Michael Sawyer at Infinity Yacht Charters is at least the second broker to have a pregnant charter client cancel a signed booking because she feared contracting the Zika virus, which has been linked to severe birth defects. Both cancellations we’ve reported here on CharterWave were for charters booked in the Virgin Islands.
Here’s what happened in Sawyer’s case, and what charter clients need to know going forward:
Was the cancellation tied to any official news or announcements?
A repeat client and I had completed all the details, contracts and a wire transfer deposit to reserve for a very nice “babymoon” on a luxury motoryacht when, to my astonishment, the first news story breaks about the CDC warning for pregnant women traveling to the Caribbean. The client consulted her doctor and concluded they just would not consider going given the risk.
Where was the charter scheduled to take place?
We considered the entire Caribbean but settled on the Virgin Islands.
What does the charter contract require when a pregnant client cancels because of a government warning about the Zika virus?
The charter contracts have no provision for cancellation with refund, regardless of whether the yacht owner can rebook the charter dates with another client. My client was facing a complete loss of the charter fee, unless the yacht owner could rebook the time.
Thankfully, the yacht owner readily agreed to allow the clients to cancel with full refund. I had booked this yacht previously, so while that may have been a factor in their decision, ultimately I think it was more a question of “do the right thing.” The clients were also adamant that they would happily return to book the boat again for alternate dates and possibly locations in the future.
Since most yacht charter contracts don’t allow for refunds to pregnant clients in areas with the Zika virus, what should clients do to protect their funds?
Travel insurance is a way that clients can protect up to 80 percent of their investment. There is a new variation in travel insurance called “Cancel For Any Reason” or “Cancel Anytime,” which allows the client to cancel their trip 48 hours or more before departure.
That would be very handy coverage to have should a charterer not be fortunate to have a yacht owner who allows cancellation with refund.
So in this case, the yacht owner went above and beyond his obligations in the contract?
Yes. This owner was only obligated to provide a refund if the dates rebooked with another charter client.
Do you have any other advice for pregnant clients who are booked for charters in regions affected by Zika?
A client requesting a refund could point out myriad examples of other travel providers allowing pregnant clients to cancel or reschedule. My clients wrote a very detailed letter to the yacht owner, which I think was helpful.
To contact charter broker Michael Sawyer directly, visit the Infinity Yachts website.