Future Cruise Credit or Cash Refund?

With all the uncertainties of the coronavirus surrounding the travel and cruising sectors, cruise lines have had no choice but to pause operations for the foreseeable future. The situation for the cruise lines is unprecedented and is likely to be with us for some time to come. Unfortunately, this means cancelled cruises and travel plans for many people.

FCC or Refund

For those who have had a cruise cancelled, most cruise lines are offering passengers a choice of 2 options – a Future Cruise Credit (FCC) or a Cash Refund.

There are certainly advantages to both of the options, but you should always consider your circumstances before making a decision. In this post, we’ll cover the two options (FCC vs refund), and review the pros and cons to help you make the right decision. If you booked through a Cruise Agent, as we always recommend you do, they will be able to assist with making the necessary arrangements.

Before we get into more detail on the options available, we felt it was a good idea to take a broader view of the challenges facing cruising as we learn to live with coronavirus. There is a sense that cruising will never be the same again until there is a vaccine for the virus. Social distancing may need to be in place for all forms of travel, including for flights and cruises. Naturally, this may affect your cruise experience and should be part of your decision-making process to determine which way to go.

Update on Cruise Cancellations

At the time of writing most major cruise lines have announced cruise cancellations up to July and August and in some cases going further into October and November. What does this mean for cruisers?

If the cruise line cancels your cruise, you generally have two options:

  • 1- Take a Future Cruise Credit or
  • 2 – Request a Cash Refund.

The first option which the cruise lines on offer and which the cruise lines would like you to accept, is a Future Cruise Credit (FCC) as this means they do not have to return any cash to you. You may also opt for a full refund of all monies paid, although some cruise lines are making this difficult to do. Understandably this is their least prefered option as it uses valuable cash which is in short supply at the moment. With no paying passengers on cruises, they have almost zero income, but still have huge costs. This “Cash Burn” is well published by others, and these can be eye-watering amounts.

Please keep in mind that this situation remains fluid and more cruise cancellations may well occur in the future.

It is important to remember these options only apply if the cruise line cancels your cruise. If you cancel your cruise, you may have to pay cancellation charges although some cruise lines are offering the ability to move your booking if you are not comfortable with travelling at this time. 

Are Cruise lines expecting to start sailing soon?

It doesn’t look likely given all the conflicting views around at the moment. There are some interesting clues about the short term future of cruising. So what do we think they are?

  • Company Executives from the various cruise lines, while being bullish about the future, are saying they dont really know when cruising proper will restart. Restart dates keep being pushed back further and further.
  • There seems to be no clarity from the CDC (Centre for Disease Control) or WHO (World Health Organistaion) about what is needed to restart cruising, and the cruise lines, quite understanbly are stuggling to second guess what is needed and implement changes to meet the new requirements.
  • Cruise Lines are organising ‘Cold Layups’ of their ships which is usually only used for long pauses.
  • Cruise Ship Crews have been sent home and with the lack of available flights, would struggle to return to ships at any time soon.
  • Onboard procedures and regulations for a restart of cruising are not clear, and without these, it is difficult to know what any post-COVID cruise experience will be like.
  • Then there are the political considerations as many countries are not yet ready to accept cruise ships or passengers.
  • Is Society Ready? Do people have the confidence to restart cruising with so many unanswered questions and health concerns? Without willing passengers, there will be no cruising.

The bottom line is that Cruise executives admit they don’t realistically know when cruising will be able to restart properly. They’re hoping for a quick comeback, but they acknowledge a resumption date could be many months away and there may need to be a phased or regional restart. We hope the restart will be sooner rather than later.

Option 1 – Take a Future Cruise Credit

As mentioned, most cruise lines are offering a Future Cruise Credit when a cruise gets cancelled. Essentially this is a voucher for future travel with a specific cruise line; a bit like a Gift Card from your favourite store but this one is not trasfereable. As an incentive to make this option more attractive, cruise lines are offering additional incentives.

A description of FCC or Future Cruise Credit can is available in our Glossary of Cruise Terms.

Future Cruise Credit Voucher (FCC)
At the moment, many cruise lines are offering a Future Cruise Credit of anything fro 100% to 200% of the cruise fare if you choose this option. Always check this carefully before deciding which option is best for you.

In the case of a 125% FCC, if your cruise cost $1000 per guest, each passenger will receive a Future Cruise Credit (FCC) of $1250.

Unsurprisingly this seems to be the default option offered by for most cruise lines. If you are happy to accept this in most cases, you don’t need to take any action as it will happen automatically. It may take some time to show up in your cruise account, due to the current volume of future cruise credits.

Extra Bonuses when you take the FCC
Look out for Extra Bonuses when opting to take an FCC. Many cruise lines are offering extras like stateroom upgrades, drinks packages, on board spending, reduced deposits, cancel for any reason, gratuity packages and even inclusive air packages. The cruise lines need to get us all cruising as soon as possible, so there will be lots of innovative ideas to help you decide to book.

Some bonuses have time limits, so check the dates and terms of conditions of these and any other offers before you decide to accept the Future Cruise Credit.

Option 2 – TAke a Cash RefunD

A second option for those affected by cruise cancellations is that you can choose to get a 100% refund, back to the original form of payment. So if you paid with a particular credit card, that’s where the money will be returned. If you choose this option, you won’t be entitled to any of the bonuses or incentives on offer.

It’s also worth noting that the refund won’t appear very quickly. Due to the sheer volume of transactions and refund requests, cruise lines have said that it may take between 60-90 days to refund payments for cancelled cruises.

If you do want to opt for the refund option, typically there is a form on the cruise line website, or your travel agent may deal with this for you.

fcc or cash refund

Frequently Asked Questions

So as you can see, deciding which option to choose is not as straightforward as you might think. Refund vs Future Cruise Credit – Things to consider. Initially, it may seem that taking the Future Cruise Credit is the best option for you to choose. There are a lot of benefits! However, there are several essential things to consider before you make a decision.

Will your favourite cruise line survive so you can use your FCC.

With your FCC in hand, you might consider that some cruise lines may not survive a long period with no income. The major cruises lines have all successfully managed to secure additional funding to cope with the enormous amount of cash they are using (cash burn) and will no doubt be able to weather the storm. But the smaller lines may struggle. We just don’t know but hope and pray they will all be okay. If your cruise line disappears, your FCC has no value.

Do you want to take advantage of the coming cruise deals?

Once the cruise lines are sailing again, there will be more capacity in the market than people wanting to cruise. Naturally, folk will be cautious about stepping on a cruise ship until they are sure it is safe to do so. The result is most likely to be some fantastic deals for cruises will all the major lines as they seek to fill their ships. If you have taken an FCC, you have effectively tied yourself to one cruise line and locked yourself out of other lines deals. A Cash Refund gives you total flexibility.

Will My FCC EXPIRE?

It may do. You should check this very carefully as each future cruise credit is different and is based on when your cruise was cancelled. In addition, each cruise line has different expiration deadlines in which to use the FCC. Carefully review all details when you receive the FCC to ensure you don’t miss a deadline and lose your money.

Will you want to Cruise before the expiry of your FCC?

It may be that you are not comfortable with travel for a while and even less sure about cruising. Your passion for cruising might wane once you know how the new protocols for cruising and travel in place. The problem is we just don’t know what cruising will be like once the ships are sailing again. It may be that for whatever reason the cruise line may not offer your choice of the itinerary you want due or operational or even political reasons.

Do you need the cash refund more than a future cruise?

In these difficult times, having the money on cash in hand might be better for you financially. If this is the case, you’ll want to apply for the refund as quickly as possible, as this is not automatic. You may have to jump through hoops to get a refund, but hang on in there, and it should eventually turn up. Unfortunately, due to the massive demand, if you opt for a refund, you’ll be waiting between 30-90 days from the time you requested it.

Will you be able to choose the time you want for your cruise?

It could be the case that availability may be limited on the most popular cruise dates if cruise lines reduce the passenger numbers on each ship to comply with social distancing guidelines. With so many cruise passengers with FCC’s to use, this may impact your ability find availability on the dates you require.

What happens if you want to cancel your cruise?

Something to remember is that these two options apply only if the cruise line cancels your cruise. However, given the current situation, some people are asking if “I cancel my cruise and get a refund?”.

If you have a cruise paid in full and want to cancel, most major cruise lines are offering Cruise with Confidence programs, which gives you the flexibility to cancel. If you cancel your cruise, you’ll receive a Future Cruise Credit for the amount paid; however, you won’t be able to get a refund.

If you prefer to have a monetary cash refund option, you should wait until the cruise line cancels the cruise. 

Future Cruise Credit – PROS and CONS

The Good Stuff

  • More Value through the enhanced value of FCC’s being offered. Anything up to 200% of the original cost of your cruise
  • Support for your favourite cruise line
  • Some additional “Extra Benefits” are being offered

The Not so Good

  • You are tied to one cruise line
  • May have limited expiry date
  • Has no value if the cruise line goes out of business
  • May not have the itinerary or date you require for a future cruise

Cash Refund – PROS and CONS

The Good Stuff

  • Cash in your account allows you to take maximum advantage of cruise offers
  • No pressure to book a cruise becuase of time limits on FCC’s
  • Allows you a wider range of options when considering your next cruise
  • No risk to you if company goes bust

The Not so Good

  • You may have to wait up to 90 days for your refund
  • No additional Extras or Benefits when booking your next cruise

Recap

So there you have it!.  Not an easy decision to make and one that requires careful thought. We have had some experience with 2 of our recent cruises being cancelled. One was a sector of the world cruise with Seabourn and we asked for a refund which was promised and received in 60 days.  We have another with Windstar and again we have asked for a refund and are still waiting for updates. They have said they will not reimburse our airfares which we booked separately as they did not offer a fly-cruise option. Not good.