Update, 5 p.m. EDT: Carnival Cruise Lines announced today that passengers who were onboard Carnival Splendor's April 26 sailing or Carnival Ecstasy's April 27 sailing -- which were in progress when the travel restrictions were announced, seriously altering those itineraries -- will receive a 50 percent discount on a future cruise.

Splendor passengers can use the 50 percent toward another three- to seven-day cruise departing before December 2010. Ecstasy passengers can use the 50 percent toward another three- to five-day cruise departing before December 2010. Guests should make reservations in the usual manner and inform their agent (or Carnival) of the discount at the time of reservation.

(May 4) -- Your Mexican Riviera cruise is now a Pacific Northwest sailing -- what recourse do you have as a booked passenger? As cruise lines scramble to reroute ships from Mexico amid growing concerns over swine flu, passengers on in-progress cruises and those on upcoming cruises are wondering what they'll be offered in terms of compensation and what options they'll have for canceling or rescheduling cruises.

Three cruise lines are offering varying degrees of compensation and/or the option to rebook:

Carnival Cruise Lines is the only line offering all impacted passengers on upcoming sailings a rebooking option. Guests who do not wish to sail on a modified itinerary may opt to receive a refund in the form of a future cruise credit equal to the full amount paid for the voyage. The credit may be applied to an alternate sailing departing through the end of 2010. With four and five-day cruises from Galveston and New Orleans that are being converted to seven-day voyages, those guests may opt to receive their refund in the form of a future cruise credit or money back.

Also, compensation is being offered to guests who choose to sail on the May 3 Carnival Splendor cruise, which is now a Pacific Coastal itinerary, not Mexican Riviera. Guests that sail on this cruise will receive a $75 per person onboard credit.

Of particular note, again, is Carnival Splendor, which ended a cruise on May 3 in Long Beach. Originally scheduled to call at Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta, the ship only made one call -- in San Francisco. Cruise Critic Community Manager Laura Sterling was onboard with a group of nearly 200 members and hosts, and tells us that the captain pulled strings in order to make an impromptu stop in Long Beach yesterday to offer an early disembarkation to those who didn't want to continue onward to San Francisco. No other compensation was offered.

Guests booked to sail between May 7 and May 11 who want to cancel should contact Carnival by May 4. Guests booked to sail between May 14 and June 15 who want to cancel should contact Carnival by May 7. For more information about compensation and rebooking options, visit carnival.com.

Royal Caribbean is providing assistance only to those passengers on Mariner of the Seas, whose itinerary was the most impacted (the Mexican Riviera itinerary is now a West Coast and Canada one). Those booked on affected cruises through the June 14 sailing have three options:

  • Option number 1: You keep your booking. If you do this, you will get two things. One is onboard credit, the amount of which is $250 to $600 per cabin, based on cabin category. You will also get an additional $100 credit regardless of cabin category if you have a third or fourth guest. Two, you will get future cruise credit in that same denomination (based on cabin category and whether or not there's a third or fourth guest).

  • Option number 2: You can choose to rebook your trip -- either on Mariner of the Seas or another ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet. In that case, you will get between $100 and $250 of onboard credit, per cabin, based on level of cabin.

  • Option number 3: You can cancel. If you do this, you get a full refund of any money paid to Royal Caribbean International.

    Royal Caribbean tells us they are contacting guests on affected sailings. There is also a help desk: 800-327-6700.

    The final holdout is Princess Cruises, which announced late in the week that it will offer a "goodwill gesture" to passengers on select sailings. Guests booked on Sapphire Princess' April 25 or May 2 sailings, or Star Princess' April 27 sailing, will receive a future cruise credit of 50 percent of the fare paid. The credit is good toward any sailing through April 2011. There is still no rebook option.

    "[These] cruises were sold as voyages exclusively to Mexico," an official statement from the line reads, "and we therefore realize that these passengers are not receiving the cruise vacation they had anticipated."

    POLL: What do you think cruise lines should offer to passengers on impacted sailings?

    A Word on Travel Insurance Coverage

    Currently, there are no special concessions being made by travel insurance companies due to swine flu. A representative for Travel Guard tells us that if you have a standard insurance policy, you will not be covered if you cancel your plans simply out of fear of contacting swine flu. If you've purchased a "cancel for any reason" upgrade, you will be covered.

    If you are currently traveling and get sick, or need to be quarantined because of swine flu, typical trip interruption coverage, included in standard travel insurance policies, will apply. In the case of the Travel Guard policy, you'll have access to worldwide medical referrals; up-to-the-minute updates on outbreak status and travel areas affected; information on symptoms, prevention and treatment; and coordination of travel arrangements for those in transit.

    Passengers concerned about their travel insurance coverage should contact their individual provider.

    --by Dan Askin, Associate Editor, and Melissa Baldwin Paloti, Managing Editor

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