Cruising during COVID-19: Cancellation, refund policies vary by cruise line
- The CDC is advising travelers to avoid cruises, regardless of vaccination status.
- Options for canceling cruises vary by line. And canceling doesn't always mean a full refund.
Travelers may be weighing whether they want to proceed with their cruise plans or postpone them, as COVID-19 cases surge with the highly transmissible omicron variant and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises people to avoid cruise travel, regardless of vaccination status.
If you go, there could be changes to your itinerary, including port stops and more onboard restrictions when it comes to masks and vaccination requirements.
If you decide to cancel, here are some things to consider.
Options for canceling cruises vary by line, and canceling doesn't always mean a full refund. It may mean a cruise credit. Some lines are stricter than others, while some have more flexible options as a result of the pandemic.
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Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Silversea Cruises
Royal Caribbean Group's "Cruise with Confidence" program has been in place since March 2020 and applies to flagship line Royal Caribbean International, Silversea Cruises and Celebrity Cruises, Lyan Sierra-Caro, spokesperson for the cruise line, told USA TODAY in December.
"It allows guests to cancel up to 48 hours before their departure – for any reason at all – and get 100% of the value back in a future cruise credit that they can use towards any sailing," Sierra-Caro said.
If passengers test positive for the coronavirus before the cruise is set to depart, they can get a 100% fare refund.
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Carnival Cruise Line cancellation policy
Carnival Cruise Line is providing an option for passengers with cruises scheduled to sail this month to cancel.
"Currently, we are providing guests with cruises booked through Jan. 31, 2022, who may want to consider sailing at a different time, the option to rebook at a later date or receive a full refund," spokesperson Chelsea Stromfeld told USA TODAY Tuesday evening.
The line has had options in place for passengers affected by COVID-19 who need to cancel.
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Holland America Line cancellation policy
Holland America Line, a Carnival cruise line, has a "flexible" cancellation policy in place for cruises booked by March 31 for ships departing through Sept. 30.
"You can cancel for any reason up to 30 days before departure and automatically receive a Future Cruise Credit with our Flexible Cancellation," the cruise line said on its website. "Additionally, you may cancel up to your sailing date if you test positive for COVID-19 and will also receive a Future Cruise Credit."
Princess Cruises cancellation policy
Princess Cruises, another Carnival line, has its own "Book with Confidence" policy.
"We don't think finances should affect decisions about your health, so if you feel ill and need to change your plans, we'll protect your cruise investment," the cruise line said on its website.
As part of its policy, passengers can cancel up to 30 days before sailing and receive cancellation fees as a cruise credit on voyages departing through April 30 and bookings made through Feb. 28.
Within 30 days of sailing, the cruise line has options under its "COVID-19 Protection Program" for passengers who may be affected by COVID-19.
Norwegian Cruise Line cancellation policy
Norwegian Cruise Line has a "Peace of Mind" policy for pandemic bookings.
For cruises departing through April, passengers can cancel up to 61 days before sailing for a full refund, including fees.
And for new and existing bookings created by Jan. 31 for any sailing departing through May 31 passengers can cancel for a full refund in the form of a Future Cruise Credit to use for a sailing embarking through Dec. 31.
MSC Cruises cancellation policy
For bookings made through March 31 for MSC cruises through March 31, 2023, passengers can change their cruise up to 48 hours before departure.
"They can move their money to another cruise that sails on or before March 31, 2023 (any ship, any sail date without penalty)," Stephen Schuler, vice president of communications for MSC, told USA TODAY in December. "The only exception to this is guests booked on MSC World Cruise or World Cruise segments."
Disney Cruise Line cancellation policy
Through Sept. 30, Disney Cruise Line has relaxed its cancellation fee schedule.
"The cancellation fee schedule has been temporarily relaxed from beginning as early as 119 days prior to sailing to beginning 59 days prior to sailing for Guests booked in non-Suite and non-Concierge categories," Disney said on its website.
For passengers who booked in the Suite and Concierge categories on Disney ships and for passengers who are booked to sail on Disney Wish's maiden voyage scheduled to depart June 9, cancellation fees "in excess of the deposit amount will temporarily begin at 59 days prior to sailing."
Some other reservations, such as those for "Inside, Outside and Verandah Categories with Restrictions," remain nonrefundable and nontransferable, according to Disney.
Check your cruise line's cancellation policy
If you're nervous about getting on a ship and want to cancel or postpone your trip, check your cruise line's website for cancellation policies, call customer service or your travel agent.