Background to the class action 

In April and May 2013, Europe was hit with very heavy rainfall, causing extensive flooding in France and Germany. This resulted in river levels rising to heights which prevented river cruise boats from operating on rivers including the Rhine River, and Saone, and Rhone Rivers in southern France. When it became obvious that the cruise ships could not travel on those rivers, some cruise operators cancelled the cruises and refunded the money paid by passengers. For passengers living in Europe, the situation was obvious, and many cancelled and obtained refunds. However, most of the passengers of Scenic Tours are from Australia where the flooding in Europe was not generally known.

Even when Scenic knew that river cruises were likely to be disrupted by flooding, they allowed passengers to travel all the way from Australia without giving them any information about the likely disruptions.

Disruption to “Cruises” on the Rhine and the Danube

Since this website has been operating, we have been receiving horror stories from passengers on these long cruises. They were kept in the dark as to the problems, and what should have been luxury cruises were turned into cheap, second rate bus tours. Because of the distances involved, many of the bus rides lasted many hours, travelling at high speed along autobahns, with no possibility of enjoying the river or the countryside.

Passengers chose to book these holidays, to enjoy a relaxing cruise along rivers, not a second rate bus tour. Many chose cruising, because of limited mobility or other health problems. Travelling long distances by bus was the last thing they expected, and nothing like what they paid for.

“Cruises” in southern France

Our founding partner and his wife, Tim Somerville and Julie Somerville booked for the cruise of the rivers of southern France scheduled to commence on 19 May. Scenic acted as if there were no problem until some days into the “cruise”. The holiday then became a bus holiday with the ship stranded, and passengers being bussed each day to sites they would have visited had the cruise taken place.

By 27 May, over half way through the “cruise”, the passengers were taken on a very long bus ride to Avignon, and spent the next few days at low budget hotels, again being bussed to various sites. It appears that the aim was so that Scenic could claim that the passengers had received a percentage of what they paid for.

However, what the passengers paid for was a cruise. Although the ship was moved three times during the two weeks of the “cruise”, it was done at night, or when the passengers were on busses. The amount of time that passengers spent experiencing a cruise through the French countryside was zero.

Evergreen Tours

Scenic Tours Pty Ltd also runs cruises under the name “Evergreen Tours”. The claim against Scenic Tours Pty Ltd includes the cruises it operated under that name.

Media coverage

Media Watch 

Channel 10 News report

Sydney Morning Herald

The Daily Mail

Scenic’s response

Understandably, passengers were very unhappy about having paid for an expensive, luxury cruise, but receiving a second-rate bus holiday. Passengers were also unhappy about having travelled halfway around the world, without Scenic giving any warning of the expected disruptions.

Scenic’s response has generally followed the same theme:

  • they did not cause the flooding, so they have no responsibility, and
  • their standard terms and conditions allow them to make changes to itineraries, and exclude any entitlements to refunds.

Offers of compensation

Most passengers have received very small offers. Some have been offered $1,000 discount on the next cruise with Scenic (!). Some have been offered small amounts of cash, around $500 each. Some passengers have taken Scenic to Consumer Tribunals in the various states, and have been offered $2,500 each.

Those who have accepted these offers have not been asked to give any release to Scenic. Accordingly, they are entitled to jClaim compensation damages, despite having accepted these offers.

Consumer claims

Several passengers have made claims through the consumer claims Tribunals in the various states. Donna Willis was employed for some years by Scenic full-time, to handle these claims. She is highly experienced, and has an excellent knowledge of the relevant case law. Unrepresented claimants were little match for her.

Which cruises are involved?

The class action relates to cruises conducted under the names “Scenic Tours” or “Evergreen Tours” between 10 May 2013 and 14 June 2013 as follows:

  • Amsterdam to Budapest
  • Budapest to Amsterdam
  • Amsterdam to Basel
  • Basel to Amsterdam
  • Rivers of Southern France

The other side of the story

We like to present both sides of the story. For this reason, we sent a link to this website to Scenic, and invited them to correct anything they think is wrong, or add any comments. Even though they had access to this whole site since 2013, including the outline of the law, they have said nothing to contradict what we have said. To view their response, click here. This is the only response to the material on this website they have ever sent us.

 

 

 

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