April 7, 2020 - Update on Atlantis Summer Cruises and Covid-19 FAQ
We wanted to offer some reassuring updates regarding our summer cruises and how we’re looking after guests both before and during your cruise. While we are optimistic about this summer, a lot has changed recently and many of you are concerned about what this means in light of the current pandemic situation. We understand how you feel and are here to help in every possible way.
First of all, please be patient.
What we mean by that is an incredible amount can change in a short period of time and these cruises are over 3 months away. At this moment, there have been no major changes to European sailings for this summer and your cruise is currently scheduled to take place as planned. We are monitoring the situation closely and communicating with the cruise lines on a regular basis. If there is any change whatsoever, we will notify guests immediately and take appropriate action.
Since we have time on our side, we’d like to use it wisely and “stop the clock” on upcoming payments and increases to penalties for another month. That means the following:
- Our current cancellation penalties as of April 6 will be “frozen” until May 8 for all current programs.
- We are allowing guests to defer final payments for our Amsterdam to Barcelona cruise until May 10 to ease some of the financial stress.
- Any guests who canceled one of our summer cruises prior to April 6 can re-instate with the new policy as above and any penalty charged will be reversed.
We think that by early May all of us will know a lot more and we will then be able to consider additional adjustments to our policies at that time.
We truly appreciate your patience in responding to your inquiries and requests during this crisis. Our staff is working from home with our office closed (like everyone else’s) and our phone system is still not quite operating remotely. Our offices were never set up to work remotely to this extent, but we are determined to have our new phone system in place and fully functioning later this week. We are doing our best to respond to emails within a day and they are the best way of reaching us for the time being. That way we all have an electronic trail of any and all requests and communications. Our general email is email@example.com.
We hope that this update to our policy provides some reassurances and look forward to seeing you all this summer. We are continuing to plan an extraordinary vacation experience that we know everyone will especially need after this harrowing experience is behind us!
Finally, please focus on what matters most right now, which is staying safe and healthy. We are all in this together and need every member of our Atlantis community to take good care of themselves, their family, and loved ones. Each of you are the stars that continue to make the Atlantis experience magical and wonderful and we can’t wait to bring you all together again.
See below for answers to many of the questions we’ve been seeing.
As always, thank you for your continued support. From all of us here at Atlantis, we truly appreciate you and look forward to sharing many wonderful experiences with you in the future.
Some Frequently Asked Questions about Covid-19 and Upcoming Cruises
Why can’t Atlantis offer the same flexible policies as the major cruise lines?
Simply put, we don’t have a fleet of ships or weekly departures to transfer bookings to, nor do we have a robust market or financial resources to cover cancellations. The major cruise lines handle hundreds of thousands of passengers on hundreds of ships daily. We obviously don’t have that fluidity in the marketplace. Atlantis is a special event, similar to a festival or concert where our vendors and suppliers are paid years in advance under non-refundable contract terms. Atlantis has taken substantial financial risk to charter our ship and our policies are created to allow us to bring these experiences to you in a fair and reasonable manner.
What happens if the cruise is canceled?
If your cruise is canceled by the cruise lines you will receive your choice of a credit towards a future Atlantis vacation (with a bonus incentive), or a full refund. If you are on one of our recently cancelled vacations, you can find refund and rebooking information at https://atlantisevents.com/futurecredit.
How are my deposits protected?
Under CA law, all customer deposits are held in a client trust account which can only be applied towards payments to our vendors for your cruise.
What if I make my final payment now, or already made it?
First of all, we appreciate any early payments as we still have to pay the cruise lines and that helps us out immensely. The extension to the cancellation penalty is of course still valid regardless of the total amount paid.
What if the itinerary changes?
Itineraries can change at any time due to a variety of factors. We would let you know as far as possible in advance and of course would work to find an equally exciting itinerary for you.
What if I’m not allowed to travel due to government issued restrictions?
If a government restriction does not allow you to travel, we would allow you to cancel and give you a credit for the full value of your cruise towards a future vacation in the next 2 years. At this point there are no government-imposed restrictions that we are aware of for this summer. We will continue to monitor the situation closely.
How are the cruise lines keeping us safe onboard?
With guidance from the CDC and WHO, the entire cruise industry has created substantial protocols both to screen passengers before boarding and ensure safety onboard. Their crews are trained to spot and manage issues before they become a problem. Each ship has an extensively trained medical staff to support all guests and crew. Additionally, Atlantis is working closely with our cruise lines to craft a safe environment onboard for all our guests.
Do you really think that the summer cruises will happen given the current situation?
Yes, we do. We are hopeful that as the crisis peaks and marked improvement will be seen in the coming weeks, although none of us has a crystal ball to tell the future. With over three months before we set sail, we have the benefit of time on our side right now.
Should I buy Travel Insurance?
We always highly recommend travel insurance. If you did not purchase it at the time of your booking, we strongly recommend you get in touch with one of the many travel insurance companies or your travel agent to find out what is possible now. Travel Insurance can and may include cancellations for business reasons and family coverage as well as cancellation in case of illness or travel companion not able to travel.
Cruise Critic Article: What Are the Latest Cruising Rules From the CDC?
How Refunds are Processed
Many of you think that a refund is a simple press of a button. Those of you who ever worked in retail or accounting know better, and here’s what we have to go through. We’re working through around 1500 individual requests.
- First, our reservation agents have to cancel and set up the refund, which takes several minutes per booking. With the volume of transactions, we’ve had, that’s around 250 man-hours of work. This we can (and have) split up between our staff, but as they work from home, and continue to respond to calls and emails, things move slower than usual.
- Each credit transaction needs to be matched with its corresponding payment (your deposits and final payment transactions). That may sound easy, and is certainly good accounting, but our processors only retain 6 months of direct online records for review. Any transaction older than 6 months requires a manual search, retrieval of the credit card number (from you) and/or transaction ID, and then a manual entry of both the credit and subsequent accounting entry. This is why you will see multiple credit transactions on your statements.
With the research, this takes around 10 minutes per transaction to find it, document, and audit.
- Each booking has an average of 5 transactions, of which around 3 are older than 6 months. Our total transaction load is just under 8000 individual items (many of which have been completed).
- If you do the math from above, that’s around 4800 complex transactions at 10 minutes each, or around 800 man-hours of labor just for this group. In order to maintain some financial integrity, we only have two access keys that can process open refunds like this. Ultimately, this piece is the unexpected bottleneck that’s keeping us up late.
- We are working in shifts on the above, but it is realistically limited by the number of hours in the day. I'm personally handling several hundred each day.
After Atlantis Processes Your Refund
Once all those steps are completed, the refund is sent over to our processors for authorization. Then it’s forwarded to our merchant acquirer for settlement, and then to your card issuer. These three entities each can slow this down even more and are completely beyond our control. Here’s what happens:
- Given the unprecedented volume of credits being processed by Atlantis (and other travel companies), our acquirer (Capital One) is placing random transactions in a security review to make sure they are not fraudulent. The funds are withdrawn from Atlantis but are not released for around 2 weeks to your issuer. This is something we just found out recently and we neither are notified nor are able to adequately research. We have to look at each individual transaction to see if a hold was placed on it. Ultimately, they are all released, but we just had a batch from April 24 get released yesterday.
- Every chargeback or dispute inquiry we receive adds about 1 hour to the process and effectively stops all work until we issue a response. The good news is that the merchant processors understand what the travel industry is dealing with and are giving us a grace period of several weeks to respond to disputes. We are thus handling all of these last since they are massively complicated.
- Finally, it can take days, and sometimes weeks, for your card issuer to post it to your account. Again, the entire credit industry is operating in slow motion right now and this is beyond our control.