No one wants to imagine that they might need to cancel their much-anticipated cruise. To make matters worse, reading the fine print can make you cross-eyed. Cruise line cancellation policies are complex and inconsistent industrywide, and not always forgiving to travelers who need to abandon their vacation plans at the last minute.

Yet, understanding your line's cancellation policy and penalty schedule will allow you to make an informed decision about whether or not you should buy travel insurance -- the one thing that will protect you if an unexpected event necessitates you cancel your planned sailing.

To help you out, Cruise Critic has taken a close look at the cancellation policies and penalties for 18 of the world's top cruise lines. As you peruse them, it's wise to keep the following in mind:

  • A general rule of thumb is the longer the cruise, the tougher the cancellation penalties.

  • While airfare, land packages, hotel stays and transfers booked through the cruise lines are sometimes included in the cruise cancellation policies, other prebooked incidentals, like shore excursions, spa treatments and specialty dining, are almost always dealt with under separate cancellation terms and conditions.

  • Some specially priced promotional fares are totally nonrefundable as soon as they're purchased.

  • While most cruise lines will accept notifications of cancellation by phone, several companies require written documentation; be sure to ask your line or travel agent if you are unsure of proper protocol.


Azamara Quest

Azamara Club Cruises

Special Notes: For cruise cancellations less than 90 days out, the penalties outlined below are likewise applied for hotel, transfers and standard air that are booked through the cruise line.

For All Cruises:
121 days or longer prior to sailing: $50 (increasing to $75 for sailings in 2020)
120–91 days: 25 percent of the fare
90–61 days: 50 percent
31–60 days: 75 percent
30 days or less: 100 percent


Carnival Cruise Line

Special Notes: Carnival's cancellation policies apply to the cruise and any other related travel purchases through the line, such as transfers, standard airfare and pre-/post-cruise packages. "Pack & Go" cruises, which are typically offered close to sailing dates; "Super Saver" fares, for guarantee cabins; and "Early Saver" fares, which apply to cruises booked far in advance, are subject to a nonrefundable deposit, regardless of cancellation date (though Early Saver fare holders will get a future cruise credit, minus a $50 per person service fee).

For Cruises of Two to Five Nights (Excluding all Alaska, Europe, Transatlantic & Panama Canal Cruises):
60–46 days prior to sailing: Deposit
45–30 days: Deposit or 50 percent of the fare (whichever is greater)
29–15 days: Deposit or 75 percent (whichever is greater)
14 days or less: 100 percent

For Cruises of Six to Nine Nights (Excluding all Alaska, Europe, Transatlantic & Panama Canal Cruises):
75–56 days prior to sailing: Deposit
55–30 days: Deposit or 50 percent of the fare (whichever is greater)
29–15 days: Deposit or 75 percent (whichever is greater)
14 days or less: 100 percent

For Cruises of 10 Nights or Longer & All Alaska, Europe, Transatlantic & Panama Canal Cruises:
90–56 days prior to sailing: Deposit
55–30 days: Deposit or 50 percent of the fare (whichever is greater)
29–15 days: Deposit or 75 percent (whichever is greater)
14 days or less: 100 percent


Celebrity Cruises

Note: The cruise cancellation penalties outlined below are defined for cruises purchased on or after April 18, 2018; for cruises booked prior to that date, refer to the Celebrity Cruises website for older policies.

For All Cruises of Four Nights or Less:
74–61 days prior to sailing: 50 percent of the fare
60–31 days: 75 percent
30 days or less: 100 percent

For All Cruises of Five Nights or Longer:
89–75 days prior to sailing: 25 percent of the fare
74–61 days: 50 percent
60–31 days: 75 percent
30 days or less: 100 percent


Costa Cruises

Note: Unlike most cruise lines, Costa bases its penalties on its unique tiered fare system, with one bracket for "Basic" fares, and another one for "Comfort" and "Deluxe" fares. Airfare cancellations incur a $50 penalty during the first penalty phase. After that, regular cancellation fees apply to airfare and hotels booked in conjunction with the cruise. Separate cancellation policies are in place for world or grand cruises.

For All Basic Fares (Excluding World/Grand Cruises):
90 days or longer prior to sailing: 15 percent of the fare
89–57 days: 25 percent
56–30 days: 50 percent
29–15 days: 75 percent
14 days or less: 100 percent

For All Comfort & Deluxe Fares (Excluding World/Grand Cruises):
75–57 days prior to sailing: Deposit
56–30 days: 50 percent of the fare
29–15 days: 75 percent
14 days or less: 100 percent


Crystal Serenity

Crystal Cruises

Note: The line maintains separate cancellation penalties for its three arms: Crystal Cruises (which will introduce new cancellation terms for 2020 voyages, as outlined below), Crystal Yacht and Crystal River (the latter not included here). Associated bookings, including airfare, hotel stays and land-based vacation extensions, are included under the cruise cancellation policies. Separate cancellation policies apply for world cruises, world cruise segments and cruise combinations (which allow cruisers to combine two or more itineraries).

For All Crystal Cruises in 2018 & 2019 (Excluding World Cruises, World Cruise Segments & Cruise Combinations):
90–46 days prior to sailing: 20 percent of the fare
45–31 days: 50 percent
30 days or less: 100 percent

For All Crystal Cruises Voyages of 13 Nights or Less in 2020:
120–91 days prior to sailing: 25 percent of the fare
90–61 days: 50 percent
60–31 days: 75 percent
30 days or less: 100 percent

For All Crystal Cruises Voyages of 14 to 21 Nights in 2020:
150–121 days prior to sailing: 25 percent of the fare
120–91 days: 50 percent
90–61 days: 75 percent
60 days or less: 100 percent

For All Crystal Cruises Voyages of 22 Nights or Longer in 2020 (Excluding World Cruises, World Cruise Segments & Cruise Combinations):
180–151 days prior to sailing: 25 percent of the fare
150–121 days: 50 percent
120–91 days: 75 percent
90 days or less: 100 percent

For All Crystal Yacht Voyages in 2018 & 2019:
90–46 days prior to sailing: 20 percent of the fare
45–31 days: 50 percent
30 days or less: 100 percent

For All Crystal Yacht Voyages in 2020:
120–91 days prior to sailing: 25 percent of the fare
90–61 days: 50 percent
60–31 days: 75 percent
30 days or less: 100 percent


Cunard Line

Note: Cancellation penalties also apply to advance bookings made in conjunction with the cruise, such as airfare, hotel stays, pre- and post-voyage packages and shore excursions.

For All Cruises of 30 Nights or Less:
120–91 days prior to sailing: 25 percent of the fare (or the deposit amount, if less than that, in the case of a reduced deposit promotion)
90–61 days: 40 percent
60–31 days: 50 percent
30–15 days: 75 percent
14 days or less: 100 percent

For All Cruises of 30 Nights or Longer:
150–121 nights: 30 percent of the fare (or the deposit amount, if less than that, in the case of a reduced deposit promotion)
120–91 days prior to sailing: 40 percent
90–64 days: 50 percent
63–43 days: 75 percent
42 days or less: 100 percent


Disney Cruise Line

Note: Disney bases its cancellation fees not only on the length of the cruise, but also on whether the itinerary departs from a U.S. or foreign port. Separate cancellation fee schedules apply to holiday sailings (of nine nights or less) or "Flexible Fares."

For Cruises of Four Nights or Less That Embark or Debark in the United States (Excluding Suites & Concierge Staterooms):
75–45 days prior to sailing: Deposit
44–30 days: 50 percent of the fare
29–15 days: 75 percent
14 days or less: 100 percent

For Cruises of Five to Nine Nights That Embark or Debark in the United States (Excluding Suites & Concierge Staterooms):
89–56 days prior to sailing: Deposit
55–30 days: 50 percent of the fare
29–15 days: 75 percent
14 days or less: 100 percent

For All Cruises That Embark and Debark Outside the United States (Excluding Suites & Concierge Staterooms):
119–56 days prior to sailing: Deposit
55–30 days: 50 percent of the fare
29–15 days: 75 percent
14 days or less: 100 percent

For All Cruises in Suites & Concierge Staterooms:
90 days or more prior to sailing: Deposit
89–56 days: 50 percent of the fare
55–30 days: 75 percent
29 days or less: 100 percent


Holland America Line

Note: Holland America's cancellation penalties vary by itinerary. Outlined cancellation penalties also apply to airfare, hotel stays, ground transfers and pre- and post-cruise land packages booked through Holland America.

For Grand World and Grand Voyages (or Segments Thereof); 29- to 50-Night Hawaii, Tahiti & Marquesas Voyages; Incan Empires or Amazon Explorer Cruises; 30-Night-Plus Transatlantic Europe Cruises (or Segment Thereof); and Africa Explorer or Far East Explorer Cruises:
120–91 days prior to sailing: Deposit
90–76 days: 60 percent of the fare
75 days or less: 100 percent

For All Holiday; Australia/New Zealand; Other South Pacific; Asia; Prinsendam (in Europe); and Other South America/Antarctica Cruises:
90–64 days prior to sailing: Deposit
63–43 days: 50 percent of the fare
42–22 days: 75 percent
21 days or less: 100 percent

For All Other Cruises:
75–57 days prior to sailing: Deposit
56–29 days: 50 percent of the fare
28–16 days: 75 percent
15 days or less: 100 percent


MSC Divina

MSC Cruises

Note: Cruise cancellation charges also apply to airfare, hotels and other services arranged through MSC Cruises.

For All Cruises of 15 Nights or Less:
89–61 days prior to sailing: Deposit
60–46 days: 50 percent of the fare
45–16 days: 75 percent
15 days or less: 100 percent

For All Cruises of 15 Nights or Longer:
109–61 days prior to sailing: Deposit
60–46 days: 50 percent of the fare
45–31 days: 75 percent
30 days or less: 100 percent


Norwegian Cruise Line

Notes: Norwegian bases cancellation penalties on both cruise length and cabin category. Cruise cancellation policies also apply to airfare, hotel stays and certain other advance bookings made through Norwegian.

For All Cruises of Six Nights or Less (Excluding Suites):
86–76 days prior to sailing: Deposit or 25 percent of the fare (whichever is higher)
75–61 days: Deposit or 50 percent (whichever is higher)
60–31 days: Deposit or 75 percent (whichever is higher)
30 days or less: 100 percent

For All Cruises of Seven Nights or Longer (Excluding Suites):
119–91 days prior to sailing: 25 percent of the fare
90–61 days: 50 percent
60–31 days: 75 percent
30 days or less: 100 percent

For Suites (Excluding Mini-Suites) and Holiday Bookings on All Cruises (Excluding Norwegian Sky):
119–106 days prior to sailing: Deposit or 25 percent of the fare (whichever is higher)
105–91 days: Deposit or 50 percent (whichever is higher)
90–61 days: 75 percent
60 days or less: 100 percent


Oceania Cruises

Note: Fare penalties are inclusive of airfare purchased through the line, as well. Separate fee policies are in place for the line's world cruises.

For All Cruises of 15 Nights or Less:
120–91 days prior to sailing: $250 plus administrative fee, which vary and can be converted to a future cruise credit (alternatively, for suites, the penalty is 10 percent of the cruise fare)
90–76 days: 25 percent of the fare
75–61 days: 50 percent
60–31 days: 75 percent
30 days or less: 100 percent

For All Cruises of 15 Nights or Longer (Excluding World Cruises):
180–151 days prior to sailing: $250 plus administrative fee, which vary and can be converted to a future cruise credit (alternatively, for suites, the penalty is 10 percent of the cruise fare)
150–121 days: 25 percent of the fare
120–91 days: 50 percent
90–61 days: 75 percent
60 days or less: 100 percent


Princess Cruises

Note: Note that fares for cruise tours and fees for pre-purchased gifts and special services are also subject to the below cancellation penalties when canceled 56 or fewer days out (for sailings of 30 nights or less), or 89 or fewer days (for cruises 30 nights or longer). Different cancellation policies apply for hotels, shore excursions and airfare booked through Princess.

For All Cruises of 30 Nights or Less:
74–57 days prior to sailing: Deposit
56–29 days: 50 percent of the fare
28–15 days: 75 percent
14 days or less: 100 percent

For All Cruises of 30 Nights or Longer (Including World Cruises):
119–90 days prior to sailing: Deposit
89–64 days: 50 percent of the fare
63–43 days: 75 percent
42 days or less: 100 percent


Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Note: Regent's cancellation policy is one of the industry's strictest, with its penalties extending farther out than most other lines. Note that separate cancellation policies are in place for the highest level suites (like Master Suites); for bookings aboard the new Seven Seas Splendor, debuting in 2020; and for voyages of 100 nights or longer.

For Cruises of 14 Nights or Less:
121 days or longer prior to sailing: 25 percent of the fare
120–91 days: 50 percent
90–61 days: 75 percent
60 or days or less: 100 percent

For Cruises of 15 Nights or Longer (Excluding Voyages of 100 Nights or Longer):
151 days or longer prior to sailing: 25 percent of the fare
150–121 days: 50 percent
120–91 days: 75 percent
90 days or less: 100 percent


Grandeur of the Seas (Photo: Royal Caribbean International)

Royal Caribbean International

Note: The outlined cancellation fees for cruises of five nights and longer are also applicable toward Royal Caribbean cruisetours.

For All Cruises of Four Nights or Less:
74–61 days prior to sailing: 50 percent of the fare
60–31 days: 75 percent
30 days or less: 100 percent

For All Cruises of Five Nights or Longer:
89-75 days prior to sailing: 25 percent of the fare
74–61 days: 50 percent
60–31 days: 75 percent
30 days or less: 100 percent


Seabourn Cruise Line

Note: Outlined cruise cancellation fees are likewise applicable to airfare and land arrangements made through the line.

For All Cruises of 25 Nights or Less:
121–91 days prior to sailing: 15 percent of the fare
90–46 days: 50 percent
45–31 days: 75 percent
30 days or less: 100 percent

For All Cruises of 26 Nights or Longer:
150–121 days prior to sailing: 15 percent of the fare
120–91 days: 50 percent
90–76 days: 75 percent
75 days or less: 100 percent


Silversea Cruises

Note: Separate cancellation fees apply for Silversea world cruise and world cruise segments.

For All Cruises (Excluding World Cruises & World Cruise Segments):
121 days or longer prior to sailing: $200 administrative fee (may be converted to a future cruise credit)
120–91 days: 15 percent of the fare
90–61 days: 50 percent
60–31 days: 75 percent
30 days or less: 100 percent


Viking Ocean Cruises

Note: Viking fare cancellation policies are inclusive of any land or air component booked through Viking. Note that world and grand cruises (more than 25 days long) carry separate cancellation policies.

For All Cruises (Excluding World and Grand Cruises):
120 days or longer prior to sailing: $100 administrative fee
119–90 days: 20 percent of the fare
89–70 days: 35 percent
69–50 days: 50 percent
49–30 days: 75 percent
29 days or less: 100 percent


Windstar Cruises

Note: Airfare booked through the cruise line is nonrefundable once purchased.

For All Cruises:
121 days or longer prior to sailing: $50 fee
120–90 days: 15 percent of the fare
89–60 days: 35 percent
59–30 days: 50 percent
29 days or less: 100 percent