As you’ve probably heard, CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) has voluntarily suspended operations of its member lines until September 15 due to Covid-19. If your cruise in the next few months has not been canceled yet, it soon will. With the virus very much alive - and even re-surging in parts of the U.S. - and so much future uncertainty, you may be wondering about the likelihood of any cruises taking place at all through the end of 2020 and beyond.
The good news is that Cruise Lines have Introduced temporary flexible cancellation and change policies and are even extending final payment dates, allowing guests options and more time to decide whether to postpone or cancel. This is a huge advantage over the normal policies usually in place, which only allow for cancellations or changes without penalty 90 days or more prior to departure.
Cruises Canceled by the Cruise Line due to Suspension of Operations:
If your currently-booked cruise has been affected by the suspension through September 15 due to Covid-19, or your cruise line has canceled any other sailing you may have reserved in the next few months due to port closures and the like, you have two options, depending on the cruise line:
- Change the sailing to a new future date with no penalty. In return for loyalty, the guest would be offered a generous amount of bonus future cruise credit toward the new cruise, and perhaps an additional amount of onboard credit. If the guest wants to cruise at another time, but is not sure when or where there next cruise will be, the cruise line would hold the funds as FCC (future cruise credit) which would be applied to the cruise once the guest decides on a new sailing, and apply bonus credits at that time.
- Cancel the cruise outright for a full refund. In this case, the guest receives return of the full fare, taxes and fees, plus any money paid for pre-booked excursion, pre-paid gratuities, etc. In most case, no bonus credits would be rewarded.
Cruise Booked for a Date Following the End of the Cruise Suspension
Let’s say you have a cruise booked for the end of 2020 or into 2021, but you are having doubts about whether or not it will depart, you’re anxious about the future of the virus situation, or your waiting for a Coronavirus vaccine to be introduced by the CDC. Maybe you’re wondering if the risk is too great or your financial situation has changed. Whatever your situation, most cruise lines have similar no-risk cancellation or rescheduling options in place should you decide later to cancel:
- Cancel up to 24-48 hours prior to sailing with no risk. Any penalty that would normally have been assessed would be given in the form of FCC (future cruise credit) to be used on any future cruise of the guests choice.
- Change the date to a new date without penalty. In return, and to keep the client coming back at another date, the guest would be offered a generous amount of bonus future cruise credit toward the new cruise, and sometimes an additional amount of onboard credit.
Don’t Rush to Cancel
If you have a cruise booked in late 2020, 2021 or beyond, and you are waiting to see how the world health situation pans out, that’s a valid choice. The relaxed cancellation/change policies will most likely remain in effect while the world waits to see how the Pandemic plays out. Pulling the trigger on a booking too soon, may cost you money - not necessarily with the cruise line given its lenient cancellation policy, but with any flights or hotels you have reserved. Cancelling a flight too soon, for instance, could trigger a hefty penalty. A better plan would be to wait until the cruise line cancels the cruise. If your cruise is cut by the cruise line due to Covid-19, the airline will then offer a penalty waiver, allowing you to cancel or change the flight to a later date.
It’s important to remember that the amended Covid-19 cancel/change policies are only temporary and may differ across the cruise lines. Before making a decision, it’s important for cruisers to review their cruise line’s Covid-19 cancellation policy to see exactly what they will gain or lose by cancelling or changing plans. In most cases, you’ll find updated policies posted on the home page of the supplier’s website.
If you have questions about canceling, it’s best to call your line directly (or your travel agent, if you’ve chose one to handle your cruise vacation) to discuss your options before making a decision. A word of warning: Due to shorter hours, understaffing and agents’ working from home, hold times for customer service are extremely long during these unprecedented times. Be patient, or if you are lucky, you might have a travel agent that has your back. It’s their job to contact the cruise line for you and assist you in obtaining your refund, making a change or otherwise advocate on your behalf. A travel agent might have a quicker route to your refund.
Don't expect an instant refund if you decide to cancel. In fact, a vast amount of patience will be required on your part. Due to the unprecedented number of cancellations, refunds are taking weeks to months. Allow up to 90 days for any refunds to be returned to your credit card.
One day it will be safe to cruise again. Until then, it’s good to know you have some options if you decide to plan now and cruise later!
By Janice Neves, CruiseCrazies Authorized Agent
Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more
For more cruise news and articles go to https://www.cruisecrazies.com