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Vantage Travel abruptly cancels Netherlands trip

A view of the Amsterdam city center skyline.Peter Dejong/Associated Press

Vantage Travel, a well-known Boston-based international travel company for four decades, last week was apparently hacked.

In a statement, the company said it has hired “a leading national forensic firm” to investigate what it called a “data security incident.”

George Regan, a spokesman for the company, said the incident was being investigated as a possible ransomware attack.

One would-be traveler, Ileene Chernoff, said on Monday that she was unable to reach anyone at Vantage by phone or e-mail for days after learning on Sunday on the company’s Facebook page that her trip10-day trip to the Netherlands was canceled.

She said Vantage’s website has also been down for days and that Vantage, in its scant communications, did not make clear why the trip was canceled or provide any information about rescheduling or receiving refunds.


“It’s been very disappointing and stressful,” Chernoff said. “There’s been no reason given as to why. It’s definitely a bit worrying.”

In its statement, Vantage said it is committed to “the protection and privacy of our valued customers and staff,” and pledged to release more information “as soon as it becomes available.”

The company’s website on Monday remained down and calls to its call center got a fast busy signal.

During the pandemic, Vantage came under heavy criticism from travelers for long delays in receiving refunds for canceled trips.

As of the end of 2021, the office of then-attorney general Maura Healey, who has since become governor, had received almost 500 complaints about Vantage and had “secured 50 refunds totaling more than $870,000,” the Globe previously reported.

Christopher Elliott, whose nationally syndicated “travel troubleshooting” column appears regularly in the Globe, at the time called Vantage “one of the most complained-about companies, according to our records.”

Nevertheless, Vantage launched a new $70 million ship, Ocean Explorer, in Boston Harbor in late 2021. That prompted a story in the Globe about two local couples who said it irritated them that the company was making a fancy display of christening the ship with a bottle of champagne while they had been fighting for more than year for $46,000 owed to them by Vantage for a canceled safari to Africa.


After the Globe started asking questions, the couples received their refunds.

Chernoff, 64, of Portsmouth, R.I., said she, her husband, sister, and brother-in-law have gone on Vantage cruises many times and had “a lovely time.” They finalized their plans for the Netherlands trip a little more than a year ago, using about $40,000 in cash and $20,000 in credits from previously canceled trips, she said.

After flying to Amsterdam, they were to tour Belgium for several days, then board the ship River Splendor for a “spring tulips & culinary treats” tour, followed by a stay in Paris, she said.

All seemed to be in order as late as last Wednesday, when Chernoff called Vantage to talk over some minor details. “Nobody so much as hinted anything was amiss at that time,” she said.

But the next day, Chernoff said, she was somewhat startled to receive this e-mail: “Traveler, we are currently experiencing a service outage which impacts our website and contact center. Our team is currently working around the clock to restore all services.”

Chernoff said she assumed Vantage was experiencing a technology breakdown of some sort, possibly a hack, but expected the trip to go on as scheduled.


Vantage had previously advised the two couples of their seat assignments aboard a Delta Airlines flight from Boston to Amsterdam. But when her sister checked with the airline on Sunday, she was told they were no longer booked, Chernoff said.

On its Facebook page, Vantage said: “We’re currently experiencing a network disruption that has limited our abilities to access our network and impacted our ability to perform certain operational tasks. We are working around the clock to restore normal business operations.”

Vantage also posted on Facebook a Gmail address that was different from the company’s usual address. In response to Chernoff’s e-mail, Vantage disclosed the cancellation.

“We are not able to be reached but we need to give you important information regarding your reservation,” it said, citing an “unprecedented outage affecting … all of our systems.”

“Regretfully we must inform you that your upcoming trip is canceled. When our systems are back up, we will have a dedicated team contacting you via telephone to go over options for future travel,” it said.

“Please know that we are extremely sorry for the last-minute notification and as soon as we gain access to our systems we will be contacting you.” it said. “Please reply to this e-mail to let us know you are aware.”

This story has been updated to reflect information supplied by Vantage subsequent to publication saying that the recent cancellation of four of its trips to the Netherlands was due to a lack of the boat’s “readiness.”


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