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Passengers for canceled 'Prairie Home' cruise won't get a full refund

Neal Justin, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Entertainment News

MINNEAPOLIS -- The "Prairie Home Companion" faithful that signed up for a canceled cruise won't be getting all their money back. But Garrison Keillor and his team are working to make sure they're not completely sunk.

When water-bound voyages were scrapped due to the pandemic, most passengers received full refunds or full credit for future bookings. But it's a different story for those who registered for chartered trips such as "Prairie Home Companion at Sea," which was scheduled to set sail on March 18.

The ship's operator, Holland America Line, agreed in early April to write a partial refund check guaranteeing each would-be sailor gets at least $1,200 back by mid-June. But that doesn't cover the total bill, which ranged from $2,200 to $5,000 per person, depending on the size of the cabin.

Keillor's company, Prairie Home Cruises LLC, which only has a staff of three people, already forked over $700,000 to $800,000 for a variety of expenses, including insurance, management services and deposits on equipment rental. The vast majority of those costs are nonrefundable.

"Delta may be able to offer full refunds immediately, but you can't expect that this tiny company in Minnesota would be able to do the same thing," said Katharine Seggerman, Keillor's personal assistant.

Prairie Home Cruises managing director Kate Gustafson said the company is looking at other ways to get additional money to the roughly 1,200 passengers, but that everyone will take a hit -- including her company.

 

"It's taken us a while to untangle what's refundable and what isn't," said Gustafson, who was managing director of "A Prairie Home Companion" for many years. "When we're done, there will be zero left in the coffers. We're basically working for nothing."

The cruise on the MS Veendam was billed as "the last hurrah" for the "Prairie Home" crew, which had hosted nearly a dozen such trips in the past.

Those cruises had been promoted by St. Paul-based American Public Media, which distributes the radio show -- renamed "Live From Here" by Chris Thile, who replaced Keillor as host in 2016.

That company, which also operates Minnesota Public Radio, severed ties with Keillor in 2017 following allegations of inappropriate behavior toward a co-worker. So if "Prairie Home" was going to set sail once more, it had to do so without APM.

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