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It’s the Great American refund

A Seattle-based cruise line has canceled its sailings for March, April and May, and says it will refund deposits to passengers who don’t want to rebook for future dates.

Passengers who paid deposits for river cruises with financially troubled Great American Journeys will be able to apply for refunds by tapping into money set aside in an escrow account, according to the Federal Maritime Commission and Douglas Toms, co-owner of the line.

Toms said he is working with the FMC to set up a refund process, and expects checks to be issued in the next two or three weeks.

Great American Journeys launched its first season last spring with luxury cruises aboard the 160-passenger Columbia Queen, which sailed along the Columbia, Snake and Willamette rivers.

The future has been uncertain for the company following a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in Idaho last month by Don J. Simplot. Simplot and Toms, of Olympia, purchased and refurbished the Columbia Queen in 2004 after its owner, the Delta Queen Steamboat Co., ceased operations.

Great American earlier canceled its February cruises, but has not filed for bankruptcy. The company hopes to resume sailings in June and July, according to Toms, who said he is seeking a new investment partner.

“We still have our fingers crossed that if we can gain a new partner, we can put the ship on the river in June,” he said. “We’ve got a number of interested parties, but we haven’t got anything on the dotted line yet. We’re playing it day by day, week by week.”

Toms said Great American’s Web site ( would be reworked in the next few days to include information about the cancellations and refund process, and that its toll-free phone number would be reinstated with either a voice mail box or a person to answer it.

In the meantime, the FMC has stepped in to facilitate the refund process.

The FMC requires cruise lines to put passenger deposits into an escrow account from which refunds can be made.

Spokeswoman Sandy Kusumoto said the FMC is working with banks and the cruise line’s operators on a process for making refunds and hopes to announce something soon.

In the meantime, she said passengers can contact the commission’s consumer affairs office at (202) 523-5807, or check for information to be posted soon on its Web site,