Secrets at Sea: What Cruise Lines Don’t Want You to Know About Your Itinerary (Part 1)

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Cruise itinerary changesOk, so you just booked a cruise and are so excited you already started packing. You’ve never been to any of the destinations featured on the itinerary and cannot wait to explore new and exotic ports. What could go wrong, right?

Well, try not to get your hopes up, because one thing cruise lines don’t want you to know about is the fact that port calls are not guaranteed. This may come as a shock, but truth is, cruise lines may cancel or modify itineraries as they please. It is up to the cruise line itself to make any changes, and sometimes, the captain can make decisions to change or cancel a port call as well.

What’s up with these changes? Well, for one, many port visits are cancelled due to unfavorable weather conditions. This we can understand. If there’s a dangerous storm or extremely rough sea conditions, cruise ships will usually make the call to cancel a port call if it means putting those on board at risk. There are also times when a port call is cancelled because of political turmoil or a high crime rate. These are also very good reasons for collations because as with inclement weather, docking in an area where there is a high rate of violence can mean a potential for violence against passengers and crew members while exploring the destination.

Unfortunately, there are times when cruise lines cancel itineraries and don’t give any sort of explanation. This is something the maritime lawyers at our firm see time and time again. Passengers are left dejected because they expected to enjoy a specific port, or may have even booked a cruise because a specific port was part of the itinerary. What’s worse is what happens next.

So, let’s say you spent extra money for an “Exotic Southern Caribbean” sailing because you thought you were going to visit Aruba or Curacao or some other exotic island the standard Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries don’t offer. So you embark on your cruise, only to discover that the port call was cancelled. Naturally, you are upset and want at least a partial refund. It’s only fair, right? Guess what, it’s probably not going to happen.

Just because you don’t have the right to cancel a cruise at whim without having to suffer monetary consequences doesn’t mean the cruise line can’t make all sorts of last minute decisions at their will without any sort of repercussion. There may be times when passengers might get a bit of a discount if a port is cancelled or maybe even some onboard credit if there was an accident or an unforeseeable dangerous circumstance. But guess what? If the cancellation is due to inclement weather, you can pretty much forget about getting any sort of compensation. Though it is the right call to make, when a cruise itinerary is cancelled because of weather-related factors, there’s a very minimal chance passengers will be reimbursed. At best, maybe the cruise line will offer some free drinks.

There are rare occasions when a cruise passenger may complain enough that the ship operators will be kind enough to offer on board credit, but the chances of that happening are rare. Check out part 2 of this blog to learn about the “fine print” regarding cruise line itinerary changes and the circumstances that merit taking legal action against the cruise line with the help of an experienced cruise lawyer.