Travel Troubleshooter: Parking a circus for trip to Cirque

02/26/2012 12:00 AM

02/23/2012 10:39 PM

My friend and her husband have been extremely good to me this past year. It has been a difficult year for me and they have opened their home and their friendship.

As a token of my appreciation, I recently purchased two tickets to Cirque du Soleil "La Nouba" in Orlando, Fla., for them. They booked a hotel and planned on making it a fun-filled weekend. The tickets state on them to arrive at least 30 minutes early.

They arrived one hour early and found an overwhelming obstacle: There was absolutely no parking.

They rode around the parking areas from 5 until 7:45 p.m. They knew they had missed over half of the show, conceded defeat and went back to their hotel.

I didn't find out about it until the following Monday when I asked how the show was. My friend told me the tale of the "worst traffic she had ever seen." She also said all parking areas were full and closed off, and that once in the stream of traffic, looking for a parking space, it was impossible to get out of the flow. My friend didn't want to tell me because she was disappointed and knew I would be, too.

I called Cirque du Soleil and was told that my friend should have called the box office and explained her parking dilemma, and that their tickets could have been reissued for a later showing. But there is no phone in the box office.

Now I'm told I need to come to the box office to try to renegotiate a refund or reissue of the tickets. But I live two hours from Orlando. Can you help?

– Jenni Turbeville, Okeechobee, Fla.

Cirque's purchase agreement doesn't address your friends' problem. But they seem to suggest that while Cirque can cancel any performance and reschedule, you don't get the same flexibility. Here's a link: www.cirquedusoleil.com/ en/home/purchase-policy. aspx.

That may seem a little one-sided, but it's in line with other live events. Imagine if the ticket terms were fairer, allowing you to cancel any time up to the moment the curtain rises, and get a full refund. Cirque would probably go out of business.

At the same time, special allowances should be made for circumstances within the theater's control, such as traffic. Cirque has a responsibility, at least in my view, to provide adequate guest parking.

There must have been others who couldn't make the show, too. Cirque should have either printed a warning on its tickets during these peak times, or allowed the no-shows to come back later without having to visit the box office in person.

But at the end of the day, your friends were responsible for making it to the show on time – at least according to the terms of their ticket. So strictly speaking, Cirque didn't owe them anything.

Still, knowing Cirque and having attended its shows in the past, I don't think it would want you or your friends to be disappointed.

I decided to share your story with it, and a representative contacted you by email, offering to reissue the tickets.

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