there are only two of those panoramic suites on those river ships, they may get booked out quickly.”

“But we are working with our travel agent who is working with Scenic to see if we can come to some sort of an arrangement. We have been asked to submit in a letter to Scenic from our travel agent so hopefully, we should have a result soon.

“There are no guarantees though, that we will get our money back.”

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission COVID-19 guidelines state it is expected consumers will receive a refund or other remedy such as a credit note or voucher when travel is cancelled.

Scenic are within those guidelines.

Cruise Passenger spoke to Scenic about the case.  Though the line did not want to go on the record, it explained it had been forced to mount a huge operation to refund thousands of passengers, and most cases had been resolved.

Scenic is a well-known Australian river and ocean line which carries many thousands of Australians, British and Canadian passengers each year.

The line confirmed it is working with Ms Manley and Mr Butler, as well as the couple’s travel agent and third-party providers. But due to the complexities of the couple’s holiday, there are still some issues to work through.

Tens of thousands of Australians are still waiting on refunds from a number of travel companies including Flight Centre as well as cruise lines in what amounts to one of the biggest refund operations the world has ever seen.

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