The surge in demand for cruises has brought on a new challenge for guests: overbooked ships. Guests navigate choppy waters as they grapple with last-minute cancellations, financial losses, and potentially scrapped vacation plans.
Cruise lines have recently started combatting the issue of overbooked cruise ships by offering guests the same or similar cruise during a different time of year.
These options are usually satisfactory for cruises nearby; for cruises much further away, it is a whole other story. One guest on a Celebrity cruise stands to lose thousands of dollars, and she’s likely not the only one.
Unexpected Cancellations Lead to Financial Losses
Imagine planning a dream cruise vacation, investing thousands of dollars in airfare and accommodations, only to have your trip cancelled because the cruise was oversold.
This nightmare scenario recently played out for 68-year-old Diane Gainey and her family, who had looked forward to a 12-night cruise onboard the Celebrity Millennium.
Business Insider reported that Gainey found herself unexpectedly without a cruise after being informed that her September sailing onboard the Celebrity Millennium had been oversold.
The financial loss from the cancellation is significant. After declining to reschedule the 12-night cruise from Japan, Gainey was left with an option to reschedule the trip or cancel for a full refund, but with a hefty $6,000 in non-refundable and non-transferable airfare and hotel reservations to shoulder. The company’s offer to cover $500 worth of extra costs fell far short.
A Celebrity Cruises spokesperson maintained that the company consistently monitors their sailings to prevent disruptions to guests’ travel plans. They offer options for guests to voluntarily choose another sailing if their plans are flexible. However, in Gainey’s case, this did not work out.
Overbookings Plague Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships
The issue is not exclusive to Celebrity Cruises. Royal Caribbean International has recently experienced overbookings on its ships, including on the world’s largest cruise ship, Wonder of the Seas, in the past six months. The 236,857 gross tons cruise ship has struggled to accommodate all bookings lately.
The industry’s growing pains are evidenced by the rising trend of overbookings. The situation is compounded by cruise lines’ strategies of selling more suites than are physically available as a buffer for last-minute cancellations. Guests can be left high and dry when the numbers don’t add up.
Practical Tips for Cruise Guests
It is critical for guests to protect themselves against potential losses. Guests can ensure they’re covered should their cruise plans hit rocky waters by considering refundable options, credit card protections, and exploring the possibility of transferring bookings.
One of the first steps when booking a cruise, flights, and hotel is to opt for refundable airfares, hotel bookings, and comprehensive travel insurance. This is especially important if your cruise leaves from a faraway country such as Japan. Though often more expensive, these options provide a safety net if plans fall through due to circumstances beyond control.
For hotel bookings, consider those with a free cancellation policy, usually available up to a specific date before the stay begins. This can be particularly helpful if guests are informed about cruise cancellations well in advance.
Credit cards can also come to the rescue with various protections and insurance options. Many credit card companies offer travel insurance as part of their benefits, which can cover costs related to trip cancellations or interruptions.
Additionally, some airlines may allow guests to transfer their bookings to a later date, often for a fee. Though this doesn’t avoid all costs, it may help mitigate some financial losses and can be a suitable option if the next available cruise is at a later date.
Lastly, booking a cruise through a travel agent is always smart. Experienced travel agents have the know-how to navigate the intricate world of cruises and can be instrumental in securing a hassle-free vacation experience.