During the pandemic, Royal Caribbean (RCL) – Get Royal Caribbean Group Report and its chief rivals Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL) – Get Carnival Corporation Report and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) – Get Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Report shut down from March 2020 through July 2021. During that period, however, all three companies kept taking reservations for future cruises.
Realistically, none of the cruise lines knew how long the pandemic would last so they had to have sort of rolling cancellations. It was a weird mix of hopeful thinking and trying to manifest positive outcomes.
Diehard cruise fans really wanted to travel but they more or less knew that the trips they were booking were likely to be canceled. Royal Caribbean needed to nurture those desires in order to keep reservations coming in.
To do that, the company created its “Cruise With Confidence” policy, a program designed to encourage people to feel good about booking a cruise at a time when it was unclear when cruising would begin again and what the company’s policies would be when that happened.
Now, Royal Caribbean has let Cruise With Confidence quietly expire. That’s a big milestone for the company. It’s a sign that it’s not worried about more cancellations or stronger Covid protocols, but it does remove a safety net for customers.
Why Did Royal Caribbean’s Cruise With Confidence Matter?
Cruise With Confidence relaxed Royal Caribbean’s normal rules around being able to cancel your cruise. The cruise line explained it this way on its website.
Scroll to Continue
Our Cruise with Confidence program ensures you have the flexibility to cancel your reservation up to 48 hours before your sail date, knowing that you’ll get 100% of the paid value back. And enjoy pricing protection on your booked cruise if you happen to spot a better rate.
For sailings booked by March 31, 2022 that depart by September 30, 2022, you can cancel up to 48 hours before your sail date and get the full paid value in a Future Cruise Credit. You can use the credit for any sailing that departs within a year of your original sail date, or by December 31, 2022, whichever is longer. The options are nearly endless.
This gave peace of mind to potential passengers in a number of ways. The most important was that the program allowed cruisers to decide very close to their cruise whether they still wanted to take the trip. That was crucial during the company’s return to sailing when a customer might cancel because a port stop changed or because they didn’t like the current policies.
Now, as the calendar turns to April 1, 2022, Royal Caribbean has let Cruise With Confidence expire.
What Does the End of Cruise With Confidence Mean?
On one hand, it’s a strong sign that Royal Caribbean has put the pandemic behind it and expects operations to be (mostly) normal going forward. The question is whether potential passengers feel the same way and are willing to book future cruises without the safety net of being able to cancel.
The end of Cruise With Confidence means a return to normal/pre-pandemic policies. Here’s how that works, according to Matt Hochberg of the Royal Caribbean Blog (which is not affiliated with Royal Caribbean).
“Cancellations may occur up to the final payment date without penalty if you booked refundable cruise fare. Typically the final payment date for most cruises is 90 days before a cruise begins,” he wrote. “If you booked a non-refundable cruise fare, and are outside of final payment, you will receive a Future Cruise Certificate in the amount of the cruise deposit, less a $100 per guest change fee.”
If you cancel after final payment, you lose a percentage of the fare as a penalty (the exact amount depends upon how close to the actual cruising date you are). It is also possible to book refundable cruise fares (that almost certainly will cost more) and you can buy trip insurance that allows you to cancel for any reason (be very careful in picking these policies since many insurance programs only allow you to cancel for specific reasons).