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Having Second Thoughts about Cruising? Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Carnival & Others Allowing More Flexible Cancellation Terms Amid Coronavirus Spread

With many people questioning their upcoming travel plans because of coronavirus, multiple cruise lines have begun temporarily updating their cancellation policies, allowing guests to cancel without significant penalty.  Some lines are even incentivizing guests to keep their reservations.

Cruise Line Cancellation Policies Because of Coronavirus

How Cruise Cancellation Usually Works

For guests in North America, most cruise lines require final payment between 45 and 120 days ahead of sail date.  Once you're paid up and within that period (which varies depending on cruise line and length of sailing), you forfeit some (or all) of your cruise fare should you decide to cancel.  It's important to note that this applies to any guest, canceling for any reason.  If you purchase trip insurance, there may be a number of covered reasons for canceling, but it may (depending on the line and policy) be up to you to seek reimbursement form that policy.  Further, the majority of policies don't cover canceling because you changed your mind - and to be clear, that means changing your mind because of coronavirus fears.  

Learn more about how to pick trip insurance, what is and is not commonly covered, and more.

In short, aside from any additional protections you might have, once your final payment date has past, if you don't sail, you're likely losing a lot of money.  All of this is in the Cruise Contract/Ticket Contract you agreed to when you booked.

Cancellation Penalties Are Well-Documented in Cruise Contracts
Cancellation Penalties Are Well-Documented in Cruise Contracts

What Cruise Lines Are Doing About Coronavirus Related Cancellation

As cruise lines understand guests are uncertain about upcoming travel, they don't want people to avoid booking cruises because of concerns about what happens in a week or month from now.  Further, guests already booked may have concerns about their upcoming travel and wish to cancel.  Most major cruise lines are now allowing guests to cancel their cruise for either a refund, or a future cruise credit.

Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Azamara, Silversea Coronavirus Cancellation Policy Updates

RCCL Logos Princess Cruises Coronavirus Cancellation Policy

The lines listed above are part of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, and have all rolled out a "Cruise with Confidence" policy, allowing guests to cancel up to 48 hours before their sailing, for sailings on or before July 31, 2020.  Guests exercising this option will get a full credit for their fare, usable on any future sailing of the guest's choice in 2020 or 2021.  

"Our previous policy set earlier deadlines for guests to cancel their cruises, and that added unnecessary stress," said Richard Fain, the company's chairman and CEO. "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."

We should also note that Royal Caribbean and Celebrity recently announced new health screening procedures related to coronavirus/COVID-19.

Carnival Cruises Coronavirus Cancellation Policy Updates

Carnival Cruises Coronavirus Cancellation Policy

John Heald, Carnival's Brand Ambassador, explained to guests that a number of changes will allow for cancelling and receipt of a future cruise credit (FCC) in the event you want to sail at a later date:

For our guests booked on Carnival Radiance European itineraries, we are finalizing some itinerary changes and a special offer that we will be sharing in the next few days.
For guests who booked prior to March 6, 2020, if you decide to change vacation plans, we will allow those booked on sailings between now and May 31 to move their booking to a new date and receive a Future Cruise Credit (FCC) in the amount of the non-refundable cancellation fee.
Guests booked on sailings departing between March 9 and March 31 can move your booking to a future date up to 3 days before sailing. If the cruise departs between March 6 and March 8, call us at any time to take advantage of this offer.
Guests booked on sailings departing between April 1 and May 31 can move your booking to a future date by March 31.
The FCC must be used for a sailing by March 31, 2021.

Additionally, guests who choose to keep their booking as scheduled for departures between March 6 and May 31 will receive the following Onboard Credit (OBC) amounts:

  • $100 per cabin for 3 and 4 day cruises
  • $150 per cabin for 5 day cruises
  • $200 per cabin for 6 day and longer cruises

Princess Cruises Coronavirus Cancellation Policy Updates

Princess Cruises Coronavirus Cancellation Policy

Similar to sister-company Carnival, Princess Cruises is temporarily making some changes to their cancellation policy for cruises departing up to May 31, 2020.  They're also amending Final Payment on cruises sailing June 1 through June 30, 2020.

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

Further, 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

Norwegian Cruise Lines Coronavirus Cancellation Policy Updates

NCL Norwegian Cruises Coronavirus Cancellation Policy

Norwegian's "Peace of Mind" policy supercedes all changes the line made to transfer fee wavers and accommodations they offered ahead of other lines. 

Guests can cancel up until 48 hours prior to vacation start date.  Cancelled reservations that occur prior to 48 hours to vacation date will receive a 100% future cruise credit (FCC) to be used for ANY Norwegian sailing embarking on or before December 31, 2022. 

Vacation start date includes any pre-hotel or Cruisetour packages booked through Norwegian.  FCC will include all components of the reservation that have been paid, including but not limited to: shore excursions, beverage and dining packages (including associated gratuities), service charges and air or transfers pre purchased through Norwegian.  Note any insurance purchased on existing bookings will not be included in the FCC amount

This is really impressive as it includes promotions tied to the original bookings (such as beverage packages and such), rather than just the dollar value of a sailing.  

Disney Cruise Line Coronavirus Cancellation Policy Updates

Disney Cruise Line Coronavirus Cancellation Changes

Guests scheduled to sail between now and May 31, 2020, can now change their reservation up until the day before embarkation and receive a 100% cruise credit to be used for a future sailing within 12 months of their original sail date. You can make this change by calling 1-866-325-2112. The credit is non-refundable and standard prevailing rates will apply.

Holland America Line Coronavirus Cancellation Policy Updates

Any cancellation will receive a Future Cruise Credit (FCC) for the amount of the paid fare which can be used for another cruise in 2020 or 2021. The FCC must be booked by Dec. 31, 2020, and the cancellation must be made with a minimum of 72 hours in advance of departure date but no later than March 31, 2020. However, guests booked between now and March 9, 2020 may also cancel under this new policy despite being within 72 hours.

The cruise line though is sensitive to those guests with medical conditions that may escalate the risk of infection, allowing for a future cruise credit to be issued for any cancellation - regardless of sail-date.  This "Compassion Policy" requires documentation from a physician, to Holland America, so these guests will need to speak with Holland America or their travel agent.

Similar to it's sister lines, Carnival and Princess, additional onboard credit is being offered to those who choose not to cancel.  For voyages through May 31 2020, an Onboard Spending Credit of $200 per stateroom/$100 per person for voyages longer than 7 days and US$100 per stateroom/US$50 per person for voyages less than 6 days will be automatically applied to guests shipboard accounts.

MSC Cruises Coronavirus Cancellation Policy Updates

MSC is allowing new and existing guests to cancel up to 48 hours prior to their cruise departure and reschedule for a future date. Effective March 10, 2020, "Cruise Assurance" is valid on sailings departing on or before July 31, 2020. If guests choose to cancel and reschedule their cruise, a Future Cruise Credit will be given in the amount paid for the current cruise that is valid on any MSC cruise on or before December 31, 2021.

Billy's Take

It's great that lines are recognizing that the loss they may take on cancellations like this can win a lot of goodwill from guests, and perhaps just as importantly, help reduce the slow down in bookings for cruises that are a couple months out.  As Royal Caribbean says, you can "Cruise with Confidence".  Still, everyone needs to consider their own individual circumstances and risk tolerances.  We still plan on cruising, and taking advantage of some of the great deals that are out there right now, in addition to the incentives being offered by lines like Carnival and Princess.  Maybe we'll have to take a research trip.

If you're cancelling/moving a sailing under these circumstances, please post in the CruiseHabit Message Boards and let us know how it goes!