Monday, August 11, 2014

Cruise Line Cancellation & Refund Policies

In the news industry there’s a saying, “If it bleeds, it leads.“ That’s been the case in some recent news stories about cruise lines and their cancellation policies. In one instance a little boy was diagnosed with a deadly disease and another situation involved the death of a family member just prior to sailing. In both cases, the families had not purchased travel insurance and had to cancel their cruises within the penalty period. They lost the money they’d paid for a cruise vacation because, in their opinion, the evil cruise line was only interested in profits and would not give them a refund or reschedule them on a later sailing.

In one case reported in the Washington Post, the traveler said, “the cruise line never informed him of its refund procedure.” While it’s unfortunate that bad things happen to nice people, that excuse doesn’t hold water. I checked the websites of a half dozen major cruise lines and all publish their cancellation policies online. Additionally, those policies are spelled out in cruise line brochures, usually under a section called “Terms & Conditions” or “Things to Know.”

Cancellation and refund policies vary depending on the cruise line and length of the cruise—some are even different for holiday sailings. As a rule, depending on your booking, if you cancel at least 60 to 90 days before departure, you will get a full refund. As an example, using Royal Caribbean’s policy of cancelling at least 75 days before departure for a full refund on a weeklong cruise, if you cancel in the period of 74-57 days before departure, you will forfeit your deposit amount; 56-29 days, you forfeit 50% of the total fare (excluding taxes & fees); 28-15 days, forfeit 75% of total fare (excluding taxes & fees); and if you cancel 14 days or less before departure you will receive no refund except for taxes and fees.

Interestingly, the same people who complain that they shouldn’t have to purchase insurance to cover their vacations, probably don’t think twice about purchasing insurance to cover the loss of their vehicle in an accident or their home in the case of a fire or natural disaster. Do they expect the auto maker to replace their car or the home builder to construct them a new house? No, but they expect the cruise line to absorb the loss if they are uninsured and can’t sail.

I’m not unsympathetic to the losses of others, but I recognize life’s full of unexpected tragedies. That’s why I purchase travel insurance. We all have to take responsibility for our personal decisions.

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