There is no denying the effect the COVID-19 crisis has had across the board in terms of employment. As unemployment claims have risen to historic highs, one of the hardest hit industries accounts for many in the numbers: Tourism.
Hotels, airlines, tour operators, travel agents, and cruise lines have all been impacted by the ongoing restrictions as the world grapples with the virus and works to flatten the curve and bring it under control. Airlines have dramatically reduced flights (American, for example, by upwards of 90%), hotels have either shuttered or are running with skeleton staffs to remain open for business and medical travelers, attractions and amusement parks are closed till further notice, and destinations like Las Vegas look forward to the day the neon lights up again for visitors.
The cruise industry has been impacted hard. Grand ships sit in ports or float just off coasts as they wait out orders keeping them from welcoming cruisers. The financial impact goes far beyond the ships themselves as the stop order for the industry trickles down to suppliers, performers, airlines, hotels, and tour operators who rely on cruise travelers for their livelihoods.
As the restrictions began to be put into place by the world’s governments, cruise lines have been faced with more than just disappointed travelers. They have also been creating structures to handle the forced cancellations while supporting their customers’ loyalty for the long term.
Enter the 125% cruise credit.
While there is some variation in policies created to handle this fallout, the majority of cruise lines have adopted a policy of either a full refund or 125% future cruise credit for cancelled cruises. I spoke with DeeAna Archer of Archer Luxury Travel this morning about this generous gesture as they navigate these uncharted waters. She applauds their efforts to sympathize with their customers in these truly disappointing and uncertain circumstances. And she also sees the potential boon to savvy travelers.
“Cruise lines are not going out of business,” she stressed. And as a professional in the travel industry, with her ear closer to the ground (and waves) than most, in her opinion she does not see the industry realistically welcoming guests aboard again until mid-July to the beginning of August. But as most have not cancelled cruises that far out as of yet, there is opportunity to be found in the refund policy.
While she admits it is a bit of a gamble, booking a cruise right now for late May, June, July with an eye to it ultimately being cancelled could yield a 25% return on investment, something you’re not going to find in any banking situation or stock market these days. Plus there are other advantages, she explained, “Cruises in May, the water is still cold. So rebooking with a cruise credit to July when waters are warm” and rates are typically at their highest “gives people the opportunity to do something they haven’t done before.” Whether that translates to booking a higher category stateroom, longer cruise, or previously out of reach itinerary, there is treasure to be found.
With her clients that already have cruises booked and are seeing them cancelled as the industry continues to adjust to having to push active dates further out, she encourages them to take the cruise credit vs a refund. Cruise lines stress that refunds may take upwards of 180 days. “Everything is taking a really long time to refund,” she said. So if you can afford to take the credit, “You are basically letting the cruise line borrow your money and getting a 25% return in exchange.”
Now, with the economy being what it is, that is not an option for many, so the full refund is available. And taking a gamble on getting a 125% credit is not a realistic option for many, when payment in full is required this close in, but when it comes to cruise regulars, especially those loyal to higher end lines, they are more likely to have the financial fluidity to take advantage of the offers.
For instance, understanding the current system and realities, DeeAna booked a cruise for May 30th several weeks ago when that date was still active. The gamble paid off. The cruise date was cancelled and she was offered the 125% credit which she used towards a July date sailing in a higher category suite for her family, a stateroom she would never have spent the money on at full price during peak season.
Regardless of the option a traveler decides upon, now more than ever, these times highlight the importance of having a seasoned travel professional like DeeAna on your side. From wading through the specifics of individual cruise lines’ policies to rebooking with the optimum advantage to the traveler, a travel agent is indispensable. Even if a cruise is not your cup of “sea,” an agent can work with you now to design your perfect getaway for when the world is able to breathe deep and travel again.
As someone who is a cruise loyalist, 25 and counting, I look forward to the day the industry is back open for business. Like millions of others, I enjoy a cruise vacation so very much and have never worried for my safety onboard. In fact, a cruise ship is one of the cleanest environments in which you will vacation. Cruise lines are intensely aware that the highest level of cleanliness must be maintained when you have thousands of people in one place. It is in their best interests to keep everything disinfected and you will see crew members cleaning around the clock. Hand sanitizer stations and wipes are commonplace as you enter dining areas. And stateroom attendants clean everything twice a day to insure that even your private area is sanitary for you.
As the saying goes, “This too shall pass.” We are experiencing something unprecedented in our lifetime, but we will ride this uncertain wave to calmer waters eventually. And the cruise industry will be waiting. So while Las Vegas may be closed, now’s the time to gamble on booking the cruise vacation of your dreams. 125% is waiting on the horizon.
We are all daydreaming these days. And no matter where yours may take you – Archer Luxury Travel can turn them into reality. Your imagination is the only limit. There is nothing for the spirit like having something amazing to look forward to. Lift yours and add something inspiring to your calendar with DeeAna’s help. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org