Carnival cruisers Christine Curtis and Amethyst Di Angelo both had their July cruise cancelled by the line. But when they looked at the same cruise next year, they found that they were unable to afford the adjusted price.
“We were booked on the eight-night Sydney to Pacific Islands. It was a special, $433 per person triple share. To go on the same cruise on Carnival Splendor will cost double next year when I looked up prices on Carnival’s site.
“Plus they are only offering 100% Future Cruise Credit (FCC). Whilst their partner lines Carnival and P&O are offering 125%,” says Ms Curtis.
It’s a common story – and one repeated time and again on Cruise Passenger’s social media sites. Passengers handed a Future Cruise Credit finding they can’t match like with like in 2021 – which may yet turn out to be one of the most heavily booked years.
Cruise lines made much of their refund and future cruise credit policies as they unbundled the bookings decimated by COVID-19. It has been an extraordinarily complex operation, and in many cases has been completed with nothing but praise.
But not in every case.
Last week, Cruise Passenger reported on the cases of long-awaited refunds and charges being made for getting cash back to cruisers. Shortly after our report, Flight Centre was forced by the ACCC to back track on $300 charges for transacting refunds.
This week, we look at what happens when those who accepted refunds and cruise credits try to rebook. Remember – these are the industry’s mot treasured customers – clients who want to rebook because they are loyal to cruise.
Ms Curtis says: “We haven’t decided what to do yet. When I spoke to Carnival about the difference in price, the guy suggested watching for specials. We are also entitled to $900 room credit if we rebook by end of this year. As two of us don’t drink and not interested in land tours on the small islands this doesn’t impress us highly. Rather have more FCC.”
Their eight-day South Pacific from Sydney departing July 2021 on the Carnival Splendor currently starts from $1,119 on Carnival’s website. Remember their original investment was $433 per person.
Ms Angelo after seeing the price difference, decided to cancel her holiday altogether and take the refund.
“I found the same cruise I was on July 20 if I was to swap to the same cruise next year I would need to be paying approximately double the price and since I am paying for eight people this was a huge increase so I cancelled, got my deposit to be refunded and will look out for sales of the cruise next year,” says Ms Angelo.
A spokesperson from Carnival said: “each and every sailing is unique and each one is managed separately. Our prices are based on demand in the market. In general, our 2021 prices are similar to or lower than 2020 prices from the same time last year.”
But Kathy Pavlidis from Travel Associates has a message to passengers: don’t panic and wait for your refunds and Future Cruise Certificates.
“Make sure you have a couple of different options. Remember you don’t have to plan or book anything right now. Don’t panic because the cruise lines will need to get people back onboard, and there will be incentives,” she said.
“The cruise lines are trying to get their crew home and deal with the Centres of Disease Control. But they will do their best to get you back on.”
Ms Pavlidis said she has seen a big number of people rebooking or booking cruises for 2021, and she’s even managed to get a client a better deal.
“I had a client sailing in July 2020 with Oceania in the Mediterranean. I’ve rebooked them for the same cruise in 2021, and they have even saved $1,000. Just don’t be too quick to rebook. This is the planning phase and you will get people
Victorian travel agency Brighton Travelworld has rebooked many clients on Ponant, Regent Seven Seas, Silversea, Seabourn and Oceania for next year.
“We have a 50/50 split of clients taking a credit as against a refund and majority of them who took the credits are just rebooking themselves on similar itineraries in 2021,” says Julie Avery, Managing Director of Brighton Travelworld.
“I’m not finding sailings are double in price. I have booked many for next year and they are no more than 10 per cent more expensive if that. I think 10 per cent is an acceptable year on year increase.”
But perhaps Viking cruiser Peta Lorraine Brough has got the best deal, with her travel agent helping her to move everything from the 2020 booking to 2021, together with upgrades.
“We rebooked the British Isles Explorer Bergen to London with Viking for next year at the same time with our 125 per cent FCV and the prices were cheaper than we originally paid. We upgraded our stateroom and moved the cruise to a month later which was a bit more expensive but the weather in Northern Europe & UK will be better which was worth the date change,” says Ms Brough.
“We booked through Lilly at Global Jetsetting Mount Gravatt QLD. She specialises in luxury cruises. Rebooking was really easy as we just moved everything from the 2020 booking to 2021 and upgraded our stateroom two levels within the Penthouse Veranda category.”
“Because we’re offering guests with cancelled cruises the choice of a 125% Future Cruise Voucher (FCV) with 24 months validity or a 100% refund, we’re finding that the majority are seeing the excellent value of the FCV as we continue to open up new sailings in 2022 and 2023 across expedition, ocean and our brand new river itineraries on the Mississippi. Guests are using the additional 25% value in a range of ways; choosing a different or longer itinerary, upgrading their cabin category or adding a pre or post-cruise extension,” says Viking.
“Pricing can fluctuate from itinerary to itinerary, year to year due to a wide range of factors, such as the time of year of the cruise, length of itinerary, number of departures and availability, however Viking is committed to working with guests to ensure they secure the best cruise possible for their needs.”
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.