How Cruises are Different Than Other Travel When It Comes to Cancellations

Put simply, if you have to cancel a fully paid-for cruise for a variety of perfectly valid reasons, you may not get your money refunded. That’s because cruise lines generally have a very rigid schedule for you to make payments and tight rules around refunds.

The most important date in this schedule is the drop-dead date – a date by which a cruise line needs to have all your money if you’re going on the cruise.

Before the drop-dead date, depending on when you change your mind about your cruise, you may have the latitude to change cruise dates, switch ships, or even cancel, if you’re willing to lose your deposit. Refunds are less impossible, too.

After the drop-dead date all flexibility vanishes, and your chances of getting a refund diminish significantly.

If you listen to the cruise lines, many people are tearfully heartbroken each year to learn they can’t get their money back, but there’s nothing they can do. Consider this Facebook post a typical example.

Not to get all punny here, but you have to bow to cruise lines’ stern cancellation policy. It’s stricter than the policies of many airlines and hotels. And you know a cancellation policy is rigid when it makes the airlines look good.

See why cruise trips especially deserve travel protection

Refund specifics

What about refunds on cancellations before a drop-dead date? There’s better news there.

Up to between 90 and 120 days of your sailing date, you’ll generally find that the deposit is non-refundable but other payments may be refundable. After that, there’s a two-to-three-week window where you may get up to half of your payment refunded if you have to cancel. 

If you cancel between a month and a week of your sail date you may get up to 25% back. And if you cancel in that week before you sail (i.e., after the drop-dead date), you shouldn’t expect to get anything back.

These are general parameters. Every cruise line has a slightly different cancellation policy that you should check before you book.

Some other things to note:

  • Longer or more expensive cruises have stricter timelines. The more you pay and the longer the itinerary, the earlier you'll face penalties.
  • Refunds vs. future cruise credit: Some cruise lines may offer refunds for cancellations made far in advance, while closer to the departure date you may only be eligible for a future cruise credit (complete with expiration dates). Check your specific cruise line's policy.

But wait – there’s good news! Some cruise lines have jumped on the fully-refundable bandwagon and offer the option of purchasing a fully refundable booking. Not all cruise lines or cruises offer this option, so it’s best to check with a cruise specialist for details.

Cancel ‎for Any Reason Travel Insurance: Is it Worth it?

When you might get a refund

What about extenuating circumstances? Again, not all is lost. Cruise lines have a list of circumstances that might qualify you for a full or partial refund at any time, including:

  • Cruise-Line Cancellation: If the cruise line cancels the voyage or significantly alters the itinerary because of weather, disease, or a ship issue.
  • Death in the Family: If someone dies in a traveler’s immediate family.
  • Mandatory Military Deployment: If you or your traveling companion is deployed before the cruise.

We used the word “might” for a reason. Issuing these refunds is strictly at the cruise lines’ discretion.

In case you haven’t picked up on this, relying on a cruise line for a refund is a bit of a gamble. So what recourse do you have?

Learn more about Trip Cancellation coverage that comes with travel protection

Travel Protection

The answer to drop-dead dates is to take matters into your own hands by buying travel insurance with assistance services from Generali Global Assistance.

With our plans, there are about 20 covered reasons for Trip Cancellation and you’re covered right up until you leave on your trip. That’s a lot more travel protection than you get with the cruise lines’ cancellation policies.

The plans offered by Generali Global Assistance also include robust coverage for medical emergencies and emergency medical evacuation.

This is important because ­the medical care you might receive on a cruise ship can be expensive and not included in the price of the cruise. Also, being evacuated off of a cruise ship is not cheap, either.

As long as it’s a strong market for cruises, expect cruise lines to retain their tight cancellation policies.

Given that, travel protection is the best way for you to help protect that valuable investment.

Get a quote today.


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