Coronavirus: Here’s what you need to know about cruise refunds and cancellations

4 min read

In the wake of multiple outbreaks of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on cruise ships, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the State Department issued new guidance for Americans who plan to travel via ship this spring.

As of April 9, the CDC updated its ship travel guidance to “Level 3 – No Sail Order”, which advises that all Americans avoid travel by boat or cruise ship. According to the CDC, “cruise ship passengers are at an increased risk of person-to-person spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19”.

In line with the updated CDC guidelines, the State Department also issued a warning for Americans to avoid travel by cruise and stated, “U.S. citizens, particularly those with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship. CDC notes increased risk of infection of COVID-19 in a cruise ship environment.”

Response from cruise lines to COVID-19

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) was in rapid response mode following updated guidelines from the CDC and State Department. The CLIA released a statement saying, “singling out the travel and tourism industry, and cruise lines specifically” was “unreasonable” and “unwarranted.”

But, with multiple outbreaks of Coronavirus on cruise ships around the world — most notably in recent news with an outbreak on the Grand Princess cruise ship off the coast of California — many travelers are understandably nervous to take travel.

Following the new travel guidelines (and the classification of the virus as a pandemic) many Americans who have a cruise booked — or were planning to book a cruise in the near future — may be wondering what their options are now.

Trip protection offerings by cruise line

Responses regarding trip refunds and waivers vary by cruise line, but nearly all have addressed passenger concerns about the threat of Coronavirus ahead of their busiest travel season.

Here’s what major cruise lines have said about current and future cruise offerings in the wake of new government guidelines surrounding cruise travel:

Norwegian Cruise Line: Norwegian Cruise Line has suspended all cruises leaving from the United States until May 14. Passengers will be eligible to receive a future cruise credit worth 150 percent of their trip value. Cruise credits can be redeemed any time before Dec. 31, 2022.

Carnival Cruise LineCarnival Cruise Line suspended all cruises leaving from the United States until June 26. Passengers will be eligible for a future cruise credit or full refund to compensate for the loss of their trip. Cruise credit will be redeemable anytime until Dec. 31, 2022.

Celebrity Cruises: Celebrity Cruises suspended all cruises through May 11. Passengers impacted by the cancellations are eligible for a cruise credit worth 125 percent of the original trip value or 100 percent refund. Celebrity cruise line has also temporarily updated their cancellation policy to allow passengers to cancel a cruise up to 48 hours before their departure date for a full refund or cruise credit.

Disney Cruise Line:  Disney Cruise Line suspended all cruises until May 17. Passengers impacted by the cancellations are eligible for a full refund or cruise credit worth 100 percent of the original trip value. Disney has also said that passengers impacted by trip cancellations should wait for the cruise line to email directions to them before requesting a refund or cruise credit.

Holland America: Holland America has suspended all cruises in departing from or entering North America until June 30, 2020. Passengers impacted by the cancellation can receive a future cruise credit worth 125 percent of the trip value plus $250 onboard credit per passenger. Holland America is also offering a 100 percent refund for passengers who do not wish to recieve a future cruise credit.

Princess CruisesPrincess Cruises suspended all cruises until May 10 following outbreaks of coronavirus on two of their ships. All affected guests can reschedule their cruise for a future date of their choosing and Princess Cruises has said that passengers can expect a “generous future cruise credit”.

Royal Caribbean:  Royal Caribbean suspended all cruises until May 12. Passengers impacted by the cancellations are eligible to recieve a future cruise credit worth 125 percent of the original trip value. Cruise credits must be used by Dec. 31, 2021.

Viking Cruise Line: Viking Cruise Line suspended all planned cruises until June 30. Passengers impacted by the suspension will be given a cruise credit worth 125 percent of the original trip value or a 100 percent refund.

MSC Cruises:  MSC suspended all cruises leaving from the United States until May 29. Passengers are eligible for a cruise credit to compensate for the loss of their trip. Cruise credits can be used anytime before Dec. 31, 2021.

Credit card travel insurance

If you have yet to book a cruise, you may be considering your travel insurance options in the case that you aren’t able to travel due to restrictions from Coronavirus. While nobody knows how long the Coronavirus is expected to last — or when a vaccine will be ready — travel insurance through your credit card could give you peace of mind when paying for your next cruise.

Travel insurance through your credit card can also alleviate any stress that might come with rebooking your cruise with “cruise credits” that are subject to expiration dates and fine print.

Here’s Bankrate’s top picks for excellent travel cards that also have trip insurance:

Chase Sapphire Reserve®
The Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card offers trip cancellation insurance that is worth up to $20,000 in coverage per trip. Additionally, the Sapphire Reserve credit card also offers travel accident insurance worth up to $1,000,000. Perhaps most useful of all in this case, the Sapphire Preferred card offers emergency evacuation coverage worth up to $100,000.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
While the Wells Fargo Propel American Express card may not offer the same high-value trip insurance like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, it comes with travel accident insurance worth up to $150,000 and has no annual fee. If you are purchasing a cruise with this credit card you will want to make sure that the cruise line in question has trip coverage as a backup because this card only offers accident insurance — not cancellation insurance.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
If you are traveling on a budget — but still want quality trip insurance — the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card might be the sweet spot between the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card and the Wells Fargo Propel card. With an annual fee of $95 (modest compared to the $550 annual fee of the Chase Sapphire Reserve), the Chase Sapphire Preferred card offers up to $20,000 of trip cancellation protection and a trip delay reimbursement option worth up to $500 per ticket.

Final Thoughts

The outbreak of Coronavirus worldwide has made planning a cruise an uncertain venture. Whether you have already booked a trip– or are still planning your future sea voyage –staying up to date on guidelines from health officials and the government regarding sea travel is the best way to keep yourself safe and healthy. In addition to the increased risk of exposure to the coronavirus on cruise ships, many ports around the world have closed in an attempt to contain or prevent further outbreaks.

You can stay up-to-date on travel restrictions by visiting the World Health Organization’s travel advice page.

Accurate information about Coronavirus and its transmission can also be found on the CDC’s website, which has real-time updates and information for travelers.

This article was originally published on March 10 and is a developing story. Updates will be added as new information is released by health officials and cruise lines.