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In response to travelers' rising concerns over the worldwide spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, many cruise lines are modifying their cancellation, booking and even payment policies to provide their customers increased peace-of-mind, options and flexibility, both for those with cruises already booked and those considering booking a cruise vacation during the upcoming summer and autumn seasons.
Many of these policies have been issued on a temporary basis in light of the evolving COVID-19 situation and may continue to adapt as circumstances unfold. Some cruise lines are also offering incentives alongside these policies for guests who choose to keep their scheduled departure dates as already booked. What follows is a summary of some major cruise carriers' modified policies:
Carnival Cruise Line is putting measures in place to provide guests with additional rescheduling options and flexibility for those with vacations booked between now and May 31, 2020, as well as incentives to proceed with their plans.
-Customers booked for sailings between March 9 and March 31, 2020, can reschedule their booking up to 72 hours prior to departure without. The Future Cruise Credit (FCC) issued in lieu of their trip must be used to sail by March 31, 2021.
-Those booked on sailings departing between April 1 and May 31 will have the ability to change their booking to a future date through March 31, 2020.
Those who choose to keep their bookings during this time frame will receive Onboard Credit (OBC) amounts of:
-$100 per cabin for 3- and 4-day cruises
-$150 per cabin for 5-day cruises
-$200 per cabin for 6-day and longer cruises
Guests who choose to go through with their scheduled sailings will automatically receive the credit in their 'Sign & Sail' onboard account.
Crystal Cruises has implemented new cancellation guidelines for active and new bookings on upcoming departures aboard Crystal Serenity, Crystal Symphony, Crystal Esprit and Crystal Endeavor, as reported by Cruise Critic.
-Now through April 30, 2020, for cancellations made up to 31 days prior to embarkation, guests can receive the equivalent of their cancellation penalties in the form of a Future Cruise Credit. The FCC is then valid towards Crystal's ocean, river, yacht and expedition voyages scheduled for embarkation on or before December 31, 2021.
Disney Cruise Line has just released an update to its previously-announced, temporary policy changes aimed at providing its guests with further flexibility at this time.
-Guests currently booked on European cruises having departure dates through July 25, 2020, can change their reservations up until the day before their scheduled embarkation and receive a 100-percent Future Cruise Credit, which must be applied towards another sailing within fifteen months of the original sail date.
- Guests booked for the European sailings departing July 13, 18 and 25, 2020, will be permitted to delay submitting their final payments up to 30 days prior to the sailing.
All FCCs are non-refundable and standard prevailing rates for future cruises will still apply. Travel agents representing guests who would like to rebook may do so by calling 1-866-325-2112.
Holland America Line has likewise made short-term alterations to its cancellation policy and, in the current atmosphere of uncertainty, launched a "Book with Confidence" program for reassurance about future bookings.
-Guests with existing reservations for upcoming voyages may cancel their cruise or Alaska Land+Sea Journey on departures through May 31, 2020, and be issued a Future Cruise Credit for their paid fare amount to be used towards another cruise in 2020 or 2021.
-Cancellations must be made at least 72 hours in advance of the departure date and no later than March 31, 2020.
-Guests booked between now and March 9, 2020, will also be covered for cancellations under this new policy, despite being within 72 hours of sailing.
-Future Cruise Credits must be applied towards a booking by December 31, 2020.
-As an incentive, guests who choose to keep their bookings through May 31, 2020, will receive an Onboard Spending Credit of $200 per stateroom or $100 per person for voyages longer than seven days, and $100 per stateroom or $50 per person for voyages under six days in duration.
Under Holland America's new "Book with Confidence" program, guests making new reservations by April 30, 2020, for departures through October 15, 2020, can cancel for any reason up to 30 days prior to embarkation and receive a Future Cruise Credit in the amount of any applicable cancellation fees.
Holland America also offers optional Cancellation Protection Plans on new and existing cruises or Alaska Land+Sea Journeys, which allow guests to cancel up to 24 hours before or even right up to the time of departure with 80- to 90-percent refund rates.
Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is also adopting and introducing its new "Peace of Mind" policy to afford guests even more freedom and flexibility.
-Guests who book any cruise by September 30, 2020, will retain the right to cancel their cruises up to 48 hours prior to the sail date and still receive a 100-percent Future Cruise Credit.
-The Peace of Mind policy applies to new bookings, as well as all existing reservations, beginning March 10, 2020.
-Any FCCs issued will need to be applied towards another NCL cruise departure through December 31, 2022.
Oceania Cruises has announced its new "Traveler's Assurance" booking policy, guaranteeing no-penalty cancellations and a best-price guarantee, and made effective immediately.
-Guests may cancel up to 48 hours prior to embarkation and receive a Future Cruise Credit for 100-percent of the cruise fare paid with no penalties.
-The policy is valid on all existing reservations and new bookings made by April 30, 2020, and applicable to any voyages departing between March 10 and September 30, 2020.
-Future Cruise Credits must be redeemed within one year from the date issued for travel departing no later than December 31, 2022.
What's more, consumers and travel advisors can book with supreme confidence knowing that, up to the day of sailing, they can take advantage of any other applicable promotions that may pop up offering better pricing or value.
Princess Cruises is temporarily modifying its cancellation policy for cruises and cruise tours departing through May 31, 2020. The specifics vary by departure date:
-April 3 or earlier: Cancel up to 72 hours prior to sailing to receive Future Cruise Credit (FCC) for 100-percent of cancellation fees
-April 4 - May 31: Cancel by March 31, 2020, and receive FCC for 100-percent of cancellation fees
-June 1 - June 30: Final Payment moves to 60 days prior to sailing (from 90 days)
Departure dates are defined as the start date of guests' cruises or cruise tours, whichever is earlier. The revised policy excludes chartered cruises.
Guests who choose to keep their currently-scheduled bookings for sailing between March 9 and May 31, 2020, will be issued the following Onboard Credit amounts:
-$100 per cabin for 3-day and 4-day cruises
Riviera River Cruisesis also temporarily updating is deposit and cancellation policies in response to the current climate.
-On new reservations, guest deposits will be fully refundable up to 60 days after booking.
-After 60 days, clients who cancel their plans can have their deposit transferred to any other 2020 or 2021 Riviera River Cruises sailing.
-Those who have deposited, but not fully paid can delay paying in full up to 30 days prior to departure or transfer their deposit to any other 2020 sailing.
-Clients who have paid in full and are scheduled for travel to areas that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are affected by COVID-19, will be offered a full Future Cruise Credit should they choose to cancel.
-Clients traveling to areas deemed non-affected by the CDC who chose to cancer will incur standard cancellation penalties.
Royal Caribbean has instated its "Cruise with Confidence" policy, enabling guests to cancel their plans up to just two days prior to departure. Up to 48 hours before sailing, guests can cancel and still receive full credit for their fare, usable on any future sailing of the guest's choice for travel in 2020 or 2021.
The "Cruise with Confidence" measure applies to both new and existing bookings across the company's four global brands-Royal Caribbean International,Celebrity Cruises, Azamara and Silversea-and covers all voyages with a sailing date on or before July 31, 2020.
Silversea Cruises is temporarily easing its new-booking, rebooking and cancellation policies. Those who book for sailings departing between June 1 and December 31, 2020, can cancel until just 30 days prior to departure, paying only a customary administrative fee on the cruise fare.
On both existing and future bookings for all sailings departing between June 1 and July 31, 2020, Silversea guests have a few options:
-Those who cancel at least 30 days prior to their sailing date can opt to receive either a 100-percent cash refund or 100-percent Future Cruise Credit refund (see Silversea's full policy amendment for details)
-Those canceling their trip between 30 days and 2 days prior to departure will receive a Future Cruise Credit for 100 percent of their fare.
-Cancellations occurring with two days of departure will incur full cancellation penalties and are also subject to a $200 administrative fee.
Laurie Baratti is a San Diego-based journalist whose work has previously appeared in publications like TravelAge West, SPACE,...
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