Earthquake ruins cruise, travel agency sued over denied reimbursement

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Jul. 29, 2010, 6:49am

GALVESTON – Four Galveston County residents had reservations to take a South American cruise in March, but an earthquake prevented them from taking the flight to Chile where they were to board the ship.

They now claim that although they believed they had comprehensive travel protection, their claims have been denied. The would-be travelers blame their travel agent for recommending the inadequate insurance.

In a lawsuit filed July 23 in Galveston County District Court, plaintiffs Robert Bisbey, Lela Richard and James and Reable Reegan say that in late 2009 they prepaid Cruises & Tours by Brennco approximately $4,300 for spots on the Princess Cruises Tour that sailed from Valparaiso, Chile, in March.

In addition to the vacation package, the plaintiffs bought third-party travel insurance from Travelex Insurance, purchased on the defendant's recommendation that the coverage would provide better comprehensive protection than the plan offered by Princess Cruises, the suit says.

After an 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck Chile on Feb. 27, the Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport in Santiago sustained extensive damage, and the plaintiffs' March 1 flight from Miami to the Chilean capital was cancelled.

"The plaintiffs were unable to book other travel arrangements to South America, and missed the cruise and related tour activities," the suit says.

The complainants insist that they promptly filed their notices of claims and proof of loss with Travelex, but their claims were denied due to limitations and exclusions of coverage that the defendant had not disclosed to the customers.

"Princess Cruise Lines refunded only $100 of the $2,441.12 cruise fares paid by each of the plaintiffs due to the fact that the plaintiffs had not purchased Princess Vacation Protection in reliance upon the defendant's representations that they should instead purchase the Travelex coverage," the suit says.

"Despite repeated requests for refund of the $1,900 paid by each plaintiff directly to the defendant for air fares, tours, and hotel charges, the defendant has failed and refused to repay the plaintiffs for any of their losses."

The plaintiffs argue that they would not have bought the Travelex policy had they known of its limitations and exclusions of coverage.

They each consequently seek damages totaling up to $75,000.

Seale, Stover & Bisbey is representing the plaintiffs.

The case has been assigned to Galveston County 212th District Court Judge Susan Criss.
Case No. 10-cv-2018

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