Carnival, FMC Bonds and more

June 27, 2001
Carnival Cruises, which, since the sale of Airtours has had what some industry watchers call “excess cash on the books,” is under scrutiny. Which cruise line is ripe for sale to the notoriously acquisition hungry Carnival? Carnival executives deny they have plans but what piques our interest is their comment that they do not plan to pick up any of the industry’s struggling lines -- declining to name names. Some are in such financial distress, one executive was quoted, they don’t even have Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) bonds.
Haven’t heard of this? You’re not alone. What’s important about an FMC bond is that it is a multi-million dollar payment that cruise lines make that is banked, so to speak, and used to pay off debtors if and when a line should line fail. But not all cruise lines are required to place funds on deposit. Typically, only cruise lines with ships carrying a minimum of 50 pax that embark or disembark at American ports are required to post this bond (which is why a line like Renaissance, even though based in the U.S. doesn’t post a bond because none of its ships embark or disembark passengers at American ports). Royal Olympic covers its ships that depart out of Ft. Lauderdale but not those that stay in the Mediterranean. A more potent example: when Commodore went out of business, some ships were covered by bond but one, the Aruba-based Crown Dynasty, didn’t fall under FMC protection because it wasn’t admitting or discharging passengers on U.S. soil.
Cruisers most impacted by the FMC protection are typically those who use the government agency as a refund-point-of-last-resort, such as Premier or Commodore travelers who paid by cash or check. Otherwise, people who paid for cruises they didn’t receive typically get refunded by their credit card company or, if they bought third party travel insurance, by the insurer. The latter method is quicker, too; cash- and check-paying Premier customers are just now starting to see the FMC paybacks trickle in, while the Commodore situation is still being resolved.
One interesting note: a spokesman at the FMC said they’d heard about credit card companies balking at refund requests by Premier and Commodore cruisers, directing customers to the FMC since there was a bond.That,  he said, is illegal. Still he urges passengers who charged their cruise only to see the line fold to be extremely aware of  time limits for making claims.