- As Americans head back to sea, they make all sorts of cruising mistakes.
- Not checking passports is a common mistake.
- As COVID continues to affect cruises in unexpected ways, expect a minefield of potential errors.
When Katie Whittington canceled her 14-day transatlantic crossing from New York to London on Norwegian Getaway, she made one of the most common post-pandemic cruise mistakes: she didn’t read the fine print on her ticket .
Instead, she took an NCL representative at her word.
“I was told by a customer service representative that they could cancel my cruise and that I would receive a future cruise credit for the full amount I paid,” she says.
Whittington therefore expected a future cruise credit of $4,725. Instead, her cruise line applied a 75% cancellation fee and refunded the remaining 25%.
As Americans head back to sea, they’re making all kinds of cruising mistakes, from not remembering to check their testing requirements, to ignoring passport expirations, to forgetting about COVID. A lot has changed during the pandemic.
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Don’t Lose Your Credit By Making This Cruising Mistake
Whittington, a Tampa program manager, immediately contacted NCL when she saw her cruise credit reduced. Where was the rest of his money?
“After careful review of your file, our records indicate that your reservation was canceled 41 days prior to your departure date,” an NCL representative told him. According to the cruise line’s policies, any reservation canceled 60 to 31 days before the departure date was subject to a 75% cancellation fee.
But a representative had told him otherwise. And she had the proof: a screenshot of the conversations between her and NCL.
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Initially, the cruise line would not honor the promise of a full cruise voucher. But after contacting the company on Whittington’s behalf — not a remedy available to all travelers — she provided her with a cruise credit equal to the 75% cancellation fee, making her whole as promised.
“People don’t pay attention to final payment dates or assume there’s more flexibility with penalties than there actually is,” said Marni Becker, senior director of cruise partnerships for Global Travel. Collection.
Other post-pandemic cruising mistakes to avoid
Here are some of the most common cruising mistakes, according to experts:
► Failing to check your passport. During the pandemic, no one bothered to check their passport because no one was traveling anywhere. “By far, one of the most common mistakes travelers can encounter is an expiring passport,” said John Mast, senior director of global cruise marketing at Expedia. As a general rule, US passports must have at least six months validity from the end of travel for international travel.
► Ignore international travel requirements. Entry requirements vary by country and have changed significantly since the pandemic. “Get familiar with the regulations early so you can be well prepared before departure,” advises Annie Scrivanich, senior vice president at Cruise Specialists. For the most accurate and up-to-date information, check the requirements with each respective country’s website or click here to visit the Sherpa site. Scrivanich also recommends bringing a physical copy of your vaccination card with you.
► Not constantly checking the requirements of your cruise line. They look simple and almost identical to the ones you remember before the pandemic. For most major lines, COVID-19 vaccination is no longer required, but testing might be. “But it’s the finer details around these protocols that can trip some people up, causing potential delays or denied boarding,” said Tanner Callais, founder of Cruzely.com. Does the cruise line need a booster injection? What is valid proof of vaccination? Will a photo of your vaccine card work or does it have to be the hard copy?
► Not taking COVID seriously. Many cruise lines say wearing a mask is optional. “There’s been an attitude that you can go maskless and party as usual,” said James Hills, editor of CruiseWestCoast.com. “But that’s just not true.” You can still get sick while cruising. And if you do, your cruise line may self-quarantine if you test positive or show preliminary signs such as a high temperature during a routine check.
If you’re using future cruise credit, here’s a big mistake to avoid: “Not paying attention to a voucher’s expiration date,” said Jeff Rolander, director of claims at travel insurance startup Faye. Most cruise vouchers are valid for two years from the date of issue. Call your cruise line or travel agent and ask for an extension if you are approaching this date.
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And what about COVID?
Although we sometimes like to use the term “post-pandemic”, the truth is that COVID is still with us. Cruise experts say it’s important to understand the cruise line’s COVID rules and protocols.
“What would happen if you were to come down with COVID or test positive on board?” asked Narendra Khatri, director of travel insurance company Insubuy. “Would you be required to quarantine in a port city? Does your travel insurance cover quarantine and travel delay costs? And if so, how much?”
Some cruise lines still require a COVID test. Even if they drop their demands, they could reinstate them at any time, given the unpredictable nature of the pandemic.
Stephanie Charboneau, travel counselor at Travel Creates Memories, recently faced a totally preventable testing emergency. His customers had arrived early for a cruise but had forgotten to get tested.
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“Of course, I had told them several times about this test,” she said. Charboneau helped them find an inexpensive test at their hotel and they were able to board the ship.
COVID continues to affect cruises in unexpected ways. Jeremy Clubb, founder of Rainforest Cruises, said his customers often assume itineraries won’t change.
“But now more than ever, routes are subject to change,” he said. For example, its Amazon cruises cannot visit indigenous villages because they do not have access to COVID vaccines.
“So be aware – and open-minded – that some routes may be different,” he added.
That’s good advice for anyone cruising in 2022. Expect a minefield of potential cruise mistakes. Pay attention to your paperwork and set realistic expectations to avoid sinking your next cruise.
Avoid These Cruising Mistakes Before Departure
► Waiting too long to purchase insurance. Cruise passengers must purchase travel insurance within 10 days of their first payment for their trip, said Damian Tysdal, founder of travel insurance site CoverTrip.com.
“Some coverage is time-sensitive, which means you can’t get it if you wait beyond that 10-day window,” he added.
Also consider a cruise-specific travel insurance policy like Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection’s WaveCare, which provides up to $750,000 in emergency medical evacuation benefits.
► Assuming the ship will not be crowded. EJ Kritz, a customer service consultant from Charleston, South Carolina, made this mistake on a recent Royal Caribbean cruise. “I assumed the ship wouldn’t be busy,” he said. But it was.
“Cruise passengers who expect dinner and show reservations to be no problem will be in for a nasty surprise,” he said. But aren’t some ships sailing at partial capacity? Yes, but they also sail with lower numbers, Kritz found. His advice: Make your reservations as soon as possible.
► Not reconfirming your travel requirements before your cruise. Why double check or triple check? Because requirements change.
“People check the requirements when they book the cruise, but they don’t reconfirm the requirements when it’s time to travel,” said travel consultant Kristin Jaffe of Winkaffe Global Travel. “Things change daily, so you should make sure you update your understanding of the requirements the day before you leave to make sure you’re covered.”
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