Here’s how to cancel or postpone a cruise due to coronavirus

Apr 2, 2020

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Booked on a cruise between now and the end of the year? We wouldn’t blame you if you’re having second thoughts.

With the coronavirus outbreak showing no signs of slowing, the death toll from the illness mounting and many parts of the world in an open-ended lockdown, it surely doesn’t seem like a great time to have an upcoming cruise on the calendar.

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Even if your sailing isn’t scheduled to begin for many months, you’re probably weighing the recent advisories from both the U.S. State Department and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that cited an increased risk of infection in a cruise ship environment. You might be thinking it’s simplest to just press pause on cruising until a vaccine for COVID-19 is at hand.

The good news for those itching to cancel a booking is that it’s easier than you might think — at least for now. Many cruise lines have greatly eased their cancellation policies.

Plus, most lines are proactively cancelling departures on a rolling basis. In early March, all major lines cancelled at least a month’s worth of sailings, and just this week most lines extended their shutdowns another month, if not longer.

Many cruise lines now have cancelled every sailing well into May. A few cruise companies, such as Viking, have cancelled sailings all the way out to July.

In such cases, cruise lines generally are offering a choice of a full refund (actual cash back) or a credit for a future cruise. In an effort to preserve cash, many lines are offering incentives to get you to choose the latter, including bonus credit and onboard spending money.

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Some things to consider

Neither the State Department nor the CDC have ordered people to stop cruising. But they have strongly advised against it.

The two agencies issued advisories in early March that were very clear in their wording: Americans should not cruise for now. Both cited early evidence that the coronavirus can spread particularly fast on a cruise ship.

“Recent reports of COVID-19 on cruise ships highlight the risk of infection to cruise ship passengers and crew”, the CDC said. “Like many other viruses, COVID-19 appears to spread more easily between people in close quarters aboard ships”.

Both agencies also warned cruisers that the U.S. government might not be able to evacuate them from foreign countries if they get caught up in a coronavirus-related quarantine situation. The U.S. government evacuated several hundred passengers from a Princess Cruises vessel in Japan, the Diamond Princess, that experienced a coronavirus outbreak in February.

“While the U.S. government has evacuated some cruise ship passengers … repatriation flights should not be relied upon as an option for U.S. citizens under the potential risk of quarantine by local authorities”, the State Department said.

Flexible cancellation policies

Nearly all major lines started drastically easing cancellation policies in February as the coronavirus outbreak began spreading beyond Asia.

Many major lines now will let you cancel a cruise just a day or two prior to departure for a full refund in the form of a future cruise credit. That’s a huge change from normal policies. At many lines, you’ll normally lose at least part of your money if you cancel a cruise within 90 days of a departure. Normally, if you cancel a cruise with a few weeks of a sailing, you’ll lose all of your money.

The new policies are temporary. At some lines, they only apply to sailings in the next few months. At others, the cut-off is far later. Norwegian Cruise Line, for instance, is allowing passengers booked on any voyage departing before 30 September to cancel up to 48 hours before departure without penalty. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit for the full amount they paid. The future cruise credit can be used on any sailing through 31 December 2022.

Don’t rush into cancelling

If you’re booked on a cruise that isn’t departing for a few months, there’s no need to rush to cancel in many cases.

The relaxed cancellation deadlines at many lines mean you can hold off a bit to see how the coronavirus outbreak plays out.

“With the cruise lines loosening their cancellation policies, it really makes sense to wait as long as possible to cancel an upcoming cruise”, said Vicky Garcia, COO and co-owner of Cruise Planners, a large travel agency network.

“Our advisers are encouraging their clients to hold off on cancelling unless they are just wanting to change their travel plans”, Garcia told TPG. “Many travellers are choosing close-to-home travel without hesitation”.

Before making a decision, it’s important to closely review your cruise company’s adjusted policy. Many (but not all) lines are posting their revised cancellation policies on their websites. Some have changed them more than once in recent weeks.

If you have questions about cancelling, it’s best to call your line directly (or your travel agent, if you’ve booked through one) to discuss your options before making a move.

Note that, in some cases where a ship has been chartered to an outside group for a specialized sailing, such as a music cruise, you’ll fall under the organizer’s cancellation policy and not the policy of the line. In such a case, call your trip organizer first.

Here, a line-by-line guide to cancellation policies as they stand now:

AmaWaterways

AmaWaterways has lifted restrictions to let passengers on any voyage add the line’s cancel for any reason policy, Travel Waiver Plus, to bookings. The policy, which costs $80 to $175 (about £65 to £141), allows passengers to cancel a cruise for any reason up until 24 hours before departure.

Passengers who cancel under the policy receive either a future cruise credit that’s valid for 24 months, or a mix of a future cruise credit and a cash refund. Normally, a Travel Waiver Plus policy only can be booked in conjunction with AmaWaterways’ Cruise Protection Plan and at the time final payment for a cruise is made. The line has lifted that restriction to allow passengers to add the policy to any existing booking up to 48 hours in advance of any trip except those in Africa.

American Cruise Lines

Passengers booked on any voyage departing through 31 August can cancel without penalty up until 24 hours before their trip begins. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit in the amount of 100% of what they paid. The credit must be used by 31 December 2021.

American Cruise Lines has cancelled departures through 3 May. Passengers on the cancelled sailings can choose between a future cruise credit for 125% of the amount they paid or a full refund. Future cruise credits must be used by 31 December 2021.

Avalon Waterways

Passengers on any sailing still scheduled to operate can cancel without penalty up to three days before departure.

Avalon has cancelled departures through 30 June. Passengers on those sailings will get the amount they paid back in the form of a future cruise credit plus a bonus credit of $200 per person. They can use this credit to switch to a different trip operated by the line or any of its sister tour companies between now and the end of 2022. Avalon is part of the Globus family of brands, which includes the giant tour companies Globus and Cosmos. 

Azamara

Passengers booked on any voyage departing before 1 September can cancel without penalty up until two days before departure. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit in the amount of 100% of what they paid. Future cruise credits must be used by 31 December 2021.

Azamara has cancelled departures through 10 May. Passengers on cancelled sailings can choose between a full refund or a future cruise credit in the amount of 125% of the fare paid for the cancelled trip. The credit can be applied to any voyage through 31 December 2021.

Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line

Cruise-only passengers travelling in fewer than 30 days can switch to a new sailing date at no charge. Their fares will remain the same. Cruise-only passengers travelling in more than a month can cancel without penalty or switch to another sailing date. If they switch to another sailing date, they’ll receive a $50 onboard credit. Customers booked for a Cruise & Stay package that includes a stay in the Bahamas also can cancel or delay trips.

Bahamas Paradise has cancelled departures through 8 April. Passengers on cancelled sailings will fall under the cancellation policy mentioned above. Those with questions should call 800-374-4363.

Carnival Cruise Line

Passengers booked on any voyage departing before September can postpone the trip without penalty for up to a year. Passengers who postpone will get a future cruise credit in the amount of 100% of the amount they paid that can be applied to the new sailing.

Carnival has cancelled departures in North America through 11 May. Passengers on the cancelled trips can choose between a full refund or a future cruise credit in the amount of 100% of what they paid. If they choose the credit, they will get an additional credit of $300 or $600 per cabin, depending on the length of the cruise. Passengers who choose the credit option must book by 31 December 2020 for a voyage departing before 31 December 2022.

Celebrity Cruises

Passengers booked on any voyage departing before 1 September can cancel without penalty up until two days before departure. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit in the amount of 100% of what they paid. Future cruise credits must be used by 31 December 2021.

Celebrity has cancelled departures through 10 May. Passengers on cancelled sailings can choose between a full refund or a future cruise credit in the amount of 125% of the fare paid for the cancelled trip. The credit can be applied to any voyage through 31 December 2021.

Celestyal Cruises

Passengers booked on departures through 30 June can cancel without penalty up until seven days before departure. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit that can be used for any 2020 or 2021 sailing.

Celestyal has cancelled sailings through the end of April. Passengers on affected sailings can get a full refund or a future cruise credit equal to 120% of the amount they paid for the cancelled trip. Those who choose a credit can use it through December 2021.

Crystal Cruises

Passengers booked on any Crystal voyage can cancel without penalty up until seven days before their trip begins. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit. Future cruise credits must be used by the end of 2022.

Crystal has cancelled all river cruise departures through 25 April as well as Crystal Esprit’s 10 April  and 26 April sailings. Sailings on Crystal’s two larger ocean ships, Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, are cancelled through 3 May and 18 May, respectively.

Passengers on cancelled sailings can get a full refund of their cruise fare plus port charges, taxes, fees and the cost of any air and hotel packages booked through the line. Alternatively, passengers can get a future cruise credit in the amount of 125% of the fare they paid, coupled with a refund of port charges, taxes, fees and the cost of air and hotel packages booked through the line. The credit can be applied to any voyage through 31 December 2022.

Related: Cruise line ‘draws’ 16-mile-wide smile at sea as departure gift for passengers 

Cunard Line

Passengers booked on any Cunard voyage departing through 31 July can cancel without penalty up until 48 hours before departure. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit. Future cruise credits can be applied to any voyage through 31 March 2022, if booked by 31 December 2021.

Cunard has cancelled departures through 15 May. Passengers on cancelled sailings can choose between a full refund or a future cruise credit in the amount of 125% of the fare paid for the cancelled trip. The credit can be applied to any voyage through 31 March 2022, if booked by 31 December 2021.

Disney Cruise Line

Passengers booked on Disney Magic departures through 8 May, and on Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy and Disney Wonder departures through 31 May, can change postpone their trip up until the day before embarkation. Those who postpone will receive a 100% cruise credit that can be applied to another sailing within 15 months of their original sail date.

Disney has cancelled departures through 28 April. Passengers on cancelled sailings can get a full refund or a future cruise credit. Those who choose a credit must use it within 15 months of their original travel date.

Emerald Waterways

Passengers booked on departures through 31 May can cancel without penalty up until 14 days before departure. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit that must be used by 31 December 2021.

Passengers booked on departures between 1 June and 31 December can postpone their trip without fees up to 30 days prior to departure.

Emerald has cancelled Europe and Asia river sailings through the end of April. Passengers on cancelled sailings will get a future cruise credit equal to 125% of the amount they paid for the cancelled trip. The credit must be used with 24 months.

Holland America

Passengers booked on any voyage departing before 31 July can cancel without penalty. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit. Future cruise credits must be redeemed by 31 December for use for a cruise in 2020 or 2021 that is booked by 31 December.

In addition, passengers who make a new booking now through 30 April for a cruise that departs on or before 15 October will be able to cancel that sailing without penalty up to 30 days before departure. Those who cancel will get a future cruise credit.

Holland America has cancelled departures through 14 May. Passengers on cancelled sailings can choose between a full refund or a future cruise credit in the amount of 125% of the fare paid for the cancelled trip. Those who choose the future cruise credit also will get an onboard credit in the amount of $250 per person. The credits must be used by 31 December 2021.

Lindblad Expeditions

Passengers booked on any 2020 voyage can cancel without penalty up until 24 hours before departure. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit that can be used on any future trip through December 2021. The policy will remain in effect through at least 30 June.

MSC Cruises

Passengers booked on any voyage departing on or before 31 July can cancel without penalty up until 48 hours before departure. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit that must be used by 31 December 2021.

MSC Cruises has cancelled departures through 29 May. Passengers on affected sailings can choose between a full refund or a future cruise credit in the amount of 125% of the fare paid for the cancelled trip. The credit can be applied to any voyage through 31 December 2021.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Passengers booked on any voyage departing before 30 September can cancel up to 48 hours before departure without penalty. They’ll receive a future cruise credit that can be used through 31 December 2022.

Norwegian has cancelled departures through 10 May. Passengers on affected sailings can choose between a full refund or a future cruise credit in the amount of 125% of the fare paid for the cancelled trip. The credit can be applied to any voyage through 31 December 2022.

Oceania Cruises

Passengers booked on any voyage departing before 30 September can cancel up to 48 hours before departure without penalty. They’ll receive a future cruise credit that can be used through 31 December 2022. 

Oceania has cancelled departures through 10 May. Passengers on affected sailings can choose between a full refund or a future cruise credit in the amount of 125% of the fare paid for the cancelled trip. The credit can be applied to any voyage through 31 December 2022.

Princess Cruises

Passengers booked on any Princess Cruises voyage departing before 31 July can cancel up to 48 hours before departure without penalty. They’ll receive a future cruise credit that can be used through 31 December 2021.

Princess has cancelled all sailings through 11 May. Passengers on the cancelled trips can request a full refund. Alternately, they can apply the money they paid for the cancelled cruise to a booking for a later sailing.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Passengers booked on any voyage departing before 30 September can cancel up to 48 hours before departure without penalty. They’ll receive a future cruise credit that can be used through 31 December 2022.

Regent has cancelled departures through 10 May. Passengers on affected sailings can choose between a full refund or a future cruise credit in the amount of 125% of the fare paid for the cancelled trip. The credit can be applied to any voyage through 31 December 2022.

Royal Caribbean

Passengers booked on any voyage departing before 1 September can cancel without penalty up until two days before departure. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit in the amount of 100% of what they paid. Future cruise credits must be used by 31 December 2021.

Royal Caribbean has cancelled departures through 10 May. Passengers on cancelled sailings can choose between a full refund or a future cruise credit in the amount of 125% of the fare paid for the cancelled trip. The credit can be applied to any voyage through 31 December 2021.

Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours

Passengers booked on departures through 31 May can cancel without penalty up until 14 days before departure. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit that must be used by 31 December 2021.

Passengers booked on departures between 1 June and 31 December can postpone their trip without fees up to 30 days prior to departure.

Scenic has cancelled Europe and Asia river sailings through the end of April. Passengers on cancelled sailings will get a future cruise credit equal to 125% of the amount they paid for the cancelled trip. The credit must be used with 24 months.

Seabourn

Passengers booked on any cruise departing before 31 July can cancel without penalty as late as 48 hours before departure. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit that must be applied to a future booking by 31 December 2020, or it will be forfeited in its entirety. The credit can be used for any sailing in 2020 or 2021.

Seabourn has cancelled departures through 14 May. Passengers on cancelled sailings can choose between a full refund or a future cruise credit in the amount of 125% of what they paid. The credit can be used through 31 December 2021.

Silversea

Passengers booked on any voyage departing before 1 September can cancel without penalty up until two days before departure. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit in the amount of 100% of what they paid. Future cruise credits must be used by 31 December 2021.

Silversea has cancelled departures through mid-May. Passengers on cancelled sailings can choose between a full refund or a future cruise credit in the amount of 125% of the fare paid for the cancelled trip. The credit can be applied to any voyage through 31 December 2021.

Tauck

Passengers booked on a cruise (or land tour) departing before 30 June can cancel without penalty up until 24 hours before their trip starts. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit that can be used for a 2020 or 2021 trip.

Tauck has cancelled departures through 15 May. The line has said it would reach out directly to customers to discuss their options.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection

Passengers booked on any 2020 cruise can cancel without penalty up to 14 days before departure. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit that can be used for any 2020 or 2021 sailing. The future cruise credit also can be used in 2020 or 2021 at any of Uniworld’s sister brands. Uniworld sister brands include Insight Vacations, Luxury Gold, Trafalgar and African Travel.

Uniworld has cancelled all Europe departures through 23 April. Passengers on affected sailings can rebook for another trip in 2020 or 2021, or receive a future cruise credit good for 24 months.

Viking

Passengers can postpone any cruise at any time up until 24 hours before departure with all cancellation fees waived. Passengers will receive a voucher for future travel valid for 24 months that can be used on any Viking cruise (river, ocean or expedition). The policy is applicable for any current booking and new reservations made through 30 April.

Viking has cancelled departures through 30 June. Passengers on cancelled sailings can choose between a full refund or a credit voucher good toward a future cruise. The credit voucher will be valued at 125% of the amount passengers paid for the cancelled sailing and be good for 24 months.

Virgin Voyages

Initial sailings for the first Virgin Voyages ship, Scarlet Lady, have been postponed until August. The vessel had been scheduled to sail its first “sneak-a-peek” voyage with paying passengers out of Miami on 26 March.

Passengers on affected sailings can choose between a full refund or a credit for a future cruise. If they choose the credit, they will get 200% of the amount they paid to apply to a future sailing. Passengers also can get up to $500 in onboard credit if they rebook a sailing before 30 June. Those who choose a refund will get a 25% credit toward a future cruise in addition to all their money back.

Windstar Cruises

Passengers booked on any cruise through 31 December 2021, can cancel without penalty up until 15 days before departure. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit that must be used within a year of its issue.

Windstar has cancelled departures through the end of April. Passengers on affected sailings can get a full refund or a future cruise credit equal to 125% of the amount they paid for the cancelled trip. Those who choose a credit can use it anytime in the next 24 months.

Featured image courtesy of Princess Cruises 

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