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Get Gephardt: Utahns say they’re out thousands after South Jordan travel company cancels overseas tours

Apr 20, 2023, 11:17 PM | Updated: Apr 27, 2023, 11:47 am

Cancelled overseas tours...

A flood of frustrated viewers reached out to KSL after they say the same company nixed their vacations without issuing refunds. (KSL TV)

(KSL TV)

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah – Imagine paying thousands of dollars for a once-in-a-lifetime trip, only to have the travel company cancel it on you – twice.

Many of our viewers say it has happened to them and they are being refused refunds. Now, they are worried they are going to lose thousands of dollars.

Frustrated customers

Lynette Clark is one of those viewers. She booked a tour for two through Latter Day Travel to see three temples in three countries in 2020. COVID-19 sank that trip. Finally, in 2022, she was able to book a replacement tour for August 2023.

“We had to pay more money than we paid originally when we had to postpone it,” Clark said. “So, it’s around over $6,000.”

Everything else seemed fine, until this past February.

“All of a sudden out of the blue, we got the email saying you can’t do this,” she said.

The email from Latter Day Travel told Lynette they had to cancel her trip because of inflation and higher travel costs. It said the company was “evaluating options if it could offer travel opportunities.” And they “sincerely hope to find a way” she can use her travel credits in the future.

“We’ve already paid for all this stuff,” Clark said. “And so, they’re not going to give us the transfers, even though we paid for it. And they’re not refunding us.”

“They said no refunds,” Betty Betts, another viewer, told us.

Betts received a nearly identical email from CruiseBuilder – part of the same company as Latter Day Travel. And her story is nearly identical to Clark’s: a religious-themed tour postponed by COVID, rebooked nearly two years later after she had to pay more, which the tour company then abruptly canceled. Betts said no refunds were offered. The only promise was credit if there are “travel opportunities in the future.”

“It’s looking like there’s not going to be any cruises,” Betts said. “So how do we get our money back? They won’t answer us.”

“They won’t call us back”

Betts and Clark are just two of many KSL viewers that reached out to us about CruiseBuilder, aka VacationBuilder, aka Latter Day Travel, aka Project Neptune, aka Jungle Reef Tours. And in nearly every case, a viewer told us that the company had nixed their vacations but will not send their money back.

“They won’t email us, they won’t call us back,” said Clark.

To get answers for her and many other viewers, we reached out to CruiseBuilder multiple times. We did not hear back, which sent us to the door of their registered address – an office in South Jordan.

Gephardt door knock at CruiseBuilder office

When CruiseBuilder did not return calls from Matt Gephardt he went to their South Jordan office looking for answers. He left empty-handed. (KSL TV)

On the door, we found a sign saying the business has moved to a virtual office and is no longer at that address. Through the door, a current occupant of the space told us they worked for another travel company and have nothing to do with CruiseBuilder.

Turns out, we are not the only consumer advocates getting the brush-off.

Utah BBB issues consumer alert

“We hate to see it when they, when they do this,” Britta Clark of the Better Business Bureau of Utah said.

She said the BBB had a good relationship with CruiseBuilder – which was once BBB accredited. That changed in March.

“They have stopped answering their complaints,” Britta Clark said. “They’ve stopped talking to their consumers, leaving them out so much money.”

The company now has a solid F rating with the BBB, amassing 97 complaints – most of which have come since February. The BBB issued an alert for CruiseBuilder on Thursday, saying it “cannot state with confidence that we have a clear understanding of the business practices at this time.”

Even if CruiseBuilder is sinking, Britta Clark said it still needs to refund its customers or hold the tours they have paid for.

“Just because the business says ‘I’m closing, I can’t do this anymore,’ it doesn’t mean that they are relieved of that responsibility,” she explained.

If the company does declare bankruptcy, a court will decide who gets paid what. Either way, many would-be travelers say they are worried they will lose thousands.

Betts had not counted on her travel insurance, but after we spoke to her, she received a check from her insurer.

Lynette Clark still has valid tickets to board the cruise ship, but the rest of the tour she paid for has been scuttled. She says CruiseBuilder told her in an email on March 10 they would refund her airfare. She is still waiting for that check.

If you feel you have been left high and dry by this company, the BBB wants to hear from you. Britta Clark says it will help build a case they can take to government agencies and law enforcement in hopes of getting people a resolution.

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Get Gephardt: Utahns say they’re out thousands after South Jordan travel company cancels overseas tours