Passengers to Have More Rights on Cruise Refunds

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A Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) rule change coming into effect on April 17 will provide more rights to guests booked onboard a cruise that is either delayed or canceled. The new rule offers clear guidelines for cruise companies and passenger vessel operators when they must provide a refund. 

The rule change came from Federal Maritime Commissioner Louis Sola’s recommendations to the Commission in April 2020. During his fact-finding mission on the impact of COVID-19 on the cruise industry, he identified that the refund policies from the various cruise lines, the FMC, and vessel operators needed an alignment. 

Federal Maritime Commission Amends Refund Policies

The Fact-Finding 30 Interim Report released in April 2020 concluded a need for clear guidance to determine whether a passenger can obtain a refund if an operator cancels a voyage, makes a significant schedule change, or significantly delays a trip. 

As part of this report, the Federal Maritime Commissioner, Louis Sola, recommended making regulatory changes that would make it clear to guests when they would be able to request a refund.

Norwegian Cruise Line Passengers
Photo Credit: Darryl Brooks / Shutterstock

This became especially relevant during the pandemic, with thousands of voyages canceled and,  in some cases, guests experiencing problems with claiming a full refund. The changes to the FMC registry make it clear what the definition of nonperformance is and how guests may obtain refunds.

“Hundreds of thousands of Americans enjoy taking a pleasure cruise every year.  For some, these are trips of a lifetime where people have worked hard to save the cost of a ticket.”

“Amending the Commission’s regulations to provide passengers more rights and options when a cruise line has not performed is good for consumers.  I am grateful for the trust my fellow Commissioners placed in me to lead Fact Finding 30 and for their support in expanding consumer protections,” said Commissioner Louis E. Sola.

The FMC worked closely with the cruise industry, and specifically Cruise Lines International Organization to streamline the processes across all the CLIA members.

Providing a Clear Framework

Working through the small print in the terms and conditions can be tricky, especially when claiming a full refund on a voyage that has been canceled outside of a guest’s fault. The new rules that the FMC has created seek to make things a lot easier and provide a clear framework for guests, but also the cruise lines.

Also Read: How to Speed Up Your Cruise Refund

The main change is a clear definition of when a cruise line is not performing. The Federal Maritime Commission now sees canceling a voyage or delaying a voyage by three or more calendar days if a passenger elects not to embark on a delayed or substituted voyage offered by a PVO as non-performance and thus eligible for a refund.

Miami Cruise Ships
Keith Michael Taylor /

Should an operator not pay out, or a guest is unsuccessful in receiving a refund, a guest can now make direct claims against financial responsibility instruments, such as bonds held by the operator. The rule also allows all fees, including ancillary fees, paid by a passenger to a cruise operator to be eligible for a refund.

“I applaud the hard work of Commissioner Sola on Fact Finding 30 and his identifying these needed changes to Commission regulations.  Consumers deserve more alternatives than the often-limiting recourses specified in a ticket contract. Updating the Commission’s regulations was the proper thing to do, and these rule changes deliver more rights and remedies to the public, I support them wholeheartedly,” said Chairman Daniel B. Maffei.

What the new rules from the FMC provides, is security for guests. When they are unsuccessful in claiming a refund from a cruise operator but feel they are eligible, a refund can now be claimed through the FMC rules. The new rules and regulations will be valid 30 days from the publishing date of March 17. 

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