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Here’s how cruises are changing booking and cancellation policies during coronavirus


(Washington Post illustration; iStock)

On Sunday, the State Department announced that U.S. citizens should not travel by cruise ship due to the heightened risk of contracting the coronavirus onboard. The warning aims to curb the spread of the virus.

What should you do if you have a cruise planned? Although many people will continue to cruise according to schedule as ships implement updated screening protocols, traveler restrictions and updated itineraries, others are understandably hesitant to embark on a vacation. The State Department is encouraging people who booked cruises to contact their cruise line for their updates and to check the CDC and State Department websites for the latest information.

For those who are following the guidance and avoiding cruises, there’s good news: Most companies are giving customers the opportunity to cancel their sailings for a “Future Cruise Credit” (a.k.a. FCC) — essentially, a coupon to reschedule. Details vary from cruise line to cruise line and depend on the ship’s departure date.

Here is a look at the flexible policies major cruise companies are implementing:

Princess Cruises

The cruise line experiencing the most severe outbreak problems, Princess Cruises has canceled all planned trips for two months, affecting departures until May 10. Customers can reschedule their canceled cruise for a future trip departing through May 1, 2022, with a promise from Princess: “For guests to accept this offer, the company will add an additional generous future cruise credit benefit which can be applied to the cruise fare.”

Travelers who made final cruise payments and canceled their sailing on or after Feb. 4 will receive a Future Cruise Credit that can be used through May 1, 2022. Guests unable to use an FCC can go to Princess.com to request a cash refund through an online form.

Viking

Viking Cruises has suspended all of its river and ocean voyages scheduled to depart between now and April 30. According to a company announcement, customers hit by the cancellations will receive an FCC valid for the next 24 months, “valued at 125% of all monies paid to Viking or a refund equal to the amount paid." Those unable to use their FCC voucher before it expires will be sent a refund for the original amount paid to Viking.

The Royal Caribbean group

Travelers with plans to sail on Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara or Silversea cruise ships on or before July 31, 2020, will have the option of canceling up to 48 hours before departure. The group’s “Cruise With Confidence” policy will give customers a full credit for their fare that can be applied to any future sailing in 2020 or 2021. The policy extends to trips already scheduled as well as future bookings.

Those who do embark on sailings should know that additional restrictions may be enforced “based on local circumstances,” the Celebrity Cruises website warns. “For example, certain countries may deny visas or prohibit entry based on travel history or nationality.” Contact the individual Royal Caribbean Cruises line for details on your particular sailing.

Carnival Cruise Line

Those booked on Carnival Cruise Line sailings between now and May 31 are being encouraged to stick with vacation plans thanks to onboard credit incentives, such as $100 spending credits per cabin for three- to four-day cruises and $200 spending credits per cabin for cruises six days or longer.

Travelers who booked Carnival cruises before March 6 that depart between now and May 31 can reschedule trips using an FCC. For customers with trips beginning up until March 31, reservations can be changed up to three days before departure. Trips starting in April can be rescheduled before March 31 for an FCC that must be used by March 31 of next year. Customers with sailings between May through September can cancel up to 30 days before their trip for an FCC that can be used one year of the original sailing date.

P&O Cruises

According to its website, P&O Cruises is taking extra precautions during the outbreak. However, the company believes threats to be low for its guests and crew.

“We understand if this situation has led you to think about cancelling your upcoming cruise,” the cruise line’s travel advisory page reads. “If you are concerned about travelling within balance due date due to medical reasons, we are now able to look at transferring your booking, if you can provide a letter from a medical practitioner/Doctor on headed paper which confirms that you are unfit to travel on your cruise.”

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line is offering a Peace of Mind policy that allows customers who’ve booked trips through Sept. 30 the option of canceling up to 48 hours before departure. Customers will receive a credit for the full value of their trip valid until Dec. 31, 2022.

MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises has implemented an assurance policy that allows new and existing guests the option of canceling their cruise up to 48 hours before sailings departing on or before July 31. Those who cancel can reschedule their booking on a cruise on or before Dec. 31, 2021, using an FCC. Customers must call the company’s contact center at 866-337-4309 to cancel through a Cruise Assurance agent to get their credit.

Holland America Line

Holland America Line customers considered high-risk for health reasons during the coronavirus outbreak (who can provide a doctor’s note advising they cannot travel) can cancel at any time with the company’s Compassion Policy. Holland’s new Book With Confidence program lets guests cancel cruises that depart through May 31 for any reason. Customers who cancel their bookings will receive an FCC.

Seabourn

With its Book With Confidence program, Seabourn is offering customers with new and existing bookings made from now through April 30 the option of canceling their cruises 30 days before sailing to receive an FCC for the full value of their trip. The program applies to sailings scheduled for departure between April 1 and Oct. 15; rescheduled cruises must embark before Dec. 31, 2021.

Abercrombie & Kent

Abercrombie & Kent is waiving standard cancellation fees for customers with existing Luxury Expedition Cruises bookings. People making new bookings between March 10 and May 31 can reschedule for a later cruise departing before Jan. 31, 2022.

Read more:

How to think about travel as the coronavirus threat evolves

Cruise industry, an economic engine in Florida, could be hit hard by coronavirus advisories

A beginner’s guide to travel insurance

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