Secrets at Sea: What Cruise Lines Don’t Want You to Know About Cancellation Policies

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Cancellation of tripOur maritime lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. have been talking a lot lately about cruise accidents and crimes, as well as the overall lack of safety on ships. Last week’s Senate Hearing held by Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller highlighted the continuing need for tighter regulation of the cruise industry in general, in order to reduce the likelihood that those on board will be injured or the victim of a crime.

In our last blog series, our maritime attorney Jason Margulies discussed how cruise lines have long been able to get away with violating safety policies due to several reasons, including the fact that most ships are registered in foreign ports, which allows them to avoid the penalties they would in the U.S. when a safety violation has occurred. Accidents such as the Costa Concordia capsizing tragedy and the Carnival Triumph fire have brought to light the fact that cruise lines have been keeping critical information from guests, including the real number of accidents and crimes that transpire, because of these loopholes.

But aside from concerns over safety and accurate crime and accident reporting, there’s a lot more that cruise lines keep from passengers that anyone might imagine. This blog series will explore some of these “secrets at sea” in detail, starting with cancellation policies.

Cruise Vacation Cancellation Policies – What You are Really Risking

Obviously, cruising is a business and as such, it’s expected that cruise lines will want to make money. One of the ways they do this is through hidden fees and cancellation policies. It’s safe to say that most cruise guests are well aware that they will be charged a fee if they cancel their cruise vacation, but how much can they really expect? Are cancellation fees reasonable?

In many cases, it will actually be cheaper to book a completely new cruise vacation than to cancel an existing reservation. That’s how bad the penalties really are. There is only a very small window period where a passenger can cancel their cruise without sustaining any fees. However, once you hit the 75 days before sailing mark, you can expect the fees to pile on.

The closer you get to your cruise, the larger the fee will be to cancel. At first you might lose a few hundred dollars, then you lose 50 percent of your cruise price, and this goes on until you forfeit the entire amount you paid.

You might think that a catastrophic emergency, such as the death of a loved one or a natural disaster would be enough to ensure these fees get waved, but unfortunately, unless you have vacation insurance – or an experienced maritime attorney on your side – cruise lines will not budge. There have even been cases where a passenger may plead with a cruise line to switch sailings as opposed to completely cancelling the vacation, and rarely does this occur.

Bottom line, if you book a cruise, you can expect to shell out the big bucks if you can’t go on your vacation – and it doesn’t matter what that reason may be for cancelling.

If you are planning on booking a cruise vacation, it is definitely in your best interest to look at vacation cancellation insurance that covers you for anything and everything. It’s safe to say that the insurance plans cruise lines offer will not afford you this benefit. Their insurance packages allow you to cancel due to illness or perhaps even a death in the family. But all other unforeseen circumstances will not likely qualify.

The most comprehensive vacation protection packages are sold by outside companies. Take some time to research what they offer and make sure there are no strings attached. The last thing you need is to get stuck with a huge cancellation bill for a cruise vacation you didn’t even enjoy.

Next, we’ll explore the secrets cruise lines don’t want you to know about your itinerary.