Cruise To Nowhere
They were travelers from around the country looking forward to their cruises that took off from Florida ports.
But when hundreds of would-be travelers had to cancel their cruises, usually because of illness, they rest assured they'd be able to be reimbursed by the trip insurance they purchased for such events. Or not.
Health News Florida reports about 300 who had to cancel their trips, never received a dime of trip cancellation insurance.
The company that was supposed to protect their investment, Prime Travel Protection Services of Arvada, CO declared bankruptcy a year ago. Colorado authorities issued a cease-and-desist order against the owners.
Now an investigation into the incident says that travel agents in Florida should never have arranged the coverage because the company wasn’t licensed to do business in Florida. The losses could run into the millions, considering the price of an average cruise runs at least $4,000.
But unless the travel agents knew the Colorado company was not licensed, the state will have a difficult time proving there was any crime.
Losses In The Millions
The Department of Financial Services (DFS) has released a number of complaints and some documents clearly showing the extent of the losses, among them:
· One woman from St. Augustine lost $6,700 on a cruise through the Baltics with her husband when she found she needed immediate surgery for a blocked carotid artery.
· Another man, a retiree living near Tampa, says he lost $61,000 when he had a heart attack on a cruise.
· A couple from Boca Raton say they lost $41,000 when they had to cancel their four-week cruise from Singapore to Rome after finding out the wife needed tests for what appeared to be a recurrence of cancer.
The DFS Division of Insurance Fraud is looking at several companies that sold insurance to consumers and a few travel agencies that did business with Prime Travel Protection have been ordered to reimburse a handful of consumers.
Trip Assured, a Tennessee travel-insurance company was shut down by authorities in 2006 for not paying claims. That agent then went to Prime Travel Protection Services of Arvada, which is the company that declared bankruptcy.
Orange County, California college professor Barry Resnick tells Health News Florida that it took too long for the state to connect the dots. He accused Florida officials of "gross incompetence" for failing to notice that the owner of Prime Travel was previously involved with another insurer that Florida ordered shut down in 2006. The Web site was unsuccessful in contacting any of the travel insurers involved.
The DFS is looking at three other travel agencies, Vacation Superstore Network (aka Best Price Cruises); SmartCruiser.com; and Super Travel of West Palm Beach. #