BookSafe works like a travel insurance policy. The cost of the plan varies based on cruise fare, but starts at $29 per person. Under the plan, if you lose your job and need to cancel a cruise -- at any time, even the day before -- you will be reimbursed for the total amount paid (with no cancellation fees) for everyone in the cabin, as long as a protection plan was purchased for each traveler. BookSafe covers everything booked through NCL, even air/sea packages; the only thing you won't be reimbursed for is the cost of the plan itself. To be eligible for reimbursement, you must have been an active employee in your company for at least one year at the time of cancellation.
BookSafe can be purchased by anyone (including U.K.-based cruise travelers) any time prior to final payment. The program goes into effect on February 26 and is eligible for cruises departing on or after May 1.
The plan is certainly timely and relevant to the current economic climate, but it's not necessarily original. Airline JetBlue is already offering the JetBlue Promise Program, which will refund airfares and waive cancellation fees if you lose your job and need to cancel a flight (though unlike NCL's plan, this guarantee is offered at no extra cost to the consumer). Outside of travel, car manufacturer Hyundai is offering Hyundai Assurance Plus, also free of charge, which covers your car payments for three months if you lose your job -- and if you still can't afford the car, you can return it to the dealer.
Even though BookSafe is not free, there are advantages to choosing it over a "cancel for any reason" rider on your travel insurance policy. For example, we priced out a travel insurance policy from well-known insurance provider, Travel Guard, for a weeklong cruise to the Caribbean costing $499 per person. Though the cost to add "cancel for any reason" is less than taking NCL's plan ($19 per person versus $29), reimbursement is capped at 75 percent. Plus, you'd have to purchase that coverage within two weeks of your initial deposit.
NCL is the first line to offer a job loss program, paid or otherwise, to cruise travelers. We asked a handful of other cruise lines, such as Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, Silversea and Seabourn, if they are planning similar programs. At this point, the consensus is no -- but we're waiting to see who'll follow NCL's lead.
--by Erica Silverstein, Associate Editor