With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing thanks to the omicron variant, many cruisers are wondering: How soon before your cruise departs can you cancel it?
In the "before time," cruise line cancellation policies were stringent and unforgiving. Canceling a cruise within 30 days of embarkation, for any reason, typically meant forfeiting all of your hard-earned cash, with most taking at least your deposit for bookings canceled starting at 120 days out.
With the onset of COVID-19, that's all changing. Cruise lines have been offering increasingly flexible cancellation plans throughout the pandemic in order to give passengers more leeway to reschedule or cancel their cruise vacation.
But not all cruise line policies are created equal, and some are more generous than others. Here is a rundown of current cancellation policies for the largest cruise lines.
COVID-19 Cancellation Policies Vary from Cruise Line to Cruise Line
While Cruise Critic has endeavored to list cancellation policies for most major lines, be aware these can change with little to no notice. Always consult your preferred travel adviser or cruise line prior to canceling any voyage so you can be informed about any applicable penalties.
Also be aware that not every cruise line will let you cancel for a full refund (though some do). Most will give you the amount you've paid, be it your deposit or your entire cruise fare, as a future cruise credit,.
Carnival Cruise Lines
If You Cancel Your Carnival Cruise: If you cancel because of an official government warning preventing you from travelling to your cruise, or if you have contracted COVID-19 or are a close contact of someone who has tested positive, Carnival will issue a FCC for the full amount paid. If, however, you just want to cancel, Carnival's standard cancellation policies apply -- and they're much less generous.
If Carnival Cancels Your Cruise: If Carnival pulls the plug on your sailing, or if embarkation is delayed more than 24 hours, Carnival owes you an FCC or a full refund. Don't get too excited -- you could wait up to 180 days for that refund to arrive.
More Information: Carnival Cruise Line Refund Policy.
If You Cancel Your Celebrity Cruise: Under the terms of Celebrity's generous "Cruise with Confidence" policy, guests can cancel their cruise up to 48 hours prior to departure for a full 100 percent FCC. Bookings made with nonrefundable deposits are also eligible, and the nonrefundable deposit will be held as an FCC to be used on a future cruise by December 31, 2022, or one year from sailing date, whichever is later.
If Celebrity Cancels Your Cruise: If Celebrity cancels your sailing, the line has been offering passengers the choice to "Lift and Shift" to similar sailings, a FCC, or a full refund.
More Information: Celebrity Cruises Refund Policy.
If You Cancel Your Cunard Cruise: Cunard's flexible transfer policy allows you to transfer your existing cruise booking to a later date, free of charge, as many times as you'd like. Sailings can be canceled up to 30 days in advance without occurring a penalty, with the exception of voyages booked with a nonrefundable deposit. Sailings canceled after 30 days will incur penalties on a sliding scale.
If Cunard Cancels Your Cruise: If Cunard cancels your voyage, the line will communicate applicable policies in emails to booked passengers. Typically, both refunds and FCC's are offered.
More Information: Cunard Line Cancellation Policy.
Disney Cruise Line
If You Cancel Your Disney Cruise: Disney offers a host of options for cruisers looking to make changes. Sailings departing on or before May 31, 2022 can be changed to an alternate date up to 15 days prior to departure. Outright cancellation fees have been relaxed on sailings departing through September 30, 2022, with fees in excess of the deposit amount charged on most sailings at 59 days out. Bookings made on restricted fares, however, are nonrefundable.
If Disney Cancels Your Cruise: Cruises that Disney Cruise Line elects to cancel will typically offer more generous terms to booked passengers, including the option for refunds or an FCC.
More Information: Disney Cruise Line Cancellation Policy.
Holland America Line
If You Cancel Your Holland America Line Cruise: Holland America Line's "Worry-Free Promise" policy allows booked passengers to cancel their cruise for any reason up to 30 days prior to departure. If the passenger tests positive for COVID-19 pre-cruise, or is a close contact of a COVID-positive individual, they can cancel their sailing under the 30-day timeframe. Both instances result in a Future Cruise Credit deposited to the passenger's Mariner account.
If Holland America Cancels Your Cruise: Holland America has been offering passengers refunds or FCC's on the sailings the line elects to cancel.
More Information: Holland America Line Cancellation Policy.
If You Cancel Your MSC Cruise: Bookings made by March 31, 2022, for sailings departing through March 31, 2023, can be canceled up to 48 hours in advance of departure without penalty. Passengers can move their cruise to another MSC voyage departing until March 31, 2022.
If MSC Cancels Your Cruise: MSC will communicate applicable offers to passengers booked on affected sailings. Terms may vary depending on sailing booked, destination, and the cruiser's country of origin.
More Information: MSC Cruises Cancellation Policy.
Norwegian Cruise Line
If You Cancel Your Norwegian Cruise Line Cruise: Passengers can cancel their booking and receive an FCC of all monies paid from Norwegian. Passengers, family members and close travelling companions who test positive are eligible for an FCC for sailings canceled within 14 days of departure, but must provide appropriate test results to Norwegian at its request.
If Norwegian Cruise Line Cancels Your Cruise: Norwegian will offer full refunds to passengers on sailings canceled by the line, or voyages for which embarkation is delayed by at least 24 hours. Refunds will be processed within. 180 days, and passengers can elect to take a FCC instead.
More Information: Norwegian Cruise Line Cancellation Policy.
If You Cancel Your Princess Cruise: Under the terms of Princess Cruises' "Book with Confidence" program, passengers with bookings made on or before March 2, 2022 and departing through September 30, 2022 can cancel at any time up to 30 days prior to departure to receive a FCC for all monies paid.
If Princess Cancels Your Cruise: Princess has typically offered the option of full refunds or FCC's on voyages it elects to cancel. FCC's will be issued by default; passengers wanting refunds must fill in an online form provided by Princess, in the specified timeframe, in order to request a refund to the original form of payment.
More Information: Princess Cruises Cancellation Policy.
If You Cancel Your Royal Caribbean Cruise: Like sister-brand Celebrity, Royal Caribbean's "Cruise with Confidence" policy offers passengers the ability to cancel up to 48 hours prior to departure -- for any reason at all -- and receive a 100 percent FCC. The credit can be used by December 31, 2022, or one year after your scheduled sailing, whichever is later. Passengers with nonrefundable deposits can move their voyage to a later date prior to final payment for no change fee.
If Royal Caribbean Cancels Your Cruise: When Royal Caribbean cancels your cruise, it will offer you a number of options, including its "Lift and Shift" program that allows you to rebook on a similar voyage. Future Cruise Credits or full refunds are also offered under this scenario.
More Information: Royal Caribbean Cancellation Policy.
How Long Will Cruise Line COVID-19 Cancellation Policies Be In Effect?
Although first conceived as temporary measures, most cruise lines have been continually extending their generous COVID-19 cancellation policies throughout the duration of the now almost two-year-old pandemic.
Each policy, however, has dates of validity that vary from line to line, so it's always a good idea to visit your preferred cruise line of choice to check what the most up-to-date information is. A good travel advisor can also assist, as they will be kept well-informed by the cruise line.
For now, at least, these flexible cancellation policies provide significant assurance to cruisers in a world that is, for the moment, constantly in flux.