There’s almost a 0% chance you’ll be “bumped” from your cruise. And even if a cruise line does overbook your cruise, leaving you behind, the likely compensation should definitely ease the pain.
Many people didn’t think this was even possible before news reports out of Brisbane, Australia started circulating last November.
Headlines were made when Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas set sail from Brisbane, leaving behind several passengers with confirmed bookings. At least 11 cabins that had been booked by potential passengers were given to other cruisers.
The affected customers received a letter from the cruise line outlining their options due to the oversold ship. One option was to wait on standby for a possible stateroom assignment. A couple of waiting families or groups were ultimately allowed to board, but when the ship reached capacity, these 11 remaining parties were left to make other arrangements.
The impacted guests were ultimately offered a full refund, in addition to future cruise credit equivalent to their original cruise fare. They even received an included beverage package – not a bad consolation prize.
How is a cruise ship overbooked?
Because of the high demand the cruise industry has seen in 2023 and well into 2024, cruise lines allow for a few extra bookings on a ship, knowing that some last-minute cancellations will open up staterooms.
The reality is it’s a high priority for these cruise lines to sail at full capacity, getting the most out of every sailing.
Often a cruise ship will sail at 105% or greater capacity. This simply means that all of the cabins are occupied, and some have more than two guests in a stateroom, since double-capacity figures are used to reach that 100% figure.
While not common, incidents like the one on Quantum of the Seas are not exclusive to Royal Caribbean. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce your risk of being affected by overbooking:
Read more: 7 biggest cruise cabin booking mistakes
How to avoid getting bumped on an overbooked cruise?
The Royal Caribbean customers who were bumped from their ship in November of 2023 had something in common. They had booked staterooms with a “guaranteed fare”.
Cruise lines will offer these guaranteed prices at a lower rate if you allow them to assign you a cabin at a later time. You get to choose a cabin category at a lower price, and you’re “guaranteed” that category.
Keep in mind that these are the “leftover” cabins after all the other passengers have chosen their own staterooms.
Most know the risk is getting a location that’s less than ideal, but very few know it could also mean they could get bumped off an oversold ship because of it. Although again, this is a very rare occurrence.
Avoid guaranteed fares
Choosing your own stateroom can keep this from happening to you. It really shouldn’t happen in the first place, and some cruise lines are trying to address the issue as demand for cruising continues to heat up.
But if you have picked out and paid for your specific stateroom rather than a guaranteed cabin category, you won’t have to worry about being bumped off the list.
Check in early
If you do decide to book a cruise with a guaranteed fare, you should take care of check-in as early as possible. I always set a reminder on my calendar on the exact date that I can check in online.
The exact number of days before a sailing that you can check in varies by different cruise lines.
With Royal Caribbean you can check in 45 days before a cruise and with Carnival it’s 14 days. But double-check with your particular cruise line.
The check-in process will expedite the cabin selection process and you will be less likely to get the dreaded cruise bump.
Get some travel insurance
And thirdly, always pay the extra money for travel insurance. It might seem like a waste of money or excess spending at the time, but one incident like this will make it all worth it.
Even though those bumped cruise travelers were given a refund and future cruise credit, they still incurred other travel costs that they were not anticipating.
In addition to trip interruption coverage, cruise travel insurance can give you peace of mind if something comes up at the last minute and you need to cancel your cruise.
Read more: Cruise travel insurance and why you need it
What to do if you do get bumped
It’s unlikely this will ever happen to you, but if it does here are a few pointers.
- Stay calm, be polite and talk it out – While it’s no fun to miss your cruise, keeping your cool and having a friendly conversation with the cruise line can really help. Just tell them clearly what you’d like (maybe a refund, or sailing on another day) and see what they can do. You might be surprised.
- Understand your options – Whether it’s a full refund, future cruise credit, or a rebooking, make sure you know all of your options first.
- Negotiate – While the cruise line will present initial options, you have the right to discuss additional possibilities. Politely present alternative sailings you find suitable or inquire about compensation for non-refundable travel arrangements impacted by the overbooking.
While overbooking is rare it can happen. Embracing early booking, strategic cabin selection, and awareness of cruise line policies. This way you can minimize the risk and maximize your chances of a worry-free cruise.
If these kinds of incidences happened more regularly, it would only incentivize trying to get bumped in order to enjoy some of the make-goods that are often offered by cruise lines. But with cruise lines trying to take advantage of the strong demand for cruising, it’s likely this could happen again in 2024.