Major lines make dramatic changes to cancellation policies to win cruisers back

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It’s a thorny issue – and one that is holding up long-term bookings for many cruise lines. You want to take advantage of a bargain price – but what happens if circumstances change?

In today’s world of travel, something just might.

Some cruise lines are being sympathetic. Others not quite so helpful. The trouble is, they really need your money as cash flow is crucial to survival. So who is doing what?  It’s a mixed bag.

One of the most candid and honest comments came from Richard Fain, Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean.

“Our previous policy set earlier deadlines for guests to cancel their cruises, and that added unnecessary stress. Trying to guess a month or more in advance where areas of concern about coronavirus might be is challenging for medical experts, much less a family preparing for vacation.

“When circumstances are as fast-changing as they have been recently, it’s good to know you have the option to take a rain check. We think putting more control in our guests’ hands helps them make informed decisions about whether to keep their existing vacation plans or trade out for a more convenient time or itinerary.”

He added the policy would also give consumers more confidence in making new bookings, knowing that they could later adjust their plans without penalty.

Viking was first to announce a bold change to its cancellation policy this week, allowing guests to postpone their cruise up to 24-hours before departure. They get a cruise credit for up to two years – a move designed to provide peace of mind.

Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Azamara and Silversea  have announced guests a joint policy. The “Cruise With Confidence” policy allows guests to cancel up to 48 hours before a sailing. They will receive a full credit for their fare, usable on any future sailing of the guest’s choice in 2020 or 2021. The policy applies to both new and existing cruise bookings.

The policy applies to all cruises with a sailing date on or before July 31, 2020,

Holland America Line and Seabourn also switched, allowing guests to cancel up to 30 days before sailing and receive a future cruise credit valid for 90 days. This means guests would need to make a re-booking on another cruise within three months, departing in 2021 at the very latest.

Regent Seven Seas also now allow guests to cancel up to 30 days before sailing. Guests will also receive a 100 per cent Future Cruise Credit, which can be applied to a new booking within one year on any 2020 or 2021 Regent voyage.

Princess Cruises has faced some criticism for holding passengers to their bookings on the Diamond Princess, recently involved in an outbreak of coronavirus in Japan. The line is looking to resume sailing the Diamond Princess on April 29, 2020.

Late today, it posted a new American policy on Princess.com – expected to be the model for Australia’s new cancellation policy:

“To assist guests’ decisions regarding their upcoming cruise vacations during the evolving worldwide COVID-19 situation, Princess Cruises is temporarily making some changes to our cancellation policy for cruises departing up to May 31, 2020.

Revised Final Payment Timing

Additionally, we are amending Final Payment on cruises sailing June 1 through June 30, 2020.

The details vary by departure date. The following applies to new and existing bookings on cruises and cruise tours in all markets globally.

Date of Departure* Benefit
April 3, 2020 or earlier Cancel up to 72 hours before sailing to receive Future Cruise Credit (FCC) for 100% of cancellation fees
April 4, 2020 – May 31, 2020 Cancel by March 31 and receive Future Cruise Credit for 100% of cancellation fees
June 1, 2020 – June 30, 2020 Final Payment moves to 60 days prior to sailing

*Date of departure is from the start date of your cruise or cruisetour, whichever is earlier. Excludes charter cruises.

Guests who choose to keep their booking as currently scheduled for departures between March 9 and May 31 will receive the following Onboard Credit amounts:

  • $100 USD / $150 AUD per stateroom for 3 and 4 day cruises
  • $150 USD / $225 AUD per stateroom for 5 day cruises
  • $200 USD / $300 AUD per stateroom for 6 day and longer cruises

The policy for Australia is expected next week.

Norwegian Cruise Lines, meanwhile, is allowing guests to cancel up to 48 hours from embarkation and receive a 100% future cruise credit to be used for sailings that embark through December 31, 2022.

MSC Cruises has made two revisions to its original policy and it now “depends on when and where our guests are sailing”.

Here are more details on what the lines are doing:

Silversea Cruises

Travellers who make new bookings on sailings departing between 1 June and 31 December 2020, will be able to cancel until just 30 days prior to departure, paying only a customary administrative fee on the cruise fare. Additionally, Silversea will negotiate on guests’ behalf for the same cancellation options on other components of the booking such as air travel, hotels and shore excursions. However, Silversea does not have control over these third-party suppliers, and, therefore, different terms may apply for these specific components.

“Travelling the world with Silversea should never be a source of anxiety,” says Roberto Martinoli, Silversea’s Chief Executive Officer. “For this reason, and to ease the minds of our guests and trade partners, we have temporarily relaxed our new booking and cancellation policies. This period of uncertainty is for sure going to ease eventually, but as the situation evolves, we are pleased to provide our guests with more time to decide whether or not to travel.”

Read Silversea’s temporary amendment to its cancellation policy:

https://www.silversea.com/temporary-amendment-to-cancellation-policy.html

Regent Seven Seas

Effective immediately, the clients of travel advisors can now cancel their sailings within that period up to 30 days prior to sailing, and receive a 100% Future Cruise Credit, which can be applied to a new booking within one year on any 2020 or 2021 Regent voyage.

“We sincerely appreciate the partnership and advocacy by our valued travel partners and their clients. During these challenging times, we believe that more communication is essential. Therefore, we endeavour to keep them informed throughout this ever-changing environment,” said Mr Odell.

“For those guests who took advantage of our previously communicated final payment extension period to 60 days1, no further action is required. Once final payment is received, they can also take advantage of Regent Reassurance. For those who cancel prior to 60 days, they are still entitled to the 15% Future Cruise Credit we communicated previously.”

“Our top priority continues to be the safety, security and well-being of our guests, partners and team members. We have proactively implemented a comprehensive set of preventative measures and continue to consult with the World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control. For the most updated information and an update to our COVID-19 protocols, please refer to https://www.rssc.com/coronavirus-statement,” said Mr Odell.

“Our aim is that through Regent Reassurance, this temporary change in policy will enable our travel partners to maintain their existing Regent bookings and drive new ones with confidence. We sincerely thank them for their continued support. We will thrive together. We have an amazing business in a resilient industry with incredible people and partners.”

Holland America Line

Cancel for any reason and receive a Future Cruise Credit in the amount of your deposit and any cancellation fees, applicable on sailings departing on or before October 15, 2020.

The offer is available from March 1, 2020 to April 30, 2020 on new bookings made for cruises sailing April 1, 2020 through October 15, 2020. Cruises must be cancelled at least 30 days before such cruise’s departure date to be eligible. Value of Future Cruise Credit determined by non-refundable portion of the booking’s deposit and cancellation fees. Future Cruise Credit only valid for 90 days from issuance and must be used towards a 2020 or 2021 cruise. Non-transferrable, no cash value, not redeemable for cash. Terms and conditions apply, visit hollandamerica.com/bookwithconfidence.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Have peace of mind when booking with Norwegian Cruise Line. Beginning March 10, 2020, guests who book a voyage through September 30, 2020 may cancel up to 48 hours from embarkation and receive a 100% future cruise credit to be used for sailings that embark through December 31, 2022. This offer also applies to individual and group guests who are currently booked through this timeframe.

Full details here.

Seabourn

Seabourn’s new ‘’Book with Confidence” policy is valid now through April 30, 2020.

Coverage: All existing bookings and new bookings made now through April 30, 2020 for sailings departing between April 1st and October 15th, 2020.

Policy: Guests may cancel up to 30 days prior to departure and receive a 100% Future Cruise Credit of any monies paid to Seabourn that are currently within the cancellation period.

The Future Cruise Credit is valid for bookings made within 90 days* for any published sailing departing prior to December 31, 2021.

MSC Cruises

The line previously announced: “MSC Cruises has tweaked its cancellation policy to allow any passenger who is booked on a Mediterranean cruise in March and April 2020 to postpone their cruise or switch to a different one operating in another region and sailing within the next year.”

But this is now an outdated guideline which has since been updated, says Leisa Chell PR & Communications Manager of MSC Cruises.

“MSC Cruises updated cancellation policy will depend on when and where our guests are sailing and should contact their travel agent for the latest information,” says Ms Chell.