Another incentive to book a cruise?
The "cancel for any reason" policy.
Cruise Cancellation Policies
Carnival Cruise Line's new "Cruise Vacation Protection Plan" now includes "cancel for any reason."
The new protection plan allows cruisers to cancel their cruise for any reason and receive a future cruise credit equal to
75-percent of the cruise cancellation charges, provided they notify Carnival prior to the ship's departure.
The same protection plan will give a 100% refund to people forced to cancel due to covered reasons. The new plan will apply for all cruises departing January 1, 2011 or later, and the price of the plan remains the same beginning at $49 per person but will go higher depending on the length and cost of the cruise.
Carnival Cruisers sailing in 2011 or later who have already purchased the plan will be given this "cancel for any reason" benefit automatically at no additional cost. Those who have already paid deposits but have not yet made their final payments can still purchase the plan up to their cruise's final payment due date.
For the record, these are the same "cancel for any reason" terms (roughly, a 75% cancellation-fee credit for a future cruise) that are already offered by Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and NCL.
Holland America started offering its own "cancel for any reason" policy five weeks ago. Holland America's policy allows cruisers to cancel for any reason and receive back 80% of the fare, but there is a significant difference. It is paid as a refund rather than a future cruise credit. You get an 80% refund with the line's standard plan or 90% of the fare paid with the premium plan.
Princess Cruises has the same future cruise credit offer as Carnival, but the line also offers a more expensive "Princess Platinum Vacation Protection Plan" where cruisers can get 100% of their cancellation fee as a future cruise credit up until the time of departure.
Despite the differences noted above, most of these cruise line protection plans have things in common. The cancellations are administered by BerkelyCare, an independent, provider of travel insurance, the cost of vacation protection goes higher depending on the length and cost of the cruise and guests must purchase the plans no later than their cruise's final payment due date to be eligible for the "cancel for any reason" benefit.
This final payment due date, generally 60 to 90 days before the cruise sails, has a lot of significance where refunds are concerned. You can cancel before this date and get a full refund, or just lose your deposit, but after this date you will pay a cancellation penalty that varies from 50% up to 100% of the cost of the cruise, depending on the proximity of the sail date.
Always make sure that you shop and purchase your travel insurance early in the booking process, especially if your main concern is a pre-existing medical condition. Most travel insurance policies require full payment at the same time you make your full vacation payment.
Another place to purchase "cancel for any reason" cruise insurance is through third party providers such as "Travel Safe." Third party policies generally cost more, but they also offer refunds rather than cruise credits. Third party insurance should also cover bankruptcy by the travel provider. Simply put; if you buy cruise insurance from a cruise line that goes bankrupt, you are not going to get a refund from them. People considering cruises on specialty cruise line that do not sail from United States ports should always seek third-party cruise insurance. Credit card companies will sometimes reimburse people in the case of default by the travel service provider.
There is a lot to be said for a refund rather than a cruise credit. The cruise credit is better than nothing, but little help if you lost your job or just cannot travel any more. It is important to check each policy carefully for differences in protection. There are third party travel insurance brokers who offer policies from a variety of sources. There is no one "best" insurance provider in every case because vacations vary in detail.
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