When booking your cruise vacation, having to cancel doesn’t generally cross your mind. Nobody has a desire to cancel their much-anticipated cruise.
This article will detail how the cancellation process works for some major cruise lines and what you need to know before you consider cancelling.
Varying circumstances outside of your control such as health emergencies for yourself, or a loved one, death, financial reasons, or even natural disasters can cause you to put a halt on your plans rather quickly, and unexpectedly.
To make matters even more difficult, attempting to decipher the cancellation policy enforced by your specific cruise line can be extremely taxing, especially if your knowledge on this subject is limited, or you have no experience with cruise cancellations.
Cruise line cancellation policies are very complex, and unique to the corporation, so it is important to read the fine print outlined in the documentation.
Important Note on Travel Insurance
While there is no simple solution to ensure every dime you have invested in your cruise will be secure in the event of an unforeseen emergency, purchasing Travel Insurance is highly recommended for a myriad of reasons.
There are several companies with varying tiers of travel insurance, which can be purchased as a one-time thing for those who don’t travel often, or you can even invest in a year-long plan, which can be cost-efficient for seasoned travelers.
Travel insurance covers several things outside of the cost of your cruise itself, such as: luggage, airfare, technology, your documentation (i.e., Passports, birth certificates), sickness or death of loved ones who are back home, or even the event of an emergency related to a pet at home. The amount of coverage you have depends entirely on the plan that you invest in, and the company you purchase with.
Without travel insurance, the cruise line will typically only refund the cost of your cruise alone depending on how far out your departure is, but nothing else. For example, if you flew to Fort Lauderdale for a 7-night Caribbean sailing, your flights may not be reimbursed without travel insurance.
Additionally, oftentimes excursions will not be covered, especially if they are booked with a contracted, third-party not owned by the cruise line.
In effort to gain a true understanding of how these cancellation penalties look across the board between different cruise lines, here are some examples of how canceling a cruise is handled within major cruise lines:
Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival’s cancellation policy applies to everything that is booked through Carnival, such as: the cruise itself, any airfare, excursions, or packages.
Your refund will depend entirely on how close your cancellation date is to the date of sailing. For example:
- Should you cancel within 75-56 days prior to sailing, you forfeit your deposit, but receive the rest of your refund.
- If you cancel between 29-15 days, you may only receive 75% in return of your investment.
- Cancellations at the 2-week mark prior to sailing will forfeit the entire cost.
Disney Cruise Line
Disney Cruise line has more strict guidelines that they are dedicated to following, as entertainment, and experience is something that they plan for accordingly.
Non-refundable particulars for Disney include special ticketed events, especially when sailing around the holidays, special promotions on staterooms, especially those of high status, such as suites, and verandas.
It is important to note that should you think to transfer your cruise to someone else, this is not permittable with Disney, as name changes on reservations is considered a cancellation.
The percentage of your refund amount will truly depend on which stateroom category you choose. The suite-class rooms have a shorter window to see a larger percentage of their money returned should cancelling be of concern. Additionally, the length of your cruise does determine this as well.
One to Five Night Cruises on Disney:
- If you cancel 89-45 days prior to setting sail, you will only forfeit your deposit.
- Should you cancel between 44-30 days, or 29-15 days prior, you will only see 50% of your fare returned, and 25%, respectively.
- Cancelling with Disney Cruise Line on any sailing 14-days prior will mean that you lose out on your money.
Holland America Cruise Line
Holland America addresses their cancellation policies depending on the specific itinerary. Additionally, their cancellation policy also applies to airfare, accommodations/hotel stays, and any ground transfers.
Holland America is known for longer sailings that can span 30-90 days. Due to this, their cancellation policy is specifically curated depending on which sailing you are on. Cancelling a longer cruise looks like:
- 120-91 days prior: You only risk your deposit.
- 75 days or less: You risk the entirety of the cruise cost.
On their shorter sailings, the cancellation timeline is slightly more forgiving:
- On seven-night sailings, you have 21 days prior to sailing to receive some of your investment back.
- On six-night sailings, or shorter, you have 15 days.
The cancellation guidelines for MSC Cruises apply to not only the cruise itself, but the airfare, hotels, and additional transportation so long as they have been booked through MSC. All cancellation requests must be made in writing and sent to MSC – this can be done by registered letter, email or fax.
Name changes are permitted with MSC; however, this request must be initiated, and completed prior to 7-days of check-in departure date, otherwise it will be considered a cancellation.
Otherwise, MSC’s cancellation policy is standard for every passenger on board, and for every itinerary:
- Cancellations made 60 days prior forfeit their non-fundable deposit.
- Any cancellation made between 59-10 days forfeits 75% of the contract.
- And cancellations made 9 days prior to sailing, and thereafter forfeit the entirety of their contract.
Norwegian Cruise Line
On Norwegian Cruise Line, the cruise cancellation guidelines pertain specifically to the cruise length (not itinerary, but rather, the number of days/nights), and the cabin category. All guidelines recorded in Norwegian’s cancellation policy apply toward any excursions, airfare, accommodations, and any other form of travel.
Like Disney Cruise Line, guests are not permitted to simply swap guests in the event of a last-minute emergency, as name changes are considered cancellations on Norwegian.
Those passengers staying in mini-suites or Norwegian’s Haven, have less time to cancel compared to the interior, or porthole cabins.
- If a passenger is staying in a mini suite, they have 30 days to cancel before sailing to receive any funds in return.
- For those in the Haven, or traveling during the holiday season, the allocated timeframe is 60 days.
Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean is amongst one of the more flexible cruise lines regarding cancelling a cruise vacation. Their deposits, and taxes are non-refundable regardless of the sailing, or how far away the date of departure is.
Instead, Royal Caribbean adheres to a cancellation policy that is solely dependent upon when the cancellation was made in comparison to when the ship is sailing.
- For 4-night or less sailings, you can cancel 75 days prior with no penalty, outside of your non-refundable deposit.
- On any 5-night or more sailing, you must cancel at the 90-day mark to ensure your trip is entirely refundable.
- For both 4-night or less sailings, and 5-night or greater, to receive any form of refund, a cancellation must be made 30 days prior.
How to Cancel a Cruise
Although the information regarding cancelling a cruise can be a lot to digest, especially during a trying time, the act of initiating and completing the cancellation is very simple.
Each cruise line has designated representatives to help passengers book, plan, and in these situations, cancel their cruises. To best ensure your cruise is officially cancelled, and to discuss how you will receive your refund, and how much you are entitled to receive, it is always recommended to call the cruise line directly.
In the specific event wherein, you are cancelling for medical reasons, for yourself, or someone else, you can submit medical documentation, such as a doctor’s note, to the cruise line directly. This can ensure a proper refund and is often required for those with travel insurance.
Contacting Your Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is meant to act as a cushion should you need it, and most end up not using it. However, in the instance you find yourself in a situation where you do actually need it, it is your responsibility to initiate the action.
You can start by calling your travel insurance provider’s phone number and ask how to submit a claim regarding your situation. The representative will be able to provide you with detailed instructions on what documentation is needed, and who to follow up with accordingly. It is important that this step be acted on immediately, as some cruise lines do have deadlines for submitting claims.
While a cruise vacation is meant to be a relaxing, and refreshing recharge, it is important to educate yourself about the possibilities that may occur, and how to address them in the best possible manner.
It is equally important to make yourself aware of your particular cruise line’s policies, and procedures regarding penalties for cancelling a cruise prior to sailing. Equipping yourself with knowledge, and the correct tools, such as obtaining travel insurance, can set you up for smooth sailing.
This guest post was written by C. Ingram