Help! My Ship Is Supposedly Still Sailing, and I Don’t Want to Be On Board

I’m booked on a Cunard Line trans-Atlantic cruise in May 2021. The reservation was made utilizing credit score from an April crusing that was canceled due to Covid-19. Because I canceled my reservation every week earlier than Cunard itself canceled the crusing, I was not given the chance to get a refund.

But I am nearly 80 and I really feel it’s unfair for me to be locked into touring subsequent spring when I am so terrified of the coronavirus. I really feel as if I’ve been penalized for canceling a voyage that was canceled anyway. Based on what you realize in regards to the cruise trade and its response to the pandemic, what ought to I do? Susan

I’ve gotten emails from a number of Times readers who share your trepidation about cruising. Given the charges of coronavirus infections on ships and all the challenges with well being and security measures, some vacationers really feel not-so-great in regards to the concept of boarding a ship anytime quickly.

New information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention paint an particularly bleak image: From March 1 to July 10, 80 % of ships within the company’s jurisdiction had been affected by the coronavirus. Since March 14, the C.D.C. has devoted greater than 38,000 hours to managing outbreaks on cruise ships.

Although sure small ships have resumed operations this summer, most ocean vessels that sail to or from United States ports are suspended through Sept. 30, according to the C.D.C.’s extended No Sail Order. Still, many cruise lines are delaying their relaunch date even further. Cunard is paused until November. Carnival Cruise Line has already canceled some sailings into 2021.

So, yes, because cruising is a mess right now, it’s not totally unreasonable to be anxious about what next spring will look like.

To win back consumer confidence, maintain cash flow and assure the safety of future passengers and crew members, the cruising industry needs to take massive action. Companies say they are hammering out health protocols and testing upgrades like ultraviolet technologies and H.V.A.C. systems. Meanwhile, docked ships and blank passenger manifests have created a revenue crunch, and certain lines are downsizing their fleets accordingly. Schedules continue to change; as a result, customer-service channels are churning in overdrive.


“We’ve seen lines cancel their sailings in small batches — usually a couple of months at a time — in an effort to process fewer cancellations at once, but they’re still dealing with far more booking adjustments than they’re used to en masse,” said Colleen McDaniel, the editor in chief of Cruise Critic, a major cruise-planning website.

Perhaps fitting for an industry that’s so in flux, reader complaints about cruise refunds and credits have felt especially bizarre. One woman was told by a cruise line customer-service representative that in order to get a refund, she would need to stop posting complaints about the company on Twitter. (She didn’t; that’s how I found her.) Another was asked to prepay for a cruise a full 33 months in advance — highly unusual for a system that runs on deposits and final payments. (One cruise-editor friend, upon hearing these anecdotes, deemed them a good “alarm for the industry” about how customer-service reps are trained.)

One of the biggest — and consumer-friendliest — changes in cruising can be seen in cancellation policies. While specifics vary by cruise line, in general, the possibility of a refund shrinks (or disappears) the closer one gets to the departure date. Pre-pandemic, most lines allowed changes and cancellations up until 90 days in advance; now, many allow them as close as a day or two before departure.

The hitch, though, is exactly the question your scenario raised: If you do cancel a cruise reservation before the cruise line itself cancels the sailing, can you get your money back? Or are you forced, as you were, to accept a credit for a future cruise?

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