Royal Caribbean has contacted guests booked on Freedom of the Seas sailings in December 2024 and January 2025 to inform them that their cruise has now been cancelled due to dry dock scheduling.
This will be a blow to travelers looking forward to their Christmas and New Year getaway, but the cruise line is offering some compensation for the loss of what would have been a very merry sailing.
Freedom of the Seas Cruises Cancelled
Guests planning a special holiday getaway aboard Freedom of the Seas in 2024 and 2025 are now disappointed to learn that their cruise has been cancelled. The cruise line has sent out letters to impacted guests with options. Instead, the ship will be undergoing dry dock at that time for maintenance and upgrades.
“We’re continuously working to improve our ships and the many amenities they have to offer. We’re taking Freedom of the Seas into dry dock for routine maintenance and exciting improvements,” the notification email for the December 21 cruise explained. “Unfortunately, this means your upcoming December 21st, 2024 cruise has been cancelled.”
The nature of the “exciting improvements” has not been detailed, and the 156,271-gross-ton cruise ship has not been updated since it received the “Royal Amplification.”
This $116 million (USD) upgrade in early 2020 added Playmakers Sports Bar, the Perfect Storm slides, and the Studio B Ice rink can now transition into a laser tag arena or a nightclub, amongst various other enhancements to the 17-year-old cruise ship.
In late 2024, the ship is scheduled to be homeported from Fort Lauderdale, offering 6-8 night Caribbean sailings, many of which will also call on the cruise line’s private island destination in The Bahamas, Perfect Day at CocoCay.
The fact that there are only four short six to eight-night sailings for Freedom of the Seas between November 2024 and February 2025 suggests that the ship might be undergoing a considerably longer dry dock period than initially anticipated.
There is one cruise scheduled to sail on December 29, but after that, no cruises are available through February 16, 2025. Keep in mind, this could also point to a series of charters for the January-February window.
Alternative Sailings Offered
Royal Caribbean has outlined some alternate options for the guests in the notification email to alleviate the disappointment of the cancelled cruises. There are two primary alternatives: rebooking other itineraries in 2024 and 2025 or re-booking any other Royal Caribbean International sailing.
Guests have the option to choose from a selection of 2024 or 2025 itineraries departing from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, onboard Freedom of the Seas or Oasis of the Seas.
The proposed itineraries include a variety of 7-night and 8-night trips sailing to destinations such as the Bahamas, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, Antigua, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Maarten, Aruba, Curacao, and Perfect Day at CocoCay. Surprisingly, Royal Caribbean is not offering a Christmas Holiday cruise as an alternative on other ships.
For the replacement cruises, Royal Caribbean assures guests that their original stateroom category price will either be protected at the original cruise fare rate or reduced to the current cruise fare rate. Furthermore, guests will receive a refund for the difference if the booking was already paid in full and the cruise fare rate decreases.
Guests who choose to sail on any other Royal Caribbean cruises will be responsible for any price differences, including cruise fare, taxes, fees, gratuities, and other non-cruise fare items. Royal will waive any non-refundable deposit change fees.
Besides the option to rebook, Royal Caribbean International has also made provisions for full refunds. According to the email, guests who cannot find a suitable new itinerary and choose to cancel will receive a full refund of any paid portion of the cruise fare. This includes non-refundable deposits and any pre-paid amenities.
Moreover, if guests have booked airfare through Royal Caribbean International, it will be automatically refunded. For guests who have arranged their own transportation and have incurred non-refundable change fees, the cruise line offers to cover up to $200 per guest for domestic changes or up to $400 per guest for international changes.
Guests who had used a Future Cruise Credit for the cancelled cruise will have any new funds paid above the FCC amount refunded and the original FCC reinstated.
Despite the regrettable situation, Royal Caribbean is trying to rectify it and minimize the impact on its guests. Guests wishing to choose from the options provided must contact Royal Caribbean or their Travel Advisor. Guests who do not make contact by this date will have their reservation cancelled.
While the cancellation of the Freedom of the Seas holiday cruise is unfortunate, it appears that Royal Caribbean is planning something special for the Freedom-class cruise ship. Changes that could affect sisterships Independence of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas at a later date.