Consumer rights

Cruise industry gets new standard refund policy – NBC4 Washington

Since 1881, there have been no changes to the Passenger Ship Act, but then COVID-19 hit, and now the cruise industry is undergoing a major update.

As the pandemic spread and “no sail” orders were issued, cruise lines began delaying or canceling shipments. Cruise credits were given out, but refunds weren’t as available.

“They were offering 100% cruise credit,” said cruise customer Joshua Smith. “We were extremely frustrated.”

“If they have this big amount of money of ours, then it’s nothing working for us anymore,” another customer said.

Countless customers across the United States have begun filing complaints with the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), which is responsible for regulating US-based maritime travel around the world.

“In terms of consumer protection, what we found was that almost every cruise line had a different refund policy,” said FMC Commissioner Luis Sola.

As a result, the agency has launched an investigation into whether stricter rules on cruise ship refund policies could protect cruise ship passengers.

Now the commission is setting an industry-wide standard. New federal rules require a refund whenever a cruise that begins in the United States is canceled or delayed by at least three days. Customers can voluntarily accept credit, but if not, they get their money back, including prepaid incidentals.

“So no matter which cruise line you buy your ticket from, you will be treated equally across the board; you will be entitled to a refund,” Sola said.

The new rules also require cruise lines to clearly state how to get a refund online.

“After a two-year regulation, we finally got through the hurdle,” Sola said. “It takes a long time for the government to move the ship, so to speak.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted its risk advisory for cruise ship travel in March after two years of COVID-19 warnings, clearing the way for ships to set sail as refund rules go into effect . NBC4 Responds reached out to the cruise industry for comment, but did not hear back.