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American Queen Voyages takes five months to process refund

May Youngclaus has been waiting months for a refund from American Queen Voyages. Is her money lost at sea?

The American Duchess docked on the Ohio River on Monday, June 14, 2021, on the North Shore, Pa. Before landing in Pittsburgh, the American Duchess traveled from New Orleans to Memphis to Louisville, each leg of the trip with a different set of passengers. Part of the American Queen Steamboat Company, the American Duchess offers cruises on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.Andrew Rush/Associated Press

Q. I’m looking for a refund from American Queen Voyages. Our cruise from Memphis, Tenn., to New Orleans was scheduled for Nov. 27. On Sept. 20, we received an email informing us that American Queen had canceled the cruise. I requested a refund of our $6,396. American Queen said that the refund would take up to 60 days.

We emailed our sales representative two months after the cancellation to inform her that we hadn’t received our refund. We also called the phone number attached to the email and spoke to a representative who explained the refund process and said that we should have our full refund by the middle of December.

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The next day, we received an email from the CEO of American Queen Voyages, confirming that we would receive a full refund by the end of the calendar year. But, by the end of the year, we still hadn’t received the money. I sent an email to the CEO and requested evidence that our refund money had been sent to our credit card company. I have not heard back. What should I do?

MAY YOUNGCLAUS, Exeter, N.H.

A. American Queen Voyages owes you a refund — now. You’ve been more than polite and patient with the company.

Why does a cruise line take 60 days for a refund? I recently spoke to a manager at another cruise line who explained the process. Refunds take so long because a committee must first approve them. There’s also a backlog of pandemic refund requests and a shortage of reliable employees, making the refunds drag on and on.

None of this matters to you. If a cruise line promises a refund within 60 days, it should deliver. And, by the way, 60 days should be more than enough time. By comparison, airlines are required by law to refund passengers within a week. (Of course, they don’t always follow the law — but that’s another story.)

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I publish the names, numbers, and email addresses of the American Queen Voyages customer service executives on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org. It looks like you were already in contact with the CEO — nice research and great self-advocacy.

You had multiple promises of a specific deadline in writing from the company. The cruise line missed its deadline numerous times and then stopped responding to you, which had you worried that it might never return your $6,396. I shared your concern.

If a company has promised a refund but stops responding to you, then consider filing a credit card charge-back. The emails promising a refund would be considered a credit memo by your bank, and it would probably decide the dispute in your favor. But don’t try that too soon. If a refund is on the way, it could confuse the company and lead to another delay.

I contacted American Queen Voyages on your behalf. Finally, five months after promising your refund, the company returned your money.

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy (elliottadvocacy.org), a nonprofit organization that helps consumers solve their problems. Email him at chris@elliott.org or get help by contacting him at elliottadvocacy.org/help/.