Deja Vu Experience Of Changing My Cancelled Celebrity Alaska Sailing As Cruise Lines Are Now Informing Passengers

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Once again I received a notice from Celebrity Cruises regarding recent announcement that all Canadian ports (vital for Alaska Cruises) will be closed a full year and accordingly I found my own cruise cancelled as well.

I decided to just change the date on that cancelled cruise to next year instead of cancelling and just getting my taxes and gratuities refunded (the cruise itself was complimentary from MGM Casinos).

It’s extremely unfortunate that the cruise season to Alaska will be completely cancelled yet again this year and I suspect the government will have to provide substantial support to these communities where businesses and individuals are pretty much dependent on the cruise season. Cruises and tourism are vital to cities such as Juneau, Ketchikan, Seward and Skagway.

Another rescue option would be for the U.S. Congress to waive the Jones Act and the Passenger Vessel Services Act which require the cruise to stop in a foreign port, first and foremost for the sailing to be tax exempt. However it’s highly uncertain how the new administration and congress (both of which seem very lockdown friendly) would value a waiver request by the cruise lines.

Alaska cruises are some of the most popular and most expensive routes in the portfolio of the cruise lines so I already expected that the sailings for next years season will fill up quickly as soon as the first part of this years departures were cancelled.

I usually book my sailings with Celebrity Cruises and just like any other line they pretty much shut down operations since April 2020. That didn’t keep them from continuing to accept bookings for future dates and the 2021 season which once again was ruined by Canada’s announcement on a one year cruise ban a week ago.

Now Celebrity and I guess other cruise lines as well have started to contact affected customer to either refund them or offer them what’s called a Future Cruise Credit (FCC) of 125%. By choosing the credit customers would gain a 25% bonus on the total due to them with the caveat that their new bookings will of course be subject to new pricing.

Here is the email I received:

Dear Guest,

We are reaching out to provide an update on the status of your 2021 cruise vacation. The Government of Canada has recently announced continued port closures for all cruise ships through February 28, 2022. In order to comply with these closures Celebrity Cruises has placed your cruise on hold. Currently, we are working to determine if it may be possible to operate your sailing without a call to a foreign port. However, until a decision has been rendered in this matter, the sailing will remain closed, but your reservation will continue to be valid.

At this time, we would like to offer you the opportunity to keep your reservation until a final determination on the status of your sailing can be made or be re-accommodated on another Celebrity Cruises vacation in 2022. You will also have the option to receive a 125% Future Cruise Credit (FCC) or a 100% Refund. If you are booked on a May 2021 sailing and choose to keep your reservation, your final payment date will be extended by 45 days. If you would like to keep your cruise vacation plans to the same destination and reschedule for next year, please contact us or your travel partner and your reservation will be shifted at the same rate including any promotion you currently have on the booking.

If you prefer not to rebook your cruise vacation for a 2022 sailing, you will have the option to cancel and receive 125% Future Cruise Credit (FCC) or a 100% Refund. The value of the FCC would be calculated based on the amounts paid toward your cruise and processed by April 16, 2021 via email. If you prefer a 100% refund to your original method of payment, you may contact us anytime up until June 30, 2021. To avoid waiting on the phone to cancel, please contact your travel partner or click here and we will get the process started for you. You can expect to receive a refund within at least 30 days after you submit your request. Cruise taxes and fees would be refunded separately. With choice of cancellation, guests with air travel and hotel booked through Flights by Celebrity will be refunded automatically. You will not need to call in to initiate the process. Guests with independent air arrangements must contact their air carriers directly to make all required cancellations.

First and always, please take care of yourselves and your family. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work through these unique circumstances. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Celebrity Cruises at 1-844-418-6824 in North America or (316) 554-5961 worldwide. We look forward to welcoming you aboard soon for an amazing Celebrity Cruises vacation.

This email hints on cruise lines such as Celebrity trying to work out a solution to let the ship sail as a wholly domestic trip lets say from Seattle to Alaska and back. This alone would likely not be enough to satisfy the Canadian proclamation because they banned all cruise ships in Canadian waters and not just their ports. A country’s sovereign territorial waters reach 12 nautical miles (22 km) beyond the shore so instead of sailing through the stunning Inside Passage the ship would have to go around it up to Ketchikan and stay 12 miles away from the Canadian shore. But that’s all theoretical right now.

You can find Celebrity Cruise COVID-19 cancellation and rebooking policy here.

Right now the following choices are being offered to customers:

Many passengers who love cruising probably think about taking the voucher option but this results in a lot of inflation. The cruise line is essentially printing money in the form or cruise credits.

I decided to go a different route and request to change the date to next year so I decided to call Celebrity Cruises and after just 2 minutes waiting on the phone I was able to get a hold of someone.

The agent was eventually able to rebook my cruise for May 2022 at the same conditions of my original booking which was based on a casino comp and an onboard credit which was originally $300.

The curiosity: My initial US$300 onboard credit has now grown to US$725 because my initial booking has been cancelled so many times that every time I received an extra $50 as compensation from Celebrity per their policy plus a one time credit because gratuities which I prepaid are now included under their new pricing model.

Hopefully next Alaska season will be smooth sailing and if there is something that becomes available earlier than that I’ll make an additional booking or just change the date again. The option to operate as a domestic sailing would be awesome and I’d book that in a heartbeat!

Conclusion

First I expected to have a difficult time to get all these rebookings handled but it was in fact quite easy and the agents were at all times both professional and accommodating. Make sure you specifically mention to the agent to verify and take care of transferring your existing cruise credit and also add the goodwill payment. In my case that matters because the base price of my cruise is zero so 25% bonus on zero remains just that. If you have an expensive cruise booked then maybe that might be an option.

In any case I wouldn’t have liked to accept a cruise credit. 25% bonus isn’t enough to make up for the difference in pricing and vouchers are always a bad idea in case something happens to the company. In case of a bankruptcy vouchers are usually wiped out. That being said I do have faith in the future of Celebrity, respectively their parent company Royal Caribbean and my RCL stock has shot up since May of last year.

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