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Originally published February 2, 2011 at 1:35 PM | Page modified February 2, 2011 at 3:05 PM

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Policies vary on canceling, rebooking Egypt trips

Tour and cruise companies canceling or revising trips to Egypt and other Mideast countries are coming up with varying policies for compensating travelers.

Seattle Times travel writer

Tour and cruise companies canceling or revising trips to Egypt and other Mideast countries are coming up with varying policies for compensating travelers.

Travel insurance, meanwhile, may or may not help those reconsidering future travel plans in light of the political conflict in Egypt.

Rita Zawaideh, owner of Seattle's Caravan-Serai Tours, said her company canceled all of its trips to Egypt through the end of February after the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning on Jan. 30 advising citizens to leave Egypt and avoid traveling there. The company, which specializes in Middle Eastern travel, offered customers either a refund or a credit to be applied toward a future trip.

Zawaideh said she will decide soon about Egypt trips scheduled for later in the year. Meanwhile, the company plans to go ahead with other trips in the region, including a tour to Saudi Arabia later this month and a trip to Libya and Tunisia.

Globus and Cosmos Tours, a major international travel company, also canceled upcoming Egypt tours and cruises through February. It's offering either a refund or the chance to rebook for later in the year.

General Tours extended its Egypt cancellations through March 31. It offered refunds for those with plans to travel in February. Customers who booked in March were offered the choice of a later departure date or a credit good for a year. For trips booked after that time, the company said normal cancellation penalties would apply.

Cruise lines temporarily dropped calls at ports in Egypt and Tunisia, but most were not offering compensation for itinerary changes, according to CruiseCritic which posted information at www.cruisecritic.com.

With the exception of expensive "cancel for any reason" policies, most standard travel insurance policies don't cover trip cancellation for civil or political unrest.

One exception is a policy sold by American Express, said Jim Grace, CEO of Insuremytrip.com, an online seller of travel insurance for 19 major companies.

Two companies — Travel Safe and M.H. Ross — include "nonmedical evacuation coverage" in their standard policies, he said. This presumably would cover the cost of government-chartered evacuation flights. The U.S. State Department is requiring travelers to pay for those flights after commercial airlines canceled flights to and from Egypt.

Most policies provide compensation for expenses incurred for travel delays, but depending on the policy, civil unrest may or may not qualify as a covered reason.

For State Department advice on traveling in Egypt and other countries, go to www.travel.state.gov.

Carol Pucci: cpucci@seattletimes.com

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