Know when to cancel


You’re booked! You’ve spent hours agonizing over the right resort or cruise and you’ve finally pulled the trigger. 

You’re under deposit, final payment is due in a couple of months and in the foreseeable future you will be on your dream vacation. Let’s talk about cancellation insurance 

Many people are cynical about insurance coverage, believing that the companies are always looking for ways to avoid paying. 

The truth is that fewer than two per cent of travel insurance claims in Canada are denied. Denial is almost exclusively based on ineligibility issues. 

Let’s cover some of those issues.

Know the Covered Risks

Talk to your travel consultant or insurance broker about exactly what is determined to be a covered risk.  Unforeseeable medical emergencies affecting yourself and your immediate family. 

Clarify what immediate family is defined as, for example. Your cousin, Frank, may be a dear and close relative to you, but his health issues may not factor into the insurer’s scope of coverage.

Understand the Terminology

Again, your travel consultant or insurance broker can cover this. “Pre-existing medical conditions are covered if they are deemed stable." What is stable? Majority requires a three-month period of no change in medication, dosage, treatment or diagnosis of new circumstances. 

This means even if your medication is discontinued (which should be a good thing), the insurer will want a clean bill of health for the three months following this event to determine that there is no relatable medical issue.

Understand What is Expected from You

All cancellation claims related to health issues require a doctor’s report.  If you wake up two days before your trip with a terrible flu, you can’t take it upon yourself to cancel the trip and expect compensation. 

That would be an undiagnosed medical condition.  You must see a health practitioner to verify that recommendation to avoid travel is clear and in written form.

Understand When to Cancel

This is so important. Many travellers believe that if they insure their trip, they can cancel at any time due to a covered risk and expect full compensation. This needs to be qualified. You are insured for the applicable penalty at time of occurrence. Let me explain.

Imagine that you have booked a cruise for March 20. You’ve paid your final balance in January. In February, your doctor notices a strange lump and orders tests. 

Your cruise has a staggered cancellation penalty policy.

  • 50 per cent non-refundable 30 days or more prior to departure
  • 100 per cent non-refundable 29 days or fewer prior to departure

If you want to wait until Feb 21 (fewer than 29 days) to see what the tests reveal, then you will only be reimbursed 50 per cent of the cruise cost. 

Cancellation insurance is a necessary evil. We buy warranties for our appliances, insure our homes, boats, cars …. It only goes to follow that our dream vacations be insured against life’s follies. 

With the help of a trusted travel consultant or insurance broker’s advice and guidance, you can avoid being in that two per cent of denied claims.

Barge on in

Still too young for a river cruise? Love the idea of getting up close to local culture and cuisine? Enjoy daily active ways to explore nearby villages and vineyards? 

Then, a barge cruise may be your perfect fit.

Much smaller and more intimate than the larger and more organized river cruise ships, barge cruises lend themselves to a deeper immersion into a local region. Though found in many areas of Europe, barge cruises are most common in France. 

While you may think of a river ship as a floating hotel, a barge is more reminiscent of a country manor house.  They tend to accommodate a maximum of 24 passengers and are therefore ideal for small groups of family or friends.

Accommodations are lovely though by no means as luxurious as their river cruise counterpoints. Spacious bar and lounge areas, a restaurant, sun deck with loungers, barbecue deck, some boats also have hot tubs for late evening chats about the day’s events. Bicycles for daily excursions to nearby villages or explorations of the local countryside. WIFI allows for daily connectivity to family and business.

Most barges are all-inclusive, including drinks, local wines and champagnes, gourmet cuisine featuring local ingredients and recipes. Many include shore excursions to various famous landmarks, chateaux and vineyards.

One of the biggest differences between barge and river cruises is the amount of territory you’re able to cover.  Barge cruises usually span six days and travel fewer than 80 kilometres of river whereas river cruisers can travel hundreds of kilometres spanning travel over several days and country borders.

Your days are spent in local markets sampling regional favourites and people watching in outdoor cafes.  Exploring historical monuments and truly immersing yourself in one region of the country. 

Perfect for wine aficionados and culinary enthusiasts eager to learn more about a specific vine lineage or cooking method.  A lovely way for a group of friends or family to coordinate some shared adventure before heading out on individual itineraries.

Although you can hire fully self-guided barges most of the vessels are chartered by various tour operators who staff the ship with a tour guide and organized included shore excursions. 

One such opportunity is the Burgundy River Cruise Adventure  with GAdventures. Originating out of Dijon, the vessel Daniele is your home base during a culinary, historical and oenophile discovery of the gorgeous countryside of Burgundy. 

You’ll be immersed in this world-renowned wine producing province. Visit local chateaus and palaces, cycle thru pastoral countryside and canopied forest trails. Shop with your chef at the local markets and learn the secrets of centuries-old recipes. 

Relax with friends, old and new atop the sundeck, glass in hand and watch the soothing passage of village life unchanged by modern conveniences. 

We have access to a one-half boat charter on the June 8, 2018 sailing. Regular pricing is $3,559 a person; however, we have six cabins available for $3,299pp, savings of $260pp.  

To qualify for this special group pricing, you must reserve and deposit before Nov. 30.  Gather friends or organize a family retreat aboard the Daniele and share in an unforgettable travel memory.  

For further information on this or any other river cruising options contact The Joy of Travel.

Live large; take a limo

Airport transfers

You’re exhausted from your overseas flight. You stagger through Customs, struggle with comprehending the heavily accented English and now you need to find some way to get to your hotel. 

The taxi driver speaks little to no English and you simply point to the address on your confirmation voucher.  You settle back and hope that you arrive in the right place safely.

Sound familiar? You can avoid the stress of on-the-spot negotiations and price gouging by pre-arranging your arrival transfer.

There are several different options to choose from. Each has its advantages and setbacks.

Shared shuttle

This option has you sharing the cost of a vehicle. The shuttles usually run every 30 minutes and if you miss one, you simply wait for the next. 

This option is the most economical, but you generally must wait until the shuttle is full before departing the airport and you are likely to make many stops along the way before reaching your personal destination.  Prepaying allows you to budget in advance and be prepared to find the correct shuttle company by name at the airport.

Private transfer

Ahhh, the indulgence of exiting the Arrivals Hall and finding a driver with your name on a sign.

This option is less expensive than what you’d expect and is a wonderful way to travel if sharing the cost with another couple. The driver will help with your luggage and you depart when you’re ready. Your transfer is a direct, nonstop ride. 

Disadvantage is if your flight is cancelled or re-routed for some reason. The drivers monitor your flight number and are aware of delays, however if you have been re-routed to another flight and are now arriving at a different time altogether, it is your responsibility to contact the supplier. 

This can, of course, be difficult without international call service or if you are not connected to wi-fi. I always recommend that you have the airline service desk that is re-routing you call or email the arrival transfer company.

VIP transfer

Like the private service, but with a higher level of service and amenities. This is for those lifetime memory trips.  The 50th wedding anniversary or honeymoon vacations. A full limo or luxury vehicle is detailed to include special inclusions such as champagne or toiletries. 

The driver is in uniform and speaks excellent English. Your transfer can include stops along the way to pick up additional refreshments, etc.

Each International airport has its own rules and security measures when it comes to driver access. There are times when the drivers are not allowed to be in the Arrivals Hall. They must wait with their vehicles in a designated parking area. 

In situations such as these, the traveller must have their own cell phone with international service to advise their arrival or be willing to approach the Info Desk and have one of the airport staff make the call for you. 

A prepaid arrival transfer is a wonderful peace of mind accessory to any trip. Sit back, relax and let your first impression of a destination be a good one.


Group travel 101

Why travel as a group? 

It’s an opportunity to share adventures and experiences with people with whom you can later commiserate and laugh with. 

It’s an opportunity to travel with people who have the same appreciation of interests or activities. 

It’s also an opportunity to create savings or value-added benefits to an existing departure or the chance to create a customized itinerary which highlights specific inclusions and once in a lifetime experiences.

There are a couple of ways to facilitate a group. One is the Volume Approach. Ideally, you find a pre-existing itinerary that includes all the desired inclusions and/or experiences you desire. 

Rather than re-inventing the wheel, you block many seats within a set departure. 

Group discounts or “tour conductors” can be earned for as few as eight people depending on the product booked. These savings are then distributed evenly amongst the group members. 

A variance on the Volume Approach is to re-invest the “discount” back into the group itself in the way of value-added benefits such as pre- or post stays, shipboard credits or inclusions such as culinary classes exclusive to the group members themselves.

To create a fully Customized Group departure takes a lot more time and organization. 

This avenue is not about saving money, but about creating a travel experience tailored specifically to special interests or activities. This is best applied toward land-based travel as most cruise itineraries cannot be altered to suit individual requirements. 

Imagine that Vietnam is the destination, but you want the emphasis to be on photography and culinary experiences. Working with in-destination suppliers travel organizers can create itineraries that facilitate wonderfully immersive culture exchanges and adventures. 

Unlike the Volume Approach, the customized itinerary requires commitment from a group of individuals prior to the development of the tour. Perfect approach for previously formed affiliations such as cycling groups, clubs or business organizations.

Successful group creation requires planning. It is not meant for the “last minute” traveller. Ideally you should look at opportunities six months to a year in advance to facilitate the best availability and pricing. 

Secondly, don’t try to do it yourself!  Find yourself an experienced and professional travel adviser who can connect you with reliable and trustworthy travel suppliers. 

He or she will be responsible for negotiating the pricing, the deposit requirements, creating the special inclusions and generally keeping the group on track with the payment schedules and can advise on any required visas, insurance or inoculations.

The world is your oyster to explore and experience as you choose. Travelling with a group of close friends or family is the perfect opportunity to build lasting memories to enjoy for years to come.

More The Joy of Travel articles

About the Author

Joy has long been a believer in the art of travel: the belief that a vacation is something to be anticipated savored and then long remembered as one of life’s great adventures. 
Website: thejoyoftravel.ca

You can contact Joy by email.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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