March 20, 2020
Thousands of travelers have been affected by new travel restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, as countries shut borders and place restrictions on leisure and business travel.
Most of the world's cruise lines have decided to take an operational pause for at least 30 days, although some are suspending service even longer. Additionally, many ports and countries have restricted the arrival of cruise ships; Canada, for example, has enacted a temporary ban on vessels with more than 500 people until July 1, putting the start of the Alaska and Canada and New England seasons in jeopardy.
With so much constant change, it can be difficult to know what to do, particularly if your voyage winds up being suddenly canceled.
What should you do if your cruise line cancels your sailing due to the coronavirus outbreak? Here is our list of tips to help you through:
Consult Our Resources
The Cruise Critic team has been working so you don't have to. Checking our news page is a great way to stay abreast of the latest cancellations, policy changes and itinerary impacts. A few relevant articles that are updated regularly:
- When Are Cruise Lines Around the World Expected To Resume Service?
- Cruise Lines Modify Cancellation Policies For Better Flexibility
- Coronavirus: Updated Cruise Ship Policies and Cancellations
- Coronavirus: Which Cruise Ports Are Closed?
- Coronavirus: What Cruisers Need to Know
Don't Phone the Cruise Line
Under normal circumstances, a canceled cruise would be a good reason to phone the cruise line. Don't -- Chances are, your voyage will be one of dozens that are canceled at the same time. Nearly every cruise line is telling people with voyages in March and April who aren't sailing in the next two weeks to consider calling back at a later time.
Instead, check online to see if the cruise line has an automated rebooking form. Few do, but a handful of lines offer online rebooking and refund options:
- Azamara (only for cruisers who want a complete refund and not a Future Cruise Credit)
- Celebrity Cruises (only for cruisers who want a complete refund and not a Future Cruise Credit)
- MSC Cruises (only for voyages booked on MSC's U.S. website)
- Royal Caribbean International (only for cruisers who want a complete refund and not a Future Cruise Credit)
If you used a travel adviser, have them handle the details on your behalf -- though be aware that many agents are as overwhelmed as the cruise lines are at this moment, and rebooking, refunds or future cruise credits may take some time to be issued.
Also know that some cruise lines -- such as all Royal Caribbean brands (Azamara, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean and Silversea) -- will be automatically processing Future Cruise Credits for those on affected voyages by mid-April.
Remember, the first priority for every cruise line right now is finishing up the few sailings that are still at sea and returning those cruisers home safely and quickly.
Then, most cruise lines will start processing future cruise certificate and rebooking requests on a voyage-by-voyage basis.
If you are booked on a May voyage to Alaska that is in doubt because of the new rules issued by Transport Canada, or a voyage to Italy that looks unlikely because of the port closures and travel restrictions in that country, it is best to sit tight and wait for the cruise line to issue guidance for these itineraries.
Consider What You Want -- And What Your Cruise Line is Offering
While you wait to be contacted, consider what you want, given what your cruise line is offering (see our handy guide, above). Do you want a future cruise credit, or are you interested in rebooking immediately on a new voyage? Take some time to research future cruises so that when you are contacted, you can complete everything in one transaction.
Understand That More Changes Are Possible
With the COVID-19 pandemic still in progress, it is important to understand that future changes, including cancellations and itinerary alterations, are always possible. Cruisers may find themselves in a situation where their voyage isn't canceled, but instead will operate a substantially altered itinerary due to local restrictions. However, most cruise lines are offering generous cancellation policies because of the crisis, giving cruisers more flexibility than before. Take advantage of that.