Editor's note: For revised cancellation policies due to the coronavirus pandemic, please reference our story on that topic: Cruise Lines Modify Cancellation Policies For Better Flexibility
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 19 of the world's top cruise lines. As you peruse them, it's wise to keep the following in mind:
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:
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. Cancellation of Pack & Go cruises, which are typically offered close to sailing dates, forfeits the full fare at any point after booking.
Super Saver fares, guarantee cabinsand 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 and Panama Canal Cruises, and Pack & Go fares)
For Cruises of Six or More Nights: (Plus all Alaska, Europe, Transatlantic and Panama Canal Cruises; Excluding Pack & Go fares)
Note: The cruise cancellation penalties outlined below are defined for cruises purchased on or after April 16, 2018.
For All Cruises of Four Nights or Less:
For All Cruises of Five Nights or Longer: (Including Cruise Tours)
Note: Unlike most cruise lines, Costa bases its penalties on its unique tiered fare system, with one bracket for Basic Value fares, and another one for Comfort categories (i.e., Deluxe, Premium and Classic fares). A change from Basic to Comfort constitutes a cancellation and is a new booking.
Changes from air/sea packages to cruise-only and name changes for more than one passenger are considered rebookings and cancellation fees apply.
For All Basic Fares: (Excluding Full World Cruises and Segments)
For All Comfort Categories: (Excluding Full World Cruises and Segments)
Full World Cruises and World Cruise Segments:
Note: The line maintains separate cancellation penalties for its four arms: Crystal Ocean, Crystal Yacht Crystal Expedition and Crystal River. (River cruise cancellation policies are not addressed below). Associated bookings, including airfare, hotel stays and land-based vacation extensions, are included under the cruise cancellation policies.
Separate cancellation policies also apply for world cruises, world cruise segments and cruise combinations (which allow cruisers to combine two or more itineraries).
For Crystal Ocean Voyages of 13 Nights or Less:
For All Crystal Ocean Voyages of 14 to 21 Nights:
For All Crystal Ocean Voyages of 22 Nights or Longer:
For All Crystal Yacht and Expedition Voyages:
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: (Including World Voyage Segments)
For All Cruises of 30 Nights or Longer: (Including World Voyage Segments):
Note: Separate fee schedules apply to flight and hotel cancellations. Some promotional reservations for inside, outside and veranda categories have special restrictions, making those cruise fares entirely nonrefundable. Name changes are considered cancellations.
For Cruises of One to Five Nights: (Excluding Suites and Concierge Staterooms)
For Cruises of Six Nights or More: (Excluding Suites and Concierge Staterooms):
For All Cruises in Suites and Concierge Staterooms:
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. Some specially priced promotions are 100 percent nonrefundable.
For Grand World and Grand Voyages: (or Segments Thereof); 28-Night-Plus Hawaii, Tahiti & Marquesas Voyages; Incan Empires or Amazon Explorer Cruises; 30-Night-Plus Transatlantic Europe Cruises (or Segment Thereof)
For Other Cruises of Seven Nights or Longer:
For Cruises up to Six Nights:
Note: Cruise cancellation charges also apply to airfare, hotels and other services arranged through MSC Cruises.
For All Cruises of 15 Nights or Less: (Excluding MSC Yacht Club)
For All Cruises of 15 Nights or Longer: (Excluding World Cruise and MSC Yacht Club):
For World Cruises:
For MSC Yacht Club:
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 within 60 days. Name changes are considered cancellations.
For All Cruises of Six Nights or Less: (Mini-Suites and Below)
For All Cruises of Seven Nights or Longer: (Mini-Suites and Below):
For The Haven Suites, Suites, Garden Villas and Holiday Bookings:
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 14 Nights or Less:
For All Cruises of 15 Nights or Longer: (Excluding World Cruises)
Note: Fares for cruise tours and fees for prepurchased 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. Name and departure date changes are considered cancellations.
For All Cruises of Five Days or Less:
For All Cruises of Six to 24 Days: (Including World Cruise Segments):
For All Cruises of 25 days or more: (Including Full World Cruises and Segments)
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 (such as Master and Regent suites), for bookings aboard Seven Seas Splendor and for voyages of 100 nights or longer.
For Cruises of 14 Nights or Less:
For Cruises of 15 Nights or Longer: (Excluding Voyages of 100 Nights or Longer)
Note: The outlined cancellation fees for cruises of five nights and longer are also applicable toward Royal Caribbean cruise tours. Fees for single occupancy and third, fourth or higher occupants may vary.
For All Cruises of Four Nights or Less:
For All Cruises of Five Nights or Longer:
Note: Outlined cruise cancellation fees are likewise applicable to airfare and land arrangements made through the line unless only non-cruise components are canceled. Specially priced promotions may be fully nonrefundable.
For All Cruises of 25 Nights or Less:
For All Cruises of 26 Nights or Longer:
Note: Separate cancellation fees apply for Silversea world cruise and world cruise segments.
For All Cruises: (Excluding World Cruises and World Cruise Segments)
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)
Note: Virgin has a simplified cancellation policy that's a bit different from the standard cruise line penalty structure.
For All Cruises:
Note: Airfare booked through the cruise line is nonrefundable once purchased.
For All Cruises:
Updated January 08, 2020