How to get refunds on cruise cancellations due to the coronavirus

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Of all the travel-related industries negatively impacted by COVID-19, cruise lines have been amongst the hardest-hit. As cruise lines cancel their planned sailings for 2020 and beyond, refunds are coming in the form of future cruise credits to incentivize future cruising. 

In general, we recommend you reach out to the cruise line directly or to your travel agent (through whom you booked the cruise) to learn about your options for a refund or postponing your adventure. In this post, we’ll dive into each of the three major cruise lines to better understand their cancellation and refund policies and how you should proceed if you have an existing cruise booking.


Carnival was one of the first cruise lines to reluctantly announce cancellations when the coronavirus began picking up steam in the United States. As of this writing, Carnival has canceled all cruises departing before the end of October 2020. Australia cruises have been canceled through October 29, 2020. Additionally, all cruises departing from San Francisco and New York have been canceled through the end of the year.

For folks who have been affected, Carnival is offering a full refund for your cruise bookings, or you can opt to be refunded in the form of a future cruise credit. To sweeten the deal, Carnival is offering an additional incentive of $300 per cabin ($600 for cruises of longer duration) to be spent on a future cruise date. To be eligible, you must elect the future cruise credit and make a booking by the end of 2020 (for a sail date by the end of 2022).

If your cruise was canceled, but you know you still want the same itinerary, the future credit could be a good value for you. But for folks who may not feel comfortable cruising in the next couple of years or who prefer the flexibility of receiving their money back, the full refund may be a better option.


Like Carnival, all Norwegian Cruise Line voyages have been canceled through the end of October 2020. Norwegian has also canceled Australia sailings through February 27, 2021.

Those affected by Norwegian’s cruise cancellations can also receive a full refund back to your original form of payment. Or, if you prefer, you can also receive a 125% future cruise credit to be applied to any booking between October 31, 2020, and the end of 2022. Keep in mind that to take advantage of the increased credit, you need to fill out a form on within a specified time frame after your cruise is canceled.

Unfortunately, my family and I were planning a Norwegian cruise to Alaska for the first week of September. This has obviously been canceled, but we’re considering the same (or a similar) itinerary for a 2021 or 2022 voyage. Norwegian is also offering flexible cancellation for any cruises booked in 2020 (no penalty up to 48 hours before departure) and through 2021 (no penalty until 15 days before departure).

Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean has also canceled all U.S.-based cruises through the end of October (though some cruises in China and Australia are yet to be canceled). This means that passengers can also expect a full refund if they had a Royal Caribbean booking. Or, passengers can opt for a similarly generous 125% future cruise credit that must be booked by the end of 2021 for voyages through 2022.

Once again, similar to Norwegian, Royal Caribbean has offered no penalty cancellation up to 48 hours before departure on any cruise booked by September 30, 2020. Though keep in mind that these “no penalty” offerings won’t refund you in cash — only a future cruise credit that must be applied within 12 months of the originally canceled voyage.

Bottom line

For any cruiser, the events of 2020 have shaken travel plans and made the future of any cruising voyage uncertain. If you’ve been personally affected, I recommend you reach out directly to your specific cruise line or your travel agent to explore options for getting a refund or a future cruise credit.

In my situation, I’ve yet to decide whether we should take the increased future cruise credit (as we certainly hope to visit Alaska via cruise in the not-so-distant future!) or just a refund of the Chase Ultimate Rewards points we used to make the original booking. Do you think cruises will resume this year or in early 2021? What would you do in my situation?

Featured image by NAN728/Shutterstock.

Jake Pearring is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, he covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

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