Booking Conditions

Birdquest Limited, trading as Ocean Adventures, was founded in 1981 and has remained a leader in ecotourism through its dedication to quality and customer satisfaction. The booking conditions and general information set out below are designed to outline our obligations to you and your commitments to us as clearly as possible. Please read them carefully before booking. We want you to have an enjoyable holiday and the avoidance of any misunderstanding is to our mutual advantage. It is important to bear in mind that expedition-style cruises visit remote areas of our planet. In some of these areas, most notably the Antarctic and Arctic, weather conditions can, at times, be severe even during the best months of the year and this may necessitate changes to the planned itinerary. Consequently a flexible and understanding approach is required from travellers who wish to visit these wild but wonderful places. Should you book a holiday with us the conditions set out below form the contract between us. The contract is deemed to have been made at our offices at Kemple End and is subject to English law and the exclusive jurisdiction of the English courts.

What the Price Includes: See the specific information for your cruise.

What the Price Excludes: The holiday price always excludes travel insurance, passport, visa and vaccination charges, excess baggage charges, private excursions, à la carte dishes, snacks, drinks, laundry, telephone calls and anything else of a purely personal nature. In addition, the cruise prices generally exclude air travel, although there are some exceptions (see the individual cruise entries for details).

Sharing Cabins: Many of those travelling on expedition-style cruises are alone and most people in this situation prefer to share a cabin with another passenger of the same sex for the sake of economy. Unless you indicate a wish to have a single occupancy cabin on the booking form, it will be assumed you wish to share. Important: Twin occupancy rates are guaranteed for lone travellers willing to share, even if a cabin-mate is unavailable, so you can rest assured you will not be faced with paying a single occupancy supplement for the cruise (although most cruise operators charge a single supplement for any hotel nights spent ashore).

Single Occupancy Cabins and Hotel Rooms: Single berth cabins as such are not usually available on the vessels featured in our holidays, but single occupancy of a twin berth cabin can be arranged, albeit at considerable expense. Rates are given in the specific brochure entry for your cruise. Unless specified otherwise, supplements for single occupancy cabins do not include the charge for single occupancy during any hotel nights spent ashore.

Flights: Cruise prices normally exclude all flights. Some cruises have special charter flights to the starting point and/or returning from the finishing point, and the cost of these flights (and sometimes any hotel arrangements that may be involved in connection with them) is only included in the cruise price where specifically indicated.

We will be happy to quote for flight arrangements from any airport anywhere in the world to the cruise joining and finishing points. Flight arrangements will be quoted on an individual basis based on routing, airline, season, booking class and availability. Any necessary airfare deposit will be notified at the time of the quotation. (Note: to guarantee certain airfares, immediate ticketing and full payment, or a credit card guarantee, are required.) All cruises are available to those who wish to make their own flight arrangements, but please ensure that you indicate that you will not be requiring any flights on your booking form.

Extending Your Holiday: Subject to seat availability and airline regulations, we can make any stopover or additional flight arrangements you may wish for.

Bookings by Telephone: First check with our office that there is space available on the cruise of your choice, and on any flights you require. You should also check the confirmed Pound Sterling (or Euro or US Dollar where applicable) rate for the cruise and the deposit amount required. We can hold open space for you for up to 7 days in order to give you sufficient time to send in your booking form and deposit.

Definite Bookings: To make a definite booking you must complete and sign our booking form, returning it to us with the cruise deposit (plus any airfare deposit we have requested, should you be arranging flights through us).

A guideline for the deposits required is given below. Please contact our office to confirm the deposit that you need to send when you make the booking.

Ocean Adventures Group Tours: As specified in the information relating to the particular tour.

Heritage Expeditions cruises: 25% of the cruise cost.

Oceanwide Expeditions cruises: 10% of the cruise cost.

Quark Expeditions cruises: £600 (or €900, $1200) for cruise itineraries of up to 15 days duration, £1200 (or €1800, $2400) for all longer cruises.

We will let you know the deposit required if we are arranging flights for you: the typical deposit is £100 (€150, $200) per person, but in the case of instant purchase tickets the full airfare will be payable.

On receipt of your booking form and deposit our official confirmation will be sent to you. If booking less than four months before the date of departure of the tour please contact our office before sending any payment: we may well require you to send full payment.)

The person signing the booking form warrants that he/she has the authority to make the booking on behalf of all other persons included on the booking form.

For your own protection we strongly recommend that when you make a booking you hold travel insurance that will cover you for medical/repatriation expenses and for cancellation/curtailment charges in the event you have to cancel due to the illness of yourself, a travelling companion or a close relative. If you do not already have travel insurance you should take this out as soon as possible. Ocean Adventures does not provide travel insurance, but we are happy to provide information about suitable schemes available for United Kingdom residents (see the Travel Insurance section below).

Cruise Invoice: Unless you opt to pay within 21 days of booking (see below), this will be sent four months before departure and payment must be received by us within 21 days of the date of issue of this invoice. We reserve the right to treat the holiday as cancelled and levy appropriate cancellation charges if the balance is not received by the due date.

If you are arranging your air travel through us, any balance due for flight arrangements will be invoiced at the same time. Likewise any amount due for additional arrangements you have requested such as hotel nights.

Important: When you book your cruise we will give you the option to pay in full within 21 days in order to avoid any possibility of a surcharge owing to exchange rate movement between the time you book and the time the crise departs. Most cruise operators denominate their cruise prices in US Dollars (Oceanwide Expedition's Arctic programme is denominated in Euros).

Pound Sterling Payments from the United Kingdom: These should preferably be made by personal cheque made out to Ocean Adventures.

Alternatively we can also accept payment by debit card displaying the Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, Solo, Delta or Electron logos.

We can also accept payment by credit card displaying the Visa or MasterCard logos. There is no charge for making deposit payments by this method (and UK residents who pay the deposit on their card gain statutory consumer protection cover for the entire holiday cost, not just the deposit). However, for final balance payments there is a 2% handling fee for using a credit card due to the high charges levied by the card issuers.

Pound Sterling Payments from Overseas: You may use either of the following methods when sending the initial deposit or settling our final invoice:

1. Have your bank make a wire transfer of the required amount in Pounds Sterling (plus any bank charges that may be deducted en route) direct to the Birdquest Ltd bank account (number 00199990) at the National Westminster Bank PLC, PO Box No 305, Spring Gardens, Manchester M60 2DB, England, U.K. (Bank sorting code: 01-10-01.)

2. We can also accept payment by credit card displaying the Visa or MasterCard logos. There is no charge for making deposit payments by this method. However, for final balance payments there is a 2% handling fee for using a credit card due to the high charges levied by the card issuers.

US Dollar payments: You may opt to pay in US Dollars if you prefer. You will need to inform us at the time of booking if you wish to do this. Have your bank make a wire transfer of the required amount in US$ (plus any bank charges that may be deducted en route) direct to the Birdquest Ltd US$ account (number 01-06015654) at the National Westminster Bank PLC, PO Box No 305, Spring Gardens, Manchester M60 2DB, England, U.K. The international bank code for our bank (IBAN-BIC) is NWBK-GB2L and the international bank code for our US Dollar account (IBAN) is GB54 NWBK 6073 0106 0156 54.

Alternatively we can accept a personal cheque in US$ provided this is drawn on a US or British bank.

Euro payments: You may opt to pay in Euros if you prefer. You will need to inform us at the time of booking if you wish to do this. Have your bank make a wire transfer of the required amount in Euros (plus any bank charges that may be deducted en route) direct to the Birdquest Ltd Euro account (number 01-08512922) at the National Westminster Bank PLC, PO Box No 305, Spring Gardens, Manchester M60 2DB, England, U.K. The international bank code for our bank (IBAN-BIC) is NWBK-GB2L and the international bank code for our Euro account (IBAN) is GB79 NWBK 6072 0208 5129 22.

Subsequent Cancellation: Any cancellation by you of a definite booking must be notified to us in writing (fax or email are acceptable) and will take effect on the day that this is received by us.

Cruise cancellations: The following scale of cancellation charges will normally be applied, based on our estimated expenses and losses suffered as a result of your cancellation:

Over 120 days before departure: 100% of deposit paid

91-120 days before departure: 50% of final cruise price

1-90 days before departure: 100% of final cruise price

Day of departure or later: 100% of final cruise price

Air reservation cancellations: Charges made by the airlines vary from around £50 per person to the full cost of the air ticket, according to the date of cancellation and the rules applying to the fare in question. We will charge cancellation charges accordingly. Cancellation fees for hotel and other supplementary travel arrangements will vary from little or nothing to the full cost of the services booked.

Please note that if the reason for your cancellation falls within the terms of your holiday insurance the cancellation charges will normally be refunded by your insurance company (less any excess applicable).

Transfers: If you wish to transfer your booking to another holiday this will normally be treated as a cancellation and rebooking, and the appropriate cancellation charges will apply.

Substitution: Should you be prevented by reasonable cause (such as illness) from proceeding with your holiday you are free to find a substitute, provided we receive written notification. Within three months of the holiday departure date we may not be able to accept a substitution as within this period the airline may not accept a change of name, or there may not be sufficient time for the substitute to complete visa, health or other travel requirements. Any additional costs incurred as a result of a substitution (such as airline cancellation and reticketing charges) are your responsibility. We reserve the right to reject any substitute should we have reasonable grounds for doing so.

Unused Services: No refund or compensation is payable for any unused accommodation, flight, service or feature provided during the holiday. If clients make any alterations to any portion of their holiday, such alterations will be completely at their own expense.

Surcharges: We would like to offer complete price protection but sadly we cannot guarantee prices for up to a year or more ahead of travel. We reserve the right to increase the price of your holiday in the event of substantial cost increases stemming from negative changes in exchange rates and/or increases in transport costs (including the cost of fuel) or government taxes, fees, dues or levies. We will absorb any cost increases stemming from the above up to an amount equivalent to 2% of the price originally quoted, but we will have to pass on any additional increases to you in full. Prices may be revised downwards as well as upwards, and no surcharge will be imposed less than 30 days before departure. If there is a surcharge and this exceeds 10% of the original price of the holiday as indicated in our brochure, you may cancel your holiday and receive a full refund providing you notify us in writing (by fax if necessary) and this notification is received by us within 14 days of the date of the surcharge announcement.

Holiday Alteration or Cancellation: The cruise operators' brochures we distribute were prepared many months before the date of operation of the holidays they feature and variations may occasionally have to be made to published details. Where alterations are necessary they are usually of a minor nature and will not materially affect the enjoyment of your holiday or your ability to travel. Examples of changes of a minor nature that can be expected from time to time include rescheduling of flight departure or arrival times, substitution of Gatwick for Heathrow or vice versa, change of airline or aircraft type, variations in itinerary that have no significant effect and slight changes to accommodation. Such minor changes are not grounds for cancellation without charges. Occasionally major alterations are necessary. Examples of major alterations are changes to the holiday dates, changes to the holiday duration (by more than 18 hours), significant changes to the holiday itinerary or the substitution of a distinctly different grade of accommodation for a significant portion of the holiday. Naturally we will do our utmost to notify you before departure in the event of any major alteration. We may have to alter or even cancel your holiday in the event of circumstances outside our control: for example, technical or maintenance problems with transport, changes imposed by rescheduling or cancellation by air or sea carriers, government action, industrial dispute, war or threat of war, civil strife, terrorist activity, riot, natural or man-made disaster, and severe weather conditions. In the event that we have to cancel a holiday due to circumstances outside our control we shall be entitled to deduct all reasonable expenses incurred by us in connection with your holiday from the money refunded to you (although naturally we shall endeavour to keep any such charges to a minimum). Cruise operators are dependent on reaching a certain level of support for each cruise and reserve the right to cancel the cruise if the minimum viable number of participants is not reached. If any cruise is cancelled due to insufficient support you will receive a full refund. The same conditions apply to Ocean Adventures group departures. Major alterations made before or after departure due to circumstances outside our control are not grounds for cancellation without charges and any additional costs that may arise are your responsibility. If a major alteration is made which is not due to circumstances outside our control and which clearly results in a significant reduction in the quality of your holiday we shall offer you an appropriate rebate. Major alterations which result in a price increase may also occur. In either event you may either agree to proceed with the holiday as modified and accept the rebate/price increase or, if you prefer, you may cancel your booking and receive a full refund provided you give us written notification within 7 days (by fax if necessary). If we have to cancel your holiday, or make a major alteration, for reasons other than circumstances outside our control we will provide compensation of £25 per person for cancellations/alterations notified between 30-60 days before departure and £50 per person for cancellations/alterations notified less than 30 days before departure. No compensation will be paid in the event of cancellations/alterations notified more than 60 days before departure.

Airlines, London Airports, Aircraft Types: At the time of going to press we were not in a position to state the airlines or London airports to be used during particular holidays. Full details will be provided in the flight schedule sent out well in advance of every holiday. We are not in a position to state the aircraft types which will be used during our holidays. Please note that EC Regulation no. 2111/2005 establishes a list of air carriers subject to an operating ban within the European Community. This list can be found on the EU website at the following address: http://europa.eu.int/comm/transport/air/safety/flywell_en.htm It is inconceivable that Birdquest Ltd would book flights with any of these airlines, but in the event that we did, subject to certain conditions, there is a right for passengers to receive reimbursement or to be re-routed.

Passports, Visas and Vaccinations: You are responsible for ensuring that you bring with you a valid passport (which should have at least 6 months left to run at the commencement of the holiday) plus, where necessary, a valid visa and/or a valid Yellow Fever vaccination certificate. We will provide clear information about any visa or Yellow Fever vaccination certificate requirements, but you are normally responsible for obtaining your visa direct from the appropriate embassy or consulate.

Computerized Mailing List: All names and addresses on the Ocean Adventures mailing list are stored on computer files. These files will most definitely not be passed to any other party, for advertising purposes or for any other reason, but should you object to having your name and address stored in this way please inform our office and we will remove your entry.

Complaints: In the event that you have cause for complaint you should notify an appropriate person on board ship or elsewhere (or our office where appropriate) as soon as possible so that we may do our best to assist you. If a problem remains unresolved in spite of prompt notification then you should make a complaint in writing to the appropriate person, keeping a copy for yourself. You should then write to our office within 28 days of the completion of the holiday detailing the problem and sending us a copy of your complaint letter. We regret that we cannot accept any liability for claims or complaints which are not reported in accordance with this simple procedure.

Restrictions on Participation: We reserve the right to remove from the tour any person unable or unwilling to conduct themselves in a manner compatible with the satisfactory operation of the holiday. In this event we will make no refund, nor be liable to pay any compensation, and any additional travel costs involved in returning home are your own responsibility.

Liability: Birdquest Limited, trading as Ocean Adventures, has taken all reasonable steps to ensure that the holidays published in the brochures we distribute on behalf of the cruise operators have been properly arranged and that the services offered are of a reasonable standard. We will accept liability for matters which arise as a direct result of our negligence and/or breach of our contractual duty to exercise care in making arrangements for you, including acts or omissions by our employees, agents or suppliers in the course of duties authorized by us. We will accept liability for your death, personal injury or illness arising out of any failure to perform, or improper performance of, any part of our contract with you by any of our employees, agents or suppliers (provided they were at the time performing duties authorized by us), except where the failure to perform, or improper performance, was due to your acts and/or omissions, or the acts and/or omissions of a third party not connected with the provision of your holiday and which were unforeseeable or unavoidable, or an event which we or the suppliers of the service in question could not have foreseen or avoided even with all due care. In the case of any other loss or damage suffered as a result of our negligence or that of our employees, agents or suppliers we limit the maximum extent of our liability to twice the amount paid for the holiday in question. However, we cannot accept responsibility for claims arising out of carriage by air, sea or land, or provision of hotel accommodation. We have no control over the carriers or providers concerned and you are subject to their terms and conditions, which are governed by international conventions which exclude or limit liability in respect of death, injury, delay and loss or damage to baggage. It is also important to note that operational decisions may be taken by air or sea carriers, or airport authorities, that result in delays, diversions or rescheduling. We have no control over such decisions and are therefore unable to accept responsibility for them.

Bonding & Financial Security: The air holidays we offer are ATOL Protected, since Birdquest Ltd trading as Ocean Adventures holds an Air Travel Organiser's Licence granted by the Civil Aviation Authority. Our ATOL number is 2937. In the unlikely event of our insolvency, the CAA will ensure that you are not stranded abroad and will arrange to refund any money you have paid to us for an advance booking. For further information, visit the ATOL website at www.atol.org.uk. Please note that, for non-United Kingdom residents who are booking with us from overseas, ATOL cover only applies if you book holiday arrangements through us that commence with a flight originating in London or elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

TRAVEL INSURANCE

It is very important that you obtain insurance cover against the usual risks associated with travel, from the time of booking your holiday until the time you return home. If you are in a position to take out travel insurance you would be very ill-advised to travel without it. Please ensure that your insurance provides adequate protection against the two major concerns: medical/repatriation expenses while abroad and cancellation/curtailment charges in the event that you, a travelling companion or a close relative fall ill either before or during the tour.

Ocean Adventures no longer provides travel insurance. The reasons for this are simple. Firstly, the 'single-trip' premiums charged by United Kingdom insurance companies for travel insurance schemes for small specialist tour operators have increased so much in recent years that they are now much higher than the rates offered by many widely availably high street travel insurance schemes. What is more, the annual cover rates now available through such schemes make single-trip cover seem positively bad value. Most of those travelling abroad more than once or twice a year will find that taking out an annual travel insurance policy is much the simplest and most cost-effective option. Secondly, for a variety of technical reasons, United Kingdom insurers are increasingly unwilling to insure those living outside the United Kingdom.

The following widely available insurance schemes, offered by reputable companies, have come to our attention and seem to offer good cover at very competitive rates for United Kingdom residents for both single-trip and annual policies:

Abbey National
Abbey National House, 2 Triton Square, Regent's Place, London NW1 3AN. Tel: 0800-0286101. Website: www.abbeynational.co.uk

Bradford & Bingley Travel
PO Box 132, Leeds LS11 9YY. Tel: 0800-435642.

Gold Cover Insurance Services
35 Queens Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN4 9LZ. Tel: 01892-536555.
(Note: this company is known to provide good rates for older travellers.)

Kennet Insurance Brokers
Kennet House, 15 The Broadway, Thatcham, Berkshire RG19 3HX. Tel: 01635-860505. Website: www.kennetinsurance.co.uk

MRL Insurance Direct
Lumbry Park, Alton, Hampshire GU34 3HF. Tel: 0870-8767677. Website: www.mrlinsurance.co.uk

Natwest Insurance
Waterhouse Square, 138-142 Holborn, London EC1N 2TH. Tel: 0800-0515051.

Newton Lea Insurance Services
66 Sea Road, Fulwell, Sunderland SR6 9DB. Tel: 0800-0720294.
(Note: this company is known to provide good rates for older travellers.)

Prudential
Prudential Travel Insurance Centre, Lumbry Park, Selbourne Road, Alton, Hampshire GU34 3HF. Tel: 0845-6070547. Website: www.pru.co.uk

Sainsbury's Bank
33 Holborn, London EC1N 2HT. Tel: 0845-3003190. Website: www.sainsburysbank.co.uk

There are of course numerous other providers of travel insurance and no doubt some are offering even better cover at even lower rates. If you find such a supplier, and you are happy with their service, please let us know. We will be delighted to include them in the list.


Photograph courtesy of Quark Expeditions

Arctic Hare

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