By now you have probably heard about the coronavirus outbreaks that have taken place onboard two cruise ships. First there was Princess Cruise’s Diamond Princess off the coast of Japan, which resulted in the ship being quarantined for two weeks and in 696 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization (with seven deaths). And now, the company’s Grand Princess, which is currently docked in Oakland, California, has had nearly two dozen confirmed cases onboard.
Furthermore, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that travelers, especially older adults and those with underlying health issues, defer cruise ship travel because of the increased risk of person-to-person spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19. Having some flexibility when booking a cruise is critical right now.
In an effort to alleviate customer concerns, cruise lines have been systematically rolling out enhanced booking policies that make it a lot easier to change or cancel an existing cruise booking.
Several cruise lines are calling it a “cruise with confidence” policy, and many of them include the ability for customers to cancel up to 48 hours before sailing and still get a full cruise credit for their fare that they can apply toward any future sailing in 2020 or 2021.
Cruise lines that have the new 48-hour cancellation policy include Azamara Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Silversea Cruises.
The window within which the cruise needs to be booked in order to access the more relaxed policy varies by cruise line. For instance, for Azamara, Celebrity, MSC Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Silversea, the policy applies to new and existing bookings for cruises that depart on or before July 31, 2020.
For Norwegian, Regent, and Oceania, the policy applies to new and existing bookings for cruises that take place now through September 30, 2020, for a future cruise credit that can be used on sailings through December 31, 2022. (Oceania’s policy requires that the future cruise credit be redeemed within a year of being issued.)
Oceania also instituted a best price guarantee that will allow passengers to redeem a promotional offer or better cruise fare, should one occur, up until the day of sailing.
Disney Cruise Line is allowing customers booked on European sailings that depart on or before July 25 to change their reservation up until the day before the cruise for a full cruise credit that can be used for a future sailing that takes place up to 15 months from the original cruise date.
For sailings on Disney Magic between now and May 8, 2020, and on Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy, and Disney Wonder between now and May 31, 2020, customers can change their reservation up until the day before their cruise and get a full future cruise credit to be used up to a year from the original sailing date.
Seabourn passengers who book their cruise now through April 30, 2020, for sailings that depart between April 1 and October 15, will be able to cancel up to 30 days prior to sailing and receive a full future cruise credit (to be booked within 90 days after the cancellation) for any sailing that departs before December 31, 2021.
Princess Cruises, the cruise line that has had two ships directly affected by coronavirus, has amended its cancellation policy for cruises, too. For sailings that depart now through April 3, 2020, passengers can cancel up to 72 hours prior to sailing and receive a full future credit, and for sailings that depart between April 4 and May 31, passengers who cancel by March 31 will get a full future cruise credit.
Understandably, these policies may not be enough to calm everyone’s concerns. But for those who are still determined to cruise, they can at least take solace in the fact that if they want to delay their cruise, they now can—without penalty. And thankfully the cruise doesn’t have to be booked tomorrow. There’s time to wait and see how the situation plays out.