What Happens if I Cancel My Cruise? What to Know About the Process

Most people book a cruise and can’t wait to get on the ship. Unfortunately, sometimes life takes an unplanned turn and you have to cancel. Maybe it’s because you get sick, there’s a death in the family, a job loss, or any other number of reasons.

With millions cruising each year, it’s inevitable that cancelations will come up for some people. If you’re wondering the details of having to cancel your trip, we’ve covered the ins and outs below.

No matter the reason, having to cancel a cruise does occasionally come up, and the details of the process aren’t always so clear. It’s not as simple as just clicking a button to cancel and getting your money back. There are a number of hurdles and things to know about getting a refund when you decide not to sail.

To help make things clearer, we’ve covered a number of the most common questions you might have about canceling a cruise…

Am I Allowed to Cancel my Trip?

First and foremost, yes, you are allowed to cancel a cruise that you’ve booked. As well, you can cancel your trip for any reason that you want — even if you just simply decide you don’t want to take the cruise.

Just because you book the trip doesn’t mean you are obligated to actually sail. Of course, that doesn’t mean you are entitled to get all of your money back (more on this in a moment).

But if you thought that you could only cancel for certain reasons or that you weren’t able to cancel at all, that’s simply not the case.

How Do I Cancel a Cruise?

If you’re wanting to cancel your trip, you might find that it’s not as simple as you hoped. These days many of us are used to being able to cancel an order online with the click of the button. That’s usually not the case with cruising.

If you want to cancel, you aren’t likely to find a simple button in your online cruise account that lets you cancel. Even if there is one, it might be difficult to find.

Instead, the best way to cancel the trip is to give the cruise line a phone call. You can easily find the number to call on the cruise line website. Connect to a representative and then let them know that you’d like to cancel the trip. They will walk you through the process.

Is There a Penalty I Have to Pay?

If you cancel anywhere close to the cruise date, then you should expect that you will receive a penalty for the cancelation. However, this penalty isn’t in the form of another charge. Instead, it comes out of the deposit or cruise fare that you’ve paid. So you don’t have to shell out more money, you will just get back less than you paid.

These penalties will vary from cruise line to cruise line and even based on the length of the cruise. In general, the longer before your cruise you cancel, the smaller the penalty fee will be.

In many cases, cancellation penalties start between 90-120 days from the cruise date. Cancel before that and you’ll get back what you’ve paid, minus your initial deposit. The closer to the sailing date before canceling, the higher the penalty amount. Usually canceling anytime within 30 days of the cruise means a penalty of 100% of the cruise fare.

You can visit your specific’s cruise line’s website to see their cancellation penalty schedule. We’ve linked to a number of them here:

Cancellation Policies:

What If I Just Don’t Show Up For The Cruise?

If you need to cancel a cruise, you’ll want to contact the cruise line as soon as possible. The worst thing to do is simply not show up in port, which will lead to no refund.

Say instead of canceling your trip, you simply don’t show up on cruise day. That’s not the same as canceling. Cruise lines make it clear that if you don’t show at the port, that will lead to no refund.

As Norwegian Cruise Line says clearly on their website, “No refunds will be given on any cruise for no-shows.”

How Can I Cancel Without a Penalty?

Say your cruise is upcoming and something happens that forces you to cancel. Does that mean you will always see a penalty?

Typically the answer is that most cancellations will have some sort of penalty, even if you cancel well before the trip actually sails. This penalty can be minimal if done well in advance, when it’s normally just the deposit amount.

But what about canceling with absolutely no penalty? This is unlikely. In some cases you may be able to cancel and if you have travel insurance, that policy could cover a penalty. However, travel insurance usually only covers cancellations for specific reasons. If you do have “cancel for any reason coverage” then it offers more flexibility in what it pays.

Does Travel Insurance Cover Cancellation Penalties?

If you’re hit with a cancellation penalty, travel insurance may be a big help. You’ll definitely want to check with your policy, however.

Usually travel insurance covers losses only for specific named reasons. This includes things like sickness, death, loss of job, and other major reasons. If canceling for a reason outside the scope of what’s allowed by your policy, then don’t expect it to cover the penalty.

Some policies offer “cancel for any reason” coverage. As the name implies, with this sort of policy, you’re covered no matter why you decide to cancel. However, the trade-off is that it often covers only a certain percentage of your loss.

In the case of any travel insurance, you’ll want to carefully read your specific policy for coverage before you decide to cancel the trip.

What About Taxes & Fees I Paid for the Cruise? Are They Refunded?

When you pay for your cruise, not everything your paying is the cruise fare. For instance, you pay the cruise fare, but also taxes, fees, and often other extras. So if you pay $1,000 per person for a cruise, maybe $850 of it is actual cruise fare.

It’s important to know that if you cancel and a penalty is assessed, that it doesn’t apply to taxes and fees paid. These are refunded to you, no matter the penalty. So if you paid $1,000 in total but only $850 of that was actual cruise fare, the remaining $150 would be returned to you — even if you had a 100% fare penalty for canceling the trip.

What About Extras That I Bought or Prepaid Gratuities?

In addition to your cruise fare and taxes/fees, you might have spent other money on your trip. This can include things like pre-booked packages, such as drink packages, specialty restaurants, or wi-fi. It can also mean excursions or prepaid gratuities. In some cases, these items can add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

The good news is in general prepaid items are refunded, just like port fees and taxes. So if you’ve prepaid gratuities, or bought the drink package, that money will normally be returned to you. If you’re worried about these extras, you can often go in and cancel them individually for a refund before and then later cancel the cruise.

As Princess says in their cancellation policy, “If you’ve pre-paid for shore excursions or onboard purchases, you will receive a full refund. The Princess Cruises refund policy states that you will also receive money back on taxes, fees, port expenses, transfers and surcharges.”

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  1. I booked a cruise with Viking and have to cancel due to health. I did buy insurance.
    Problem is my roommate still wants to go , but viking even though they have been paid in full, wants to charge her additional $5600 for the room even though it’s already been paid. I am not asking Viking for a refund am going through the insurance


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