Update, 3:23 p.m. EDT: Princess Cruises has now said that it will offer passengers on impacted Sapphire and Star Princess cruises (which were to call only in Mexico) a future cruise credit of 50 percent of the fare paid, good toward any sailing through April 2011.
(2:27 p.m. EDT) -- It's no surprise that cruise lines have universally decided to drop port calls in Mexico, due to a near-pandemic swine flu outbreak. But, when it comes to compensating and assisting passengers on impacted sailings, their approaches couldn't be more different.
As we reported previously, Carnival is leading the pack as the only line offering some sort of assistance to all of its passengers on upcoming sailings by allowing them to opt for a future cruise credit (or, in some cases, a cash refund) if they do not want to sail. In the middle of the road is Royal Caribbean, which is encouraging guests on its most-impacted ship, Mariner of the Seas, to contact their travel agents or the cruise line directly for compensation and rebooking options. Then, you have the likes of Princess, which has said that it will offer no compensation or rebooking options -- period.
We wanted to know what you thought cruise lines should be offering to affected passengers. More than 1,000 members stopped by to vote in a poll that ran, overnight, on the Ask a Cruise Question forum. The consensus? Carnival's got the right idea.
According to the poll results, hassle-free rebooking and no-fee cancellation options are at the top of the wish list for passengers who haven't yet embarked, garnering 70 and 72 percent of votes, respectively.
Nearly half of respondents also believe that shipboard credit or credit toward a future cruise would be appropriate for passengers who have already set sail.
"If I were onboard right now, I'd be tickled to death if I were offered a future cruise credit, maybe $50 - 100," says member fridayeyes. "As someone who is supposed to board May 4, I would like the option to cancel or rebook penalty-free. I might opt to sail anyway, but I would like the option."
But, not everyone is sure whether passengers should be compensated. Member It is torn: "I think that when one cruises they should expect the unexpected, hurricanes, illness, etc. The cruise line is not at fault."
Ikelmay believes compensation would be nice but might be unfair, since it "…pushes the financial burden on to the cruise lines…" Genessa agrees and wonders: "Why should the cruise line recompense anyone for a situation they had no part in creating?"
One interesting response came from cordovalady, who said she would like cruise lines to negotiate with airlines so that passengers can take advantage of alternate sailings without incurring change fees or cancellation charges for their flights to and from turnaround ports. (Many major airlines -- including Delta, Continental, United, US Airways, American, Aeromexico and Air Canada, among others -- have already relaxed their policies for flights to Mexico.)
It remains to be seen how other lines will respond to the issue, but -- whether you want a full refund or, like cb at sea, think that "staying virus-free seems compensation enough" -- we'll keep you posted.
Haven't voted yet? There's still time to voice your opinion here.
--by Ashley Kosciolek, Copy Editor, and Melissa Baldwin Paloti, Managing Editor
Carnival Leads Pack in Compensation, Cancellation
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Cruise Critic Members Speak Out on Compensation, Rebooking Options
April 30, 2009