Watch out, cruisers: Harsher cancellation policies are returning
As cruise lines roll back mask mandates and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention drops its travel warning for cruises, four of the world's eight most popular cruise lines have tightened cancellation policies. These changes will make it more difficult for you to scrap or change your upcoming sailing without taking a significant financial hit.
For more than two years, since COVID-19 first put the cruise industry on hiatus, lines have made their cancellation policies extra flexible to account for both the chance that passengers could become ill between booking and sailing but also to allow some leeway for cruisers feeling anxious about embarking on a voyage during a pandemic.
For most of the pandemic, if you, the passenger, decided you simply didn't want to go and canceled on your own, you had the option of either your money back or a future cruise credit, which you could use to book a sailing at a time when you felt safer.
As travel demand increases and COVID-19 cases dwindle, particularly on board ships, it seems most major lines are saying that safer time is now.
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On March 31, 2022, the Cruise With Confidence programs for sister companies Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean International expired. The policies allowed booked passengers to cancel for any reason within two days of the cruise departure and receive a future cruise credit equal to the amount paid for the sailing.
Currently, cruises with those two lines are only covered if they were booked by March 31, 2022, and are slated to set sail by Sept. 30, 2022. The cancel-for-any-reason offer is not valid on bookings made after March 31.
Websites for Carnival Cruise Line and Disney Cruise Line seem to indicate that those lines' flexible policies have also been scrapped.
Holland America Line, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises have chosen to base their cancel-for-any-reason policies on whether the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services determines that a public health emergency still exists due to COVID-19. In mid-January, the health emergency was extended.
Therefore, these four lines still allow you to cancel as few as 48 hours prior to departure if you're feeling uncertain -- even if you're not sick -- and receive either a refund or a future cruise credit.
Holland America extended its Flexible Cancellation Policy so that cruises booked by May 31, 2022, and departing by Sept. 30, 2022, are eligible to be fully refunded within 30 days of sailing for passengers who change their minds.
For MSC, cruises booked by May 31, 2022, and sailing by March 31, 2023, can be changed up to 5 p.m. 48 hours prior to embarkation day if you're just not feeling like you're ready to sail.
Until further notice, Norwegian's Book With Confidence program allows passengers to opt for future cruise credit if they'd like to postpone their voyage to a later date for any reason.
Like HAL's policy, Princess' Book With Confidence guarantee has been extended so that voyages purchased by May 31, 2022, and scheduled to depart by Sept. 30, 2022, are covered for any reason -- not just illness or exposure.
There is one policy these eight lines agree still needs to be in place. All still permit passengers a full refund or future cruise credit if they, a member of their household or a member of their same-cabin travel party tests positive for COVID-19 -- most within 10 to 14 days (depending on the line) of the scheduled sailing date.
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