New owner reveals plans for bankrupt Boston cruise company Vantage Travel

BOSTON — The new owner of a bankrupt Boston cruise company said he hopes to rebuild customers’ faith and trust in the brand with a relaunch in 2024.

Aurora Expeditions Chairman Neville Buch said Vantage Deluxe World Travel will be renamed Vantage Explorations and will offer “Vantage style” trips in the new year.

“We are fully committed to restoring value to Vantage customer creditors and at the same time delivering exceptional travel experiences. Unfortunately the speed of the process and the uncertainty of outcome until only a few weeks ago has meant that everything is ‘work in process,’” Buch said in an email to Boston 25.

The Australian-based Aurora took over Vantage’s assets this month after making a $2 million bid in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Vantage filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June after coming under fire for months. Hundreds complained about a lack of refunds for canceled or postponed trips and its estimated Vantage owes $108 million to its customers.

Under the terms of the acquisition, Aurora is offering 100 percent future travel credits to Vantage customers owed money. If a customer decides to try an ocean cruise with the new company, they may use 50 percent of their travel credits at a time based on a cruise’s list price and based on “availability.” If a former Vantage customer wants to take a river or land trip, they can use 20 percent of their travel credits per trip.

The travel credits are valid through Nov. 2028 and Vantage customers may share their credits with friends and family.

“We plan on beginning communication with customer creditors in the next two weeks and hope that they will consider our offering in the spirit that it is intended,” Buch said. “For Oceangoing product we have our fleet of Infinity class ships and will expand the offering to include more Vantage style trips which we can offer right away. For river and land we are in discussion with various operators looking for the right partner which we hope to complete in the next few months.”

An Aurora spokesperson said the company is developing itineraries in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Middle East and British Isles.

“The credits are good for five years so you have plenty of time to wait and see. That would be my recommendation,” said Consumer Rescue founder Michelle Couch-Friedman. Couch-Friedman has reported extensively on Vantage’s financial issues and has been in touch with hundreds of Vantage customers. She recently wrote a consumer guide for Vantage customers and posted a Q&A with Buch.

“If you decide you’re done traveling and you don’t want the credits, the customer should still take the credits because you can give them away. You can give them to friends and family,” Couch-Friedman. “There’s no benefit to any Vantage customer to reject the credits.”

Karrie Szatek in Fairhaven said she’s not planning to use her travel credits. She said Vantage owed her around $30,000 for two overseas trips that never happened and she’s hesitant to book another trip with the new company.

“At this point, no. I want to wait and see,” she said.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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