Many cruise lines have been exceptionally lenient with cancellation and refund policies since sailing restarted while strict pandemic protocols were still in effect. Disney Cruise Line is now tightening their policies, however, with a shorter refund window and requiring tests for guests to take advantage of the policy.
Shorter Window for Last-Minute Cancellations
All major cruise lines have had temporary policies in place for guests who may test positive for COVID-19 shortly before their sailing date, when they may be ill or infectious to others during their cruise.
Disney Cruise Line’s policy has been that guests who test positive within 14 days of embarkation would be able to use the “Temporary Flexible Refund Policy” to “receive a refund in their original form of payment without Disney-imposed cancellation fees.”
Guests also have the option to “apply their cruise fare toward a future sail date” if applicable. Now, that policy has quietly been shortened, and for all bookings made on or after December 9, 2022, the cancellation window is just 10 days, rather than 14.
Guests should note that at this time, the policy change only applies to the booking date of the cruise, not the sailing date. If guests booked a cruise aboard the new Disney Wish months ago, for example, but don’t set sail until after December 9, the more flexible, longer pre-cruise cancellation window will still apply.
It is possible, however, that Disney Cruise Line will further amend the policy to sailing or embarkation date, and all booked guests should stay in close contact with the cruise line for all updates and current information as their sailing date approaches.
Tests Now Required
Another adjustment to the refund policy regards how to qualify for a COVID-19-related refund. Under the previous temporary policy, guests only needed to “have a qualifying COVID-19-related health concern” prior to sailing. This could include explicit symptoms of the disease, a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, known exposure to another person with COVID-19, or a positive test result.
Now, however, the description of those qualifying concerns has been removed from the policy, and it only notes that guests who test positive can apply for the cancelation or to move their fare to a future sailing.
This more strict application of the policy can help prevent guests from changing their bookings or applying for refunds without medical proof of the illness.
Changing the refund and cancellation policy is not the first “rollback” of pandemic-related policies for Disney Cruise Line. All Disney ships have now returned to the in-person muster drill, rather than the e-muster that was popular to keep crowds to a minimum as sailings resumed.
Not a Full Refund
For both the temporary policy as well as the new, stricter policy, guests should note there are some financial penalties.
While qualified bookings will not be subject to Disney Cruise Line cancellation fees, any fees from travel insurance, airlines, rental cars, hotels, or other third parties may still apply. Guests should contact other service providers for their refund policies.
Furthermore, applying the cancelled sailing to a new fare does not necessarily mean an equal swap. Guests will still be responsible for any additional price increase, and any special offers used to book the original cruise may not apply to the new sailing.
Guests should also note that once they seek to cancel their cruise under the COVID-19 policy – whether the temporary policy or the new, more restrictive policy – they are not permitted to move their reservation back to the original cruise, even if symptoms abate or a new test result is negative.
Many cruise travelers have become accustomed to relaxed refund policies, wider cancelation windows, and other policies implemented to give guests peace of mind that their bookings have been protected in case of future outbreaks or illness in these uncertain times.
As more regions are lifting all pandemic-related protocols, however, many cruise lines are sure to be revise their policies to more strict applications, and guests should stay informed about their options prior to embarkation.