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Royal Caribbean drops vaccine mandate for U.S. cruises

In:
05Jun2021

It looks like Royal Caribbean has completely changed its rules for requiring vaccinations from passengers on most of its U.S. sailings.

Included within the cruise line's ambitious July restart plans announced on Friday, Royal Caribbean changed the wording of its Covid-19 vaccine policy by saying they are now simply "strongly recommended".

Royal Caribbean had updated its policy a few weeks ago to say vaccines would be required for anyone above the age of 16 on U.S. and Bahamas sailings, but within the announcement of which ships will restart revenue cruises is new verbiage that changes the policy.

The announcement says, "guests are strongly recommended to set sail fully vaccinated, if they are eligible."

"Those who are unvaccinated or unable to verify vaccination will be required to undergo testing and follow other protocols, which will be announced at a later date."

A vaccine will remain required for anyone sailing from Seattle to Alaska who are 16 years of age or older, and those 12 or older as of Aug. 1.

On May 22, Royal Caribbean posted on its website that it would require all guests sailing from the U.S. or Bahamas who are at least 16 years old or older to be fully vaccinated to sail.

Two days later, Royal Caribbean Group CEO Richard Fain explained in a video update that unlike other Royal Caribbean Group lines, Royal Caribbean International would expect everyone who can be vaccinated, to do so.

"Royal Caribbean International is likely to take a somewhat different route. Like our other brands, everyone who's eligible for vaccine will be expected to have one."

"However, children under 12 can't yet get the shot. And Royal Caribbean International carries a lot of families. Families are important to us."

"On these cruises, we may not reach the ninety five percent threshold, but even here the vast majority will be vaccinated."

Shortly thereafter, Royal Caribbean updated its website and changed the wording from "U.S." to "Seattle".

Why the change?

Royal Caribbean has not provided any explanation yet, but there is rampant speculation it is the result of the ongoing war of words between the cruise lines and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) signed a new law that prohibits businesses from being able to ask for proof of a vaccine from their customers.

Senate Bill (SB) 2006 specifies the new law prohibits "a business entity from requiring patrons or customers to provide documentation certifying vaccination against or recovery from COVID-19."

The new law goes into effect as of July 1st. Companies that violate this law would be subject to a fine of $5,000 each time they require a customer to present a vaccine passport for service.

Governor DeSantis doesn't think cruise ships need to ask passengers for proof of a vaccine, because of how well cruise operations are doing overseas, "These cruise ships are sailing in other parts of the world where they don't even have vaccines available and they're doing it safely and people are having a good time on it. So so they can do it."

Last week, it looked as though a compromise might be possible. Celebrity Cruises told travel agents on a webinar they are working with the Governor's office to find a solution to the issue.

Dondra Ritzenthaler, Celebrity Cruises Senior Vice President of Sales and Trade Support & Service, said they were working with the Governors, "we're ironing out a statement that will articulate how cruising will be different than in the state."

Until a resolution is found, Ms. Ritzenthaler said Royal Caribbean Group's full protocols are on hold, "I would say that we are super close, but we will not come out with our total protocols and return to service until we get that formal statement from the governor."

After that call, officials from Governor DeSantis' office denied any discussions with the cruise line was happening.

DeSantis spokeswoman Pushaw on Thursday said it would be up to the cruise lines to develop solutions that don’t include vaccination requirements. "The ban on vaccine passports is not going to be lifted,” she said, “but in general, the law doesn’t stop private companies from taking other measures to protect against COVID-19."

Royal Caribbean extends ability to cancel cruise for a credit until July 31, 2021

In:
Category: 
26May2021

Royal Caribbean will extend its flexible cancellation policy that allows more time to be able to change their mind about canceling a cruise at the last minute.

Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President, Sales, Trade Support and Service, Vicki Freed, told travel agents the Cruise with Confidence program will be officially extended on Thursday, when the expiration date gets pushed back to July 31, 2021.

The popular program allows guests to cancel a cruise for any reason up to 48 hours before a sailing is scheduled to depart in exchange for a future cruise credit. Today's announcement means an additional two months of flexibility for guests.

It was scheduled to end on May 31, 2020 prior to the extension.

The Cruise with Confidence program was introduced at the beginning of the health crisis, and provides significantly relaxed rules concerning canceling a cruise if the situation changes for a guest.

Ordinarily, guests would incur a penalty for canceling a sailing beyond the final payment date, which is typically 90 days before a sailing commences. Cruise with Confidence provides a great deal more flexibility to change minds with no penalty.

Instead, Cruise with Confidence gives passengers booked on-or-before July 31, 2021 the option to cancel Royal Caribbean sailings scheduled to depart through April 30, 2022.

In addition, the Best Price Guarantee program will be extended to the end of July.

The Best Price Guarantee means you can take advantage of better rates up to 48 hours prior to sail date. Usually guests in certain countries can reprice cruises only up until their final payment date to take advantage of a price drop.

How does Cruise with Confidence work?

Ever since Royal Caribbean shut down cruises in March 2020, it has offered guests increased flexibility in being able to change their minds due to the fluid nature of news and the global health crisis.

Essentially, Cruise with Confidence is the name of the program that allows guests to change or cancel a cruise up to 48 hours before their sail date with no penalty or change fees.

Guests can opt for a 100% Future Cruise Credit that is good for 12 months or more.

Today's change means Cruise with Confidence is applicable to guests booked on-or-before July 31, 2021 on sailings departing through April 2022. This encompasses essentially all Royal Caribbean sailings available to book currently.

The program includes refundable and non-refundable cruise fares, and only excludes chartered sailings.

It is important to note that if you elect to cancel a cruise on your own with this program, and later Royal Caribbean cancels the sailing, you waive any right to receive any refund oft he cruise fare paid.

Less than a week left to book a cruise with flexible cancellation terms

In:
Category: 
25May2021

There are only a few days left before Royal Caribbean's flexible cancellation policy is no longer available to book.

UPDATE: Royal Caribbean has extended Cruise with Confidence through July 31, 2021.

The Cruise with Confidence program was introduced right as the cruise industry was shutting down for an indeterminate amount of time due to the global health crisis, and with cruises on the precipice of returning, this program may no longer be offered.

Cruise with Confidence officially ends after May 31st, 2021, which means if you want to have your sailing qualify for its benefits, you need to book on or before May 31, 2021.

A cruise that was booked on or before May 31, 2021 is entitled to a 100% future cruise credit if you decide to cancel any cruise that sets sail from now through April 30th, 2022.

The policy covers any cruise reservation made on or before May 31, but if Royal Caribbean does not extend the program again, guests will no longer be able to take advantage of it on sailings booked beyond May.

As long as you cancel at least 48 hours before your sail date, Royal Caribbean will provide you with a 100% future cruise credit. Future Cruise Credits are valid to book by April 30th, 2022 and sail by September 30th, 2022.

It is possible Royal Caribbean may extend Cruise with Confidence again, but as of right now, it is set to end as an included benefit for new cruises booked at the end of May.

Royal Caribbean has already sunset one of its popular cancellation program, Lift & Shift, which allowed guests to defer their cruise by a year.  Lift & Shift ended on February 1, 2021.

The chief benefit of Cruise with Confidence is someone can cancel their cruise up to 48 hours before their cruise with no penalty or fees. 

Once the program ends and you were to book a cruise without Cruise with Confidence, you would be subject to the standard cancellation terms, which include penalties for canceling beyond the final payment date as well possible additional penalties if you booked a non-refundable cruise fare.

In addition to Cruise with Confidence, the enhanced Best Price Guarantee program is set to expire on May 31, 2021.

The Best Price Guarantee program allows guests to take advantage of better rates up to 48 hours prior to sail date. Usually guests in certain countries can reprice cruises only up until their final payment date to take advantage of a price drop.

Just like Cruise with Confidence, guests must be booked on or before May 31st, 2021 for sailings that depart on or before April 30th, 2022 and they can request the difference of their booked rates versus any rate reduction.

The difference in pricing will be added to the booking as an onboard credit, inside final payment, and it’ll be applied within 14 business days, and a new confirmation will be generated with the Onboard Credit value.

What you should do before Cruise with Confidence ends?

If you are thinking of booking any cruise between now and April 2022, it may make a lot of sense to at least put a deposit down now to not only lock in the price of your cruise, but also ensure you can cancel it under Cruise with Confidence up to 48 hours before the sailing.

The flexibility this program provides is a great "safety net" for anyone with a cruise booked who is unsure what the cruise world may look like closer to your sail date. In short, there is very little risk when your booking is protected with Cruise with Confidence since you can change your mind at any time.

Of course, there are still some other means to retain some level of flexibility to change your mind later even without the program. 

  • Book refundable cruise fare so you can cancel before final payment date for a 100% refund.
  • Consider a "Cancel for any reason" travel insurance plan

Ultimately,if you were thinking about booking a cruise for 2021 or 2022, you might consider booking it before Cruise with Confidence ends to have access to the flexibility it provides.

Royal Caribbean extends Cruise with Confidence program by one month

In:
Category: 
10Mar2021

Cruisers have an extra month to take advantage of Royal Caribbean's flexible cancellation policy.

As a result of canceling most May 2021 cruises, Royal Caribbean announced it would also extend its Cruise with Confidence program by a month.

Cruises booked on or before May 31, 2021 for a sailing departing through April 30, 2022 are now eligible for Cruise with Confidence.

Prior to this change, Cruise with Confidence only applied to bookings made through April 30, 2021.

Under Cruise with Confidence, guests can cancel a cruise for any reason up to 48 hours before a sailing is scheduled to depart in exchange for a 100% future cruise credit.

It also covers the expanded Best Price Guarantee, which allows for anyone to get a lower price after booking a sailing.

All active bookings confirmed on or before May 31, 2021 for Royal Caribbean sailings through April 2022 (excluding Chartered sailings) are included in the Cruise with Confidence program.

Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President, Sales, Trade Support and Service, Vicki Freed, informed travel agents of the extension during a webinar with travel agents, "Along with the suspension announcing, we have also extended our Cruise With Confidence program to allocate an additional month of reassurance for those considering a cruise vacation."

With each new round of suspensions, Royal Caribbean has followed up with an extension of the Cruise with Confidence program as a way to give consumers much more time to decide if they want to cancel or continue with a booking.

The Cruise with Confidence program was introduced at the beginning of the health crisis, and provides significantly relaxed rules concerning canceling a cruise if the situation changes for a guest.

Ordinarily, guests would incur a penalty for canceling a sailing beyond the final payment date, which is typically 90 days before a sailing commences. Cruise with Confidence provides a great deal more flexibility to change minds with no penalty.

How does Cruise with Confidence work?

Ever since Royal Caribbean shut down cruises in March 2020, it has offered guests increased flexibility in being able to change their minds due to the fluid nature of news and the global health crisis.

Essentially, Cruise with Confidence is the name of the program that allows guests to change or cancel a cruise up to 48 hours before their sail date with no penalty or change fees.

Guests can opt for a 100% Future Cruise Credit that is good for 12 months or more up until 48 hours before their sailing.

The program includes refundable and non-refundable cruise fares, and only excludes chartered sailings.

It is important to note that if you elect to cancel a cruise on your own with this program, and later Royal Caribbean cancels the sailing, you waive any right to receive any refund oft he cruise fare paid.

Royal Caribbean will still offer Lift & Shift if there are more cancelled cruises

In:
Category: 
27Jan2021

Royal Caribbean announced yesterday that it will not extend the Lift and Shift program beyond January, but it turns out the option will still remain under one scenario.

Lift and Shift allows guests to take the cruise they have booked and defer it by a year, while protecting the original price they paid.

While the option to take advantage of Lift and Shift anytime is going away, if there are more cruise cancellations, Lift and Shift will remain an option for guests.

Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President, Sales, Trade Support and Service, confirmed to travel agents that the popular choice will return for those that have cancelled cruises on any new cancellations in the future.

"I do want to be clear on one thing about Lift and Shift. If Royal Caribbean, cancels or suspends a sailing at any point, Lift and Shift will still be available for those people who have an active booking on the sailing."

"Those are the people that didn't elect to go with Cruise with confidence and cancel on us."

"If you have clients on a sailing and we cancel that sailing or suspend it, lifted ship will still apply."

Read moreRoyal Caribbean Lift and Shift information & frequently asked questions

Lift and Shift is still available to all bookings, if you take advantage of it before January 31, 2021. After this point, Lift & Shift will expire and is no longer available at any time.

With Lift and Shift, you can move a reservation by a year and protect the original cruise fare and promotion to a qualifying sailing departing on or before April 30, 2022 on the same itinerary type, sailing length, stateroom category, and within 4 weeks before or after the date of the original cruise.  Subsequent sailings do not apply.

You do not need to book the same ship or even class of ships when you lift and shift.

Select restricted rates are ineligible for Lift & Shift and Best Price Guarantee - including but not limited to Net rates, Casino rates, Travel Agent Friends & Family rates, Travel Agent Reduced rates, and complimentary staterooms.

Christmas, New Year’s, and Chinese New Year’s cruises are ineligible for Lift & Shift, unless you are  currently confirmed on one of these sailings and wish to take advantage of Lift & Shift to move to the same sailing next year (assuming all other qualifying criteria are met).

There can also be some issues with unique itineraries, where there is no equivalent sailing to move to in the next year, such as longer sailings to lesser-visited ports.

In order to take advantage of Lift & Shift, names and full deposit must be placed on the booking. If it is after the Final Payment due date, the booking must be paid in full.

When leveraging Lift & Shift to move a booking to a future sail date, taxes & fees will be adjusted to reflect the charges associated with the new sailing. Taxes & fees from the original sail date will not be protected.

Royal Caribbean extends Cruise with Confidence program, but will end Lift & Shift

In:
Category: 
26Jan2021

Royal Caribbean will give guests three additional months to take advantage of its flexible cancellation policy.

The Cruise with Confidence program has been extended through April 30, 2021 for sailings departing through April 30, 2022.

The popular program allows guests to cancel a cruise for any reason up to 48 hours before a sailing is scheduled to depart in exchange for a 100% future cruise credit.

Cruise with Confidence also includes the ability to take advantage of a lower price through the Best Price Guarantee.

All active bookings confirmed on or before April 30, 2021 for Royal Caribbean sailings through April 2022 (excluding Chartered sailings) are included in the Cruise with Confidence program.

Prior to this change, the program would have ended on January 31, 2021.

Lift & Shift is ending

This extension does not apply to Lift and Shift, and Royal Caribbean says its current plan is to discontinue the program as of February 1, 2021.

Lift and Shift allows guests to move their reservation by a year and protect the original cruise fare and promotion to a qualifying sailing departing on or before April 30, 2022 on the same itinerary type, sailing length, stateroom category, and within 4 weeks before or after the date of their original cruise. 

Guests are eligible to move their reservation under the Lift & Shift guidelines between now and January 31, 2021 to sailings departing through April 2022 only. After this point, Lift & Shift will expire and is no longer available.

Read moreTop 10 Royal Caribbean Lift and Shift questions

Extending the flexibility

In an email to travel agents, Royal Caribbean said the Cruise with Confidence program has been "very popular" for the benefits it provides.

The Cruise with Confidence program was introduced at the beginning of the health crisis, and provides significantly relaxed rules concerning canceling a cruise if the situation changes for a guest.

Ordinarily, guests would incur a penalty for canceling a sailing beyond the final payment date, which is typically 90 days before a sailing commences. Cruise with Confidence provides a great deal more flexibility to change minds with no penalty.

Today's change means Cruise with Confidence will be available for an additional three months, although it looks like Lift and Shift will come to an end.

Lift & Shift has been extremely popular for the price protection it offered, and was an option other cruise lines did not offer either.

How does Cruise with Confidence work?

Ever since Royal Caribbean shut down cruises in March, it has offered guests increased flexibility in being able to change their minds due to the fluid nature of news and the global health crisis.

Essentially, Cruise with Confidence is the name of the program that allows guests to change or cancel a cruise up to 48 hours before their sail date with no penalty or change fees.

Guests can opt for a 100% Future Cruise Credit that is good for 12 months or more.

The program includes refundable and non-refundable cruise fares, and only excludes chartered sailings.

It is important to note that if you elect to cancel a cruise on your own with this program, and later Royal Caribbean cancels the sailing, you waive any right to receive any refund oft he cruise fare paid.

Royal Caribbean will now let guests combine future cruise credits

In:
Category: 
25Jan2021

It is now going to be much easier for everyone to use their Royal Caribbean future cruise credits.

Royal Caribbean announced it will now allow guests to combine multiple future cruise credits (FCCs) on one reservation.

Future cruise credits are vouchers that guests typically get when a cruise is cancelled in lieu of a refund.

Prior to this change, Royal Caribbean only allowed guests to apply one future cruise credit per person on the reservation.  With so many cancelled cruises due to the global health crisis, many guests have FCCs stacking up, and unable to use them all.

The inability to combine future cruise credits is rooted in a policy that predates the cruise industry shutdown of 2020. In short, there was rarely a need to allow FCCs to be combinable since they were not commonly issued to guests.

In a statement to travel agents, Royal Caribbean said, "you are now able to submit multiple FCCs, should your clients have more than one in their name, as well as share the value of FCCs across multiple clients in the same booking. You have asked and we have listened!"

Under the new rules, multiple certificates can be applied to the same client if they were all issued in response to Cruising With Confidence or the Global Sailing Suspension. This also includes Non Refundable Deposit FCCs issued through Cruise with Confidence.

If you have multiple FCCs in your name that were created outside of these programs, they cannot be combined with each other at this time.

Moreover, you are allowed to share the value of FCCs across multiple guests in the same booking, including using a remaining balance from one guest to apply to another in the same booking.

Throughout the shutdown, Royal Caribbean has slowly adjusted its Future Cruise Credit policies to match the changing landscape.  In June, it allowed guests to start using a FCC towards a cruise fare deposit, and in October the cruise line started allowing leftover balances from a FCC not have to wait to apply it to a new reservation.

Royal Caribbean had begun allowing guests to combine FCCs when a cruise was cancelled, but only when a new FCC was issued.

Future Cruise Credits are an option for guests who either choose to cancel their cruise up to 48 hours before the sail date via the Cruise with Confidence program, or have their cruise cancelled by Royal Caribbean. In either case, a voucher code is provided that can be redeemed for the value of the sailing.

When Royal Caribbean cancels the sailing, the Future Cruise Credit is worth 125% the value of the cruise fare that the guest paid.

What can I use a future cruise credit for?

Future cruise credits have become widely available due to the current voluntary cruise shutdown that Royal Caribbean is engaged in, which means while cruises are being cancelled due to the global health crisis, Royal Caribbean is offering guests future cruise credits.

Royal Caribbean allows guests to use their future cruise credits to pay their cruise fare, including the deposit.

It cannot be used towards add-on purchases, like drink packages, shore excursions, port fees or taxes.

More information

Royal Caribbean extends Future Cruise Credits expiration date until September 2022

In:
Category: 
13Jan2021

You will have more time to use your future cruise credits from all of those cancelled cruises.

Royal Caribbean announced it has extended the expiration date of its future cruise credits (FCCs) until September 2022.

The FCCs are valid to book by by April 30, 2022 and sail by September 30th, 2022.

Prior to this change, you had until April 2022 to use your Future Cruise Credits. This provides an extra 4 months of sailings to apply a FCC, including the ability to apply them towards summer 2022 cruises.

This change applies to:

  • Global sailing suspension FCCs
  • Cruise with Confidence FCCs
  • Non-refundable deposit credits issued after March 13, 2020
  • Pre-Cruise Planner Onboard Credits

Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President, Sales, Trade Support and Service, told travel agents the change was made based on feedback travel advisors have shared with the cruise line.

Future Cruise Credits are issued at the time of cancellation to be used within a certain timeframe, but with more and more cruises being cancelled, there is concern guests might run out of time to redeem them.

What can future cruise credits be used for?

Future cruise credits are vouchers that guests typically get when a cruise is cancelled in lieu of a refund, which are similar to gift certificate.

Future cruise credits have become widely available due to the current voluntary cruise shutdown that Royal Caribbean is engaged in, which means while cruises are being cancelled due to the global health crisis, Royal Caribbean is offering guests future cruise credits.

Royal Caribbean allows guests to use their future cruise credits to pay their cruise fare, including the deposit.

It cannot be used towards add-on purchases, like drink packages, shore excursions, port fees or taxes.

More information

Royal Caribbean extends all Future Cruise Credits through April 30, 2022

In:
Category: 
17Dec2020

Royal Caribbean announced on Wednesday it has simplified when guests can use their future cruise credits (FCCs) by extending the expiration date to April 30th, 2022, regardless of when the sailing suspension occurred..

This change means guests have until April 30th, 2022 to apply your certificate to a Royal Caribbean International cruise that sets sail on or before the same date. 

The change is automatic, and there is nothing extra guests have to do to have their FCC extended.

Prior to this announcement, most FCCs were set to expire on December 31, 2020.

Royal Caribbean informed travel agents that the continued cruise shutdown has lasted much longer than anticipated, and as a result, this extension made sense.

"We never imagined the pause in cruising to last as long as it has. At the onset of the pandemic, rebooking deadlines and opt-in dates provided ample time for future vacation planning and cruise credit redemption — however, as time has progressed, the window of opportunity has narrowed."

Last month, Royal Caribbean had extended Future Cruise Credits that were going to expire by the end of 2020.  Today's announcement moves everyone ahead again to the end of April 2022.

Emails have been sent to guests who had future cruise credits to inform them of this change.

What can I use a future cruise credit for?

Future cruise credits are vouchers that guests typically get when a cruise is cancelled in lieu of a refund. You can think of them as a kind of gift certificate.

Future cruise credits have become widely available due to the current voluntary cruise shutdown that Royal Caribbean is engaged in, which means while cruises are being cancelled due to the global health crisis, Royal Caribbean is offering guests future cruise credits.

Royal Caribbean allows guests to use their future cruise credits to pay their cruise fare, including the deposit.

It cannot be used towards add-on purchases, like drink packages, shore excursions, port fees or taxes.

Royal Caribbean will extend future cruise credits that were going to expire at end of 2020

In:
Category: 
14Nov2020

Royal Caribbean is informing guests who have unused Future Cruise Credit (FCC) that were set to expire at the end of 2020 they will get an extra year to apply them to a new booking.

Royal Caribbean decided to extend future cruise credits that were issued before the global cruise shutdown began and were set to expire on December 31, 2020.

UPDATE: The extensions apply to all Future Cruise Credits that were going to expire between March 14, 2020 - December 30, 2021.

Instead, these credits will now be extended until December 31, 2021.

This change does not affect future cruise credits from the voluntary cruise suspension, as those future cruise credits are not scheduled to expire until December 31, 2021 already.

Emails have been sent to guests who had future cruise credits to inform them of this change.

"We know options have been more limited than normal and you may not have had the opportunity to use your Future Cruise Credit (FCC). Not to worry though! We want to make sure your credits don't go unused, so we've decided to extend your Future Cruise Credit until December 31st, 2021."

The FCC will automatically be updated no later than Monday, November 16, 2020 to reflect the new expiration date.

How do you get a future cruise credit?

Future Cruise Credits are given to guests and represent a certain value that can be applied to a new cruise reservation.

It most most often given as an alternative to a refund, although many times refunds may not be available.

Future cruise credits have become widely available due to the current voluntary cruise shutdown that Royal Caribbean is engaged in, which means while cruises are being cancelled due to the global health crisis, Royal Caribbean is offering guests future cruise credits.

In fact, the Cruise with Confidence program offers flexible terms for cancelling your cruise up to 48 hours before your sail date.  If you elect to cancel a cruise under Cruise with Confidence, you are eligible to receive a future cruise credit worth 100% of the money you paid.

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