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Tour Cancellations Can Happen

We were scheduled to leave for a Best of Switzerland tour on September 13 (tour was to start September 16). About a week ago we were told that the entire tour was cancelled. Essentially, two weeks notice! Apparently the guide had an emergency and Rick Steves Tour did not have a Plan B that would allow the tour to go on. We were told it was the first time in 30 years that it happened. They refunded our money and covered the cost of the non-refundable airline tickets but otherwise left us high and dry. So just be aware that a Rick Steves Tour can be cancelled with just two weeks notice. Unfortunate and upsetting. We are four time Rick Steve Tour members and we will be hard pressed to schedule another after this happened.

Posted by
2413 posts

They refunded our money and covered the cost of the non-refundable airline tickets but otherwise left us high and dry.

I'm sure your tour cancellation was a disappointment, but in the scheme of life, not a horrible thing. You got your money back. I wouldn't call that being left high and dry. Emergencies happen. I imagine the tour guide would have much preferred guiding your tour to his/her emergency. Besides, why not just go to Europe on your own with the refunded money and the already scheduled flights? Yes, independent travel can be planned in just a few days. You'd end up with money in your pocket if you just went on your own. By saying this I am not negating the value of a Rick Steves tour, but there is an alternative.

There's still time to travel independently on the 13th. It's your choice.

Posted by
935 posts

Once in 30 years is pretty good! Don’t think for a minute that other tour companies don’t cancel! They do and one that starts with s “G” does frequently.
Cruise lines do too when a very large group wants to charter a ship!

Posted by
11506 posts

Tours of all sorts can and do cancel for all sorts of reasons, and having a comparable emergency Plan B isn't always a viable option in all cases. Better to cancel and refund the $ than throw clients into a last-minute situation that may be lacking the quality the brand is known for or was promised?

Very sorry for your disappointment but I think the company did the right thing by you here. Visiting Switzerland independently on your tickets might also be possible if you were willing to pursue that option?

Posted by
1424 posts

It's unfortunate that your tour was cancelled. Even if you contemplated making use of your airline tickets for your own Plan B, I'm sure you would have much rather gone on the tour. And I feel for the guide and their emergency situation. Clearly, not what they were hoping for either.

From the point of view of the reputation of the Rick Steves company, I would say it is a pretty good track record if this has only happened once in 30 years. I would take those odds for my next vacation!

Posted by
89 posts

I am very sorry this happened to you.
So much goes into planning a trip (pet care, home care, work schedules, etc.).
There should have been a Plan B with a replacement guide. I’d be very upset too.

Posted by
4438 posts

That stinks but do you have a Plan B? You’ve got an airline ticket and the funds to pay for a very nice independent trip. It might not be what you planned, but I think you can still put together a great trip on your own. I’ve had some wonderful trips that I planned on short notice. Switzerland has a great rail system and all those hotels you were supposed to stay in now have vacancies. But you could also choose something else.

Posted by
3987 posts

This is truly unfortunate, and a great disappointment, but I don't think it would keep me from scheduling another tour. As several people have mentioned, one cancellation in thirty years? And how many tours a year do they schedule? The odds are definitely in your favor.

If it's not convenient to go on your own, then start planning the next one. You already have the funds for it!

We're not making light of your issue, by the way. Just trying to put the best face on a bad situation.

Posted by
1963 posts

It's nice that the company has only cancelled one tour in 30 years - but that doesn't make you feel better if the only one that got cancelled is yours.

A few years ago, we had a private guide cancel two days' worth of tours with only 48 hours notice. I felt like we gave the guide a 6 month interest-free loan.

Posted by
3283 posts

I am so sorry. I know how disappointed I would be. IMO, Switzerland is a pretty easy country to visit. If you haven't cancelled your air tickets, I would suggest asking for help to plan a last minute trip. There are some folks on the forum that are experts (or close to it) on Switzerland. If you don't have a list of cities that interest you, you might start with the tour itinerary and watching the tv show/videos. I am by no means an expert on Switzerland, but you might look at Montreaux(chateau)/Lausanne/ Vevey (wine); Bern; Luzern and Berner Oberland. Also look at the panoramic train routes. You could end up with a really nice trip and save some money over what the tour would have cost.

Posted by
4 posts

I chose my words poorly. They did not leave us high and dry rather they left us with little time to plan an alternative. It is obviously frustrating to have planned for 11 months and not be able to take the trip as planned. As someone said, one cancellation in 30 years is very good unless it is your tour.

Posted by
2362 posts

I'm sorry. This really stinks. It seems to me that Rick himself should have stepped in to lead this tour, unless he's already committed to filming during that time.

If you haven't traveled independently before, look at this as a chance to do something new. If you're not comfortable going independently to a place that doesn't speak English, England and/or Scotland are easy to get around in.

Posted by
4438 posts

We were told it was the first time in 30 years that it happened.

By the way, this may be the first time that a tour has been cancelled on such short notice, but I know two people personally who have had their RS tours cancelled after paying their deposit and buying an airline ticket. In both cases, not enough pepople signed up for the tour. One decided to visit independently and the other switched to a different RS tour. RS did reimburse them dor their non-refundable airline change fees.

I hope that you are able to still work out an enjoyable vacation. I know this is a huge letdown.

Posted by
13933 posts

I know one fellow whose RS tour was cancelled - one of the two he was doing on the same trip. RS worked with him to figure out new travel plan. In the end he kept his plane tickets and worked out solo plans for the time he would have spent on the cancelled tour and then joined the second tour. The tour was cancelled because not enough people signed up. He certainly had a lot more than 2 weeks notice though.

Of course it's a big blow to you now, but I hope time will heal the wound and your good RS tour memories will dull the impact of this upset. Sometimes people have bad luck for no reason.

Posted by
922 posts

I'm really, really sorry you are missing your tour. I'm just assuming they made the offer to switch you to the Sept 23 tour and maybe your schedule didn't allow you to make that change? I know most of us spend months dreaming about and planning our trips to Europe and I know you are disappointed to have it swept from under you.
I cannot imagine any of the RS guides refusing to take their tour without an extreme emergency situation having happened and I'm sure they don't take this situation lightly at headquarters. If there was a guide appropriate for this tour that could be brought in you know they would have done it in a heartbeat rather than refund tour monies and displease their customers. I know if it were me (and I would hope you feel the same) I wouldn't want just any old guide brought in to take the place of someone who was well versed with the country of my tour. I'd rather have my money back than a subpar tour led by someone who didn't know the locale, the background stories, all the extras that make a tour great.
You are understandably upset and probably a bit angry right now so maybe that is clouding your decision regarding possible tours in the future. I hope so as you obviously enjoy the quality of RS tours, but if not, maybe you can find another company just as great that never cancels tours.

Once again, so sorry about your tour! I'm frowning for you over my coffee.

Posted by
1653 posts

I understand your frustration, especially since arranging time off can be hard for many, but you need not stay home: we are here to help you plan a journey of your own!

Posted by
2705 posts

I am sorry it was cancelled so close to departure, however, I hope you reconsider your last statement. It seems rather harsh to not consider a provider when something exceptional happens. It could happen with any tour provider. I expect they did everything in their power to make it a 'go'.
If you have spent 11 months planning for this, it is a lot more than thousands of independent travelers put effort into. It may take some time and focus to get your mind set from negative to positive, but you most likely have ample skills to get onto Booking, book some hotels, check some routing and make a train plan and just do it.

Personally, however, I might take the opportunity to shelf Switzerland (to do with my RS peeps another time) and head somewhere else. I assume you are flying into Zurich which is a great hub for other European countries.
Did they offer you free travel consulting to see how you can salvage a trip? Or offer you a different date? I appreciate you may have jobs involved that might not be forgiving about allowing cancellation or adjustment of current vacation, but there are bound to be options worth considering after you take a deep breath (maybe a drink) and a good night's sleep.

Posted by
2945 posts

Family emergencies can and do happen. I imagine it is fairly serious for the guide to have cancelled. I know that I would also be very upset if my long awaited trip fell apart like this, but I am sorry for the guide.

I went on The Switzerland Tour in August. Parts of it you could do on your own and parts of it can’t be replicated outside the tour experience . I know we all wished we had more time in Mürren.

You won’t be able to go on this tour at this time. It doesn’t mean that you can’t take advantage of your now “free” airline tickets and still have a good trip.

Posted by
860 posts

Aww, that sucks. I'm sorry. I, too, would be extremely disappointed.

That being said, I'd like to echo other posters in that Switzerland is one of the easiest countries to "do yourself." The trains are great and easy to use, we never encountered anyone in the service industry who didn't speak English, the people are kind and helpful, the scenery is magnificent.

It is actually getting toward the end of the high summer season, so I bet you can still get hotel reservations. People on this board will be delighted to help you if you still want to go, with hotel/transportation recommendations, etc.

Posted by
65 posts

In this situation I would ask Rick Steves to Price Protect me on a new tour and pay for new Airline Tickets. I would still fly out to Europe and then return a few weeks later on their tour. I am bemused as to why a tour company does not have a "Plan B' Or backup Tour Guides. I mean the bus and driver were booked , hotels and tours booked. All that they needed is somone like RIck to do the tour.

A good company has more than one tour leader that they can draw upon on and even pay them more for taking on a last minute tour.

Posted by
1839 posts

Thank you, sincerely, for letting us know this happened and how the RS office was not able to arrange a substitute guide. Very interesting!

Someone mentioned cruises get canceled when someone (subsequently) charters an entire ship. We were on a Seabourn trip to Aus/NZ several years ago, and some fellow passengers mentioned that happened to them. But, what did Seabourn do? They not only refunded their original cruise, their airline tickets, etc. but they gave them the choice of ANY future Seabourn cruise (and, I am pretty certain it also included airfare). THAT is treating a customer right! The fellow passengers were very happy, and it truly impressed those who heard about it -- just how nicely the cruise line took care of the customers. Warm fuzzy feeling by all.

Would have been nice if you were not only refunded, but also given a comp tour of your choice.

Posted by
927 posts

I'm so sorry this happened to you. But, from my perspective, it is not all bad. Your tour money and plane tickets were refunded. I'd rather have that than having our tour money stolen by a dishonest travel agent, finding out three days before we were to fly to Venice, spending over a year working with the courts to have her prosecuted and after two years getting restitution equal to 1% of the money we spent. Although your experience is unfortunate and upsetting to you, I'd take that experience any day over what I went through. RS was honest and tried to do the right thing.

Posted by
177 posts

I just noticed that the post is 1 month old. So, what did you decide to do? Did you wing it on your own? Or take a breath and replan???

We need to know!!!

Posted by
4 posts

We decided to step back and make plans next year for a trip. We will go to Alaska in the fall. After that will concentrate more on United States travel. At this point we are likely done with Europe as we have been lucky enough to visit most Western European countries, mainly with Rick Steves tours.

Posted by
177 posts

Thanks for the update.. Wherever you go, I hope you have a great time!!!!!