Did cruise travelers escape? Not this time. A travel agent tipped us off to a new policy by Azamara Club Cruises to charge a $50-per-booking "administrative fee" to travelers who cancel their cruises, cruisetours or pre-/post-hotel packages 91 days or more prior to departure. That means that if you book your cruise a year in advance and then illness, a change in financial situation or even alternate travel plans force you to cancel your cruise months in advance, you will still be out $50. If you always thought you had until the final payment deadline to cancel without penalty, that rule no longer applies to Azamara.
A spokesperson for Azamara tells us that sister lines Royal Caribbean and Celebrity will not be following suit. However, a little online digging revealed that other luxury lines have similar administrative fees for canceled cruises. SeaDream Yacht Club charges a $50 fee for those who cancel 120 days prior to sailing, and Regent Seven Seas charges anywhere from $200 (most cruises) to $1,000 (full world cruise) if you cancel your booking 121 days or more in advance. Consider the fee just one more way Azamara is trying to distance itself from the mainstream cruise lines and align itself with the luxury, niche ones.
So, before you book your cruise far in advance -- as the cruise lines keep pleading for you to do -- make sure you read the fine print in the line's cancellation policy.
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--by Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor