One of the biggest complaints from travel advisors and their clients about the cruise industry during the pandemic was the inconsistencies with refund policies.
Louis E. Sola of the Federal Maritime Commission told NBC Bay Area that federal regulators took notice of the influx of complaints and launched a formal investigation last year into the refund programs of cruise brands.
“It was difficult for us to figure out,” Sola told NBC. “Even where lines were owned by the same group, they’d have completely different refund policies within that group.”
“Unfortunately, cruise lines have done a less than perfect job regarding processing refunds,” Scott Lara of TheCruiseGenius.com told TravelPulse. “I’ve had several clients contact me about refunds and they are just plain frustrated about the process. Sure, cruise lines are offering on board credit, but my anti-vax clients won’t be cruising again.”
The Federal Maritime Commission is now proposing a new set of uniform cruise refund rules based on federal airline regulations, with officials scheduled to vote on the legislation later in the year.
“Cruise lines have been inconsistent in processing refunds anywhere from 2 weeks to 10 months,” Luxury Cruise and Tour Inc’s Ken Heit said. “Some cruise lines have extended commission payments time to agencies to months later than normal.”
“Clients are growing tired of cancellations and rebooking. Many have given up until the pandemic ends,” Heit continued. “Future cruise credits for canceled sailings started off very generous but most cruise lines have now limited the bonus or eliminated it.”
When a cruise is canceled or delayed by 24 hours or more, the proposal would require full refunds to be paid within 60 days of the passenger’s refund request.
If the voyage is canceled or delayed due to a government order, cruise lines would have 180 days to issue a refund.
“The commission’s recommendations make passenger protections more transparent, standardized and enhances consumer protections,” Cruise Planners franchise owner Brad Striegel said. “While cruise lines have added more cruise protection policies to alleviate passenger anxiety, they’ve also caused a headache with their myriad health protocols, though some of these are driven by foreign ports of call.”
“I hope cruise lines and countries alike will see that COVID-19 is endemic, drop all health protocols, and accept COVID like we do the cold and flu,” Striegel continued. “Clients are still concerned about pandemic travel and it’s still a tough business environment. I tell clients to assess their risk to travel and share my own experiences, like those documented in my TravelPulse articles.”
You can submit comments to the Federal Maritime Commission about this matter on or before October 25, 2021.
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