Cancellation policies, the small print everyone once ignored, have suddenly become a major tool to woo cruisers back onto ships. In a new age of insecurity, making travellers feel comfortable that they can pull out if external forces make journey impossible is critical.
But how do you work out which is best for you?
Weighing up the value of a cruise cancellation policy means you need to consider the length of time you are given to book against how late in the day you can pull out. So a policy that gives you, say, six weeks to book but allows you to switch in 48 hours is great value.
The lines are eager to retain your money so they can pay their crews and keep cruising when the time comes. So you will probably be offered a “Future Cruise Credit”. So the next thing you need to consider is: on what cruises can it be used and when will it expire?
Some lines are offering bookings up to 2022. Others require you use your cruise credit one year after issue.
Carnival Australia, Ponant and Dream Cruises have recently released new cancellation policies, while lines like Holland America Line and Seabourn have expanded theirs.
New bookings are also able to benefit from the relaxed cancellation options.
Cancellation policies are as complex as telephone plans. So we’ve created a chart to help you compare your cancellation timeframe, how long the offer is valid for, what you get back and how you’re expected to use Future Cruise Credits.
Most lines are offering 100 per cent Future Cruise Credits to guests who choose to cancel. Where things get complicated is in the fine print.
“Many of our clients are using their future cruise credits on a particular departure. If it’s cruises from Australia they will consider 2020, if overseas they are swaying towards deferring to 2021,” says Barry Downs, Sales and Marketing Manager of Bicton Travel, a leading agency with years of expertise.
“Given today’s DFAT recommendation not to travel, my recommendation would be to just pause for a moment. But don’t stop dreaming and don’t stop planning for the future.
“Once this settles down, there will be a lot of pent up demand to book the holidays. Plan that bucket list trip in the coming weeks, whilst your advisor has the time and tools to find you the right holiday of a lifetime. And if you have the ability and resources to travel in 2020, do so here in Australia or on a cruise from Australia, lets support local where we can.”
Lines like Princess Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Hurtigruten and Ponant are also offering incentives like reduced deposits, full refund of deposits and later final payments for new bookings.
See how to make the most out of cruise cancellation policies below:
Viking takes the lead for the shortest cancellation timeframe of 24 hours before departure. However, most other lines are offering cancellations of up to 48 hours prior at the moment.
Meanwhile, Crystal Cruises is offering cancellations up to seven days prior, while Ponant is offering cancellation up to 30 days prior. And on other lines, like Holland America Line and Princess Cruises, it depends on when you’re sailing.
Both Seabourn and Holland America Line offer 48-hour and 30-day prior cancellation depending on departure dates, while Princess Cruises has up to 72-hour on some sailings and on others, guests have to cancel by March 31.
The cruise lines are making very generous offers which are valid for different amounts of time.
Book fast with lines such as Viking, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas, Hurtigruten as their offer is only valid for all reservations made through April 30, 2020. And among them, the offer is valid on cruises departing in different periods of 2020. For example, Viking’s offer is valid for any of their cruises, but on Oceania, the offer is only valid for cruises through September 2020.
Norwegian Cruise Line and Cunard are offering among the longest on validity. On NCL, guests can book up to September 30, 2020 to enjoy cancellation 48-hour prior. And Cunard’s offer is valid on all existing and new booking departing before August 31, 2020.
Not all Future Cruise Credits are the same
Some lines require guests to use the Future Cruise Credits on either 2020, 2021 or even up to 2022 sailings. However, guests need to take note of when the credits must be used by, or it will be forfeited. For example on Oceania and Regent Seven Seas, the line allows the credit to be used on 2022 sailings but the credit must be used within one year from date of issue.
Lines that allow you to rebook up to 2021 sailings include: Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara, Silversea, Seabourn, Hurtigruten, Princess Cruises.
Lines that allow you to rebook up to 2022 sailings include: Viking, Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, Norwegian Cruise Line, Cunard, Crystal Cruises.
|Cruise Line||Cancellation Timeframe||Validity||Offer|
|Viking||24-hours before departure||All current reservations with Viking and for all new reservations made through April 30, 2020||Cancelled reservations will be reimbursed in the form of a Future Cruise Voucher in the amount of 100% of all funds paid to Viking. Future Cruise Vouchers may be used toward any future river, ocean or expedition cruise with Viking and will be valid for 24 months from issuance.|
|Royal Caribbean||48-hours before departure||The policy applies to both new and existing cruise bookings with a sailing date on or before July 31, 2020||Guests will receive a full credit for their fare, usable on any future sailing of the guest’s choice in 2020 or 2021.|
|Celebrity Cruises||48-hours before departure||The policy applies to both new and existing cruise bookings with a sailing date on or before July 31, 2020||Guests will receive a full credit for their fare, usable on any future sailing of the guest’s choice in 2020 or 2021.|
|Silversea||48-hours before departure||The policy applies to both new and existing cruise bookings with a sailing date on or before July 31, 2020||Guests will receive a full credit for their fare, usable on any future sailing of the guest’s choice in 2020 or 2021.|
|Azamara||48-hours before departure|
|Oceania Cruises||48-hours before departure||Valid for all existing reservations for voyages departing from March 10, 2020 through September 30, 2020. Valid for all new reservations through April 30th for voyages departing from March 10, 2020 through September 30, 2020||Receive a Future Cruise Credit equal to 100% of the cruise fare paid, valid for redemption for one year from date of issue for travel departing no later than December 31, 2022.|
|Regent Seven Seas||48-hours before departure||All Regent voyages departing from 10 March 2020 through 30 September 2020, provided you make final payment by April 30||Receive a 100% Future Cruise Credit, which can be applied to any new booking within one year on any Regent voyage that embarks between now and 31 December 2022.|
|Seabourn||48-hours prior, for existing and new bookings made through July 31, 2020, 30 days prior for bookings departing between August 1, 2020 and October 15, 2020||For existing and new bookings up to October 15, 2020||For existing and new bookings up to October 15, 2020|
|Norwegian Cruise Line||48-hours before departure||For all sailings booked through September 30, 2020||Receive a 100% future cruise credit to be used for sailings that embark through December 31, 2022. All future cruise credits must be redeemed within one year from issue date.|
|Hurtigruten||48-hours before departure||For all guests booked on departures between March 12 and June 30, 2020 and any new bookings made by April 30, 2020||Free rebooking to any future Hurtigruten cruise – expedition or Norwegian coastal – from July 1, 2020, to July 1, 2021. A changed reservation will be reimbursed as a 100 per cent future cruise voucher and a 10 per cent discount on the guest’s future cruise, including fees. The voucher will also cover flights booked through Hurtigruten.|
|Cunard||48-hours before departure||All existing and new bookings departing before August 31, 2020||Transfer your booking and unlimited number of times prior to final payment to any Cunard voyage currently on sale, free of charge. Cancel and receive a Future Cruise Credit equivalent to the cancellation fees and refunds will be given on any remaining monies paid. The Future Cruise Credit can be redeemed against any sailing until end of March 2022 (bookings to be made before December 31, 2021).|
|Dream Cruises||48-hours before departure||All new and existing bookings made for any departures prior to or on 31 July 2020||Receive 100% future cruise credit to be redeemed on any Dream Cruises sailing embarking on or before 31st December 2020.|
|Crystal Cruises||7 days prior to first service (First service refers to any pre-cruise product such as hotel or land programs booked prior to the voyage. If no such service was booked, it refers to the departure.)||Applicable to all 2020 Ocean, River, Yacht and Expedition Voyages||Receive a 100% credit for cruise fare monies paid that may be redeemed on any future voyage through the end of 2022. Credit will be posted to the guests’ profile within 30 days and must be applied by 31 December, 2020. The line has also reduced deposits for new bookings to only $100 to $500 per person (previously 25% of cruise fare). Later final payment is also offered for existing and new bookings to 90 days prior to first service, from 120 days.|
|Princess Cruises||72-hours prior for cruises and cruisetours departing through April 3, 2020. Cancel by March 31, 2020 for cruises departing between April 4 and May 31, 2020||For cruises and cruise tours departing through May 31, 2020.||Receive Future Cruise Credit (FCC) for 100% of cancellation fees, to be applied to any new or existing Princess cruise booking and departing on or before December 31, 2021. Credits may take up to 10 business days to be processed. Later final payment for June departures, now due 60 days prior to sailing. Full refund of deposit up until final payment on standard deposit bookings departing July to October 2020.|
|Holland America Line||48-hours prior for departures before July 31, 2020, 30 days prior for departures between August 1 and October 15, 2020||The 48-hours prior offer is available for new and existing bookings made on or before July 31, 2020 and departing through July 31, 2020. The 30 day prior offer is available for new bookings only made between March 1, 2020 and April 30, 2020, for Holland America Line cruises sailing between August 1, 2020 and October 15, 2020.||Receive a Future Cruise Credit in the amount of your cancellation fees, applied to your Mariner number in approximately two weeks. You have until December 31, 2020 to redeem the credit on cruises sailing in 2020 and 2021.|
|Ponant||30 days prior||For any new bookings up to 90 days after confirmation||Cancellation of your cruise is fully refundable up to 90 days after confirmation. Make a new booking with a 10% deposit, final payment is due only 30 days before sailing on any 2020 departures.|
|Carnival Australia||3 days prior for March departures, prior to March 31 for April departures and 30 days prior for sailings between May to September 2020.||For guests who have booked before March 11, 2020 on sailings up to September 2020.||Receive a Future Cruise Credit valid prior to 31 March 2021 for cancelled March 2020 departure and within one year of original sailing day.|
|Cruise & Maritime Voyages||N/A||N/A||"CMV will allow guests to transfer all monies paid on existing bookings to another cruise departing in 2020 or 2021 and waive all administrative fees if:
1. A guest has travelled through a highly affected area (i.e. China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Macau, Iran, Japan, or Italy) 30 days prior to embarkation, or
2. A guest has a pre-existing condition and their doctor has advised against travelling
Further terms and conditions apply, so guests should contact their travel agent or CMV to discuss their options."
Vote in this year’s special Readers’ Choice Awards
No doubt 2020 will go down in cruise history as the year of the pandemic – a once in a generation event. And this year’s Cruise Passenger Readers’ Choice Awards will reflect it.