Every cruise line has rolled out its own set of policies that govern rebooking and the use of Future Cruise Credits (FCC's) as a result of the operational pauses in sailing caused by the global coronavirus pandemic.
Royal Caribbean Group's Lift and Shift policy is one of the most comprehensive -- and complicated -- rebooking policies in the cruise industry. Cruise Critic takes an in-depth look at what cruisers need to know about Lift and Shift, including what brands are eligible, what conditions are required for cruisers to properly be eligible for the program, and what limitations cruisers should be aware of.
What Is Lift and Shift?
Available for cruises booked with Azamara, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean, but excluding voyages booked with the company's luxury line Silversea, Lift and Shift provides a simple way for passengers to move their existing 2020 cruise bookings to next year.
The program was instituted on May 6, 2020 as part of Royal Caribbean's "Cruise with Confidence" program. It allows passengers booked on voyages for 2020 to proactively move reservations into 2021 without occurring any penalties, and without the need for Royal Caribbean Group to cancel that voyage first.
Passengers with itineraries that are cancelled by Royal Caribbean will receive another set of options, including Future Cruise Credits and refunds. Though it is included as an option for cruisers with cancelled voyages, Lift and Shift is also intended to provide reassurance for those with existing bookings who may feel uncertain about traveling this year.
How Does It Work?
With Lift and Shift, passengers on booked sailings are allowed to move to an alternative sail date without penalty.
To do this, the new requested sail date for 2021 needs to be within four weeks on either end of the original sail date. As an example, a passenger moving from a sailing departing on July 30, 2020 would be able to select a cruise departing between June 30 and August 30, 2021.
There are some catches, however: the new sailing must be the same itinerary, length and stateroom category as the one you are trying to move.
A passenger booked on in a balcony on a weeklong Eastern Caribbean sailing out of Miami aboard Allure of the Seas, for example, can Lift and Shift to another weeklong Eastern Caribbean sailing out of Miami for next year in a balcony stateroom.
But a passenger booked on a weeklong Eastern Caribbean cruise can't switch to a weeklong Alaska sailing, or even a weeklong Western Caribbean itinerary. Nor can a person booked in an interior cabin on a 3-night Bahamas vacation trade up for a suite on a transatlantic crossing.
You can, however, change your ship, so long as the length, destination and cabin category stay the same.
What Should Cruisers Be Aware Of?
At the moment, Lift and Shift is not available for cruisers with bookings on Silversea. Only sailings on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara are eligible for Lift and Shift.
Lift and Shift is not limitless: changes have to be made by September 30, 2020; though Royal Caribbean will likely extend this should its voluntary suspension of sailing stretch into 2021.
Lift and Shift also isn't available if you received a special promotional or industry rate on your cruise. This includes casino rates and promotions; travel agent reduced or Friends & Family rates; or other similarly reduced rates.
While Lift and Shift does allow you to change ships, cruisers have run into issues trying to Lift and Shift one-off itineraries to another voyage. For example, cruisers booked on a one-off 11-day Canada & New England voyage may not have a similar cruise to Lift and Shift to next year.
Lift and Shift is also not an unlimited process; currently, you are allowed to do this just once per booking. After that, your sailing is locked in. It pays to fully research the cruise you want to replace this with before rebooking.
At the moment, Lift and Shift is also designed only for moving 2020 cruise departures to 2021.
Exceptions to the Rule
Cruise Critic members report having success in bending the rules a little bit with Lift and Shift, particularly when it comes to one-off sailings that aren't being repeated in 2021.
Other posters have also reported having luck Lifting and Shifting to Royal Caribbean's forthcoming Odyssey of the Seas, which will now debut in April 2021.
"I called customer service Monday morning, didn't wait on hold at all, and the representative was VERY helpful," writes navychica. "He did actually put me on hold for a minute because he said he had to get approval, but he lifted and shifted my 7 day Oasis cruise that was the week after Thanksgiving 2020, to a 8 day Odyssey cruise that's actually Thanksgiving week 2021."
Other posters have reported inconsistencies with trying to lift and shift to new itineraries.
"I am currently trying to L&S an Empress Royal Suite to Odyssey and they are denying," writes RFerrington. " I have a friend who L&S OS Owner's Suite to OS from Empress to Odyssey just last week. Very frustrating. What's really interesting is that the online tool shows the Odyssey sailing as an option but the CSR aren't allowing it."
Another poster reported issues obtaining a single occupancy stateroom on their Lift and Shift voyage -- a problem that has come with a hefty price increase, as Royal Caribbean re-issued a new invoice with two passengers in the same stateroom.
"I don't understand," writes livylotte. "Why do I have to pay more for a guest that I didn't book for? My original booking was for one person. The second person has been added by Royal Caribbean in the L&S process."
Overall, Royal Caribbean's Lift and Shift program seems to work well, with an online portion that cruisers can handle themselves; or by using the help of a travel agent. Many cruisers who have experienced issues report having them resolved once their travel agents advocated on their behalf, while others speak highly of Royal Caribbean's call center team.
Whether the program will be extended beyond September 30, 2020 remains to be seen. Cruise Critic will update this article with more information as it becomes available.