Cruises and Bad Weather - What's Covered?
A few UK newspapers recently featured a Suffolk couple who lost their court case against a cruise line following a cruise experience that didn’t meet their expectations.
There are many things a cruise insurance policy can cover, but lack of enjoyment isn’t one of them. It’s so important to understand that one or two elements may not go according to plan and cruise lines can make changes to the itinerary, and to choose a cruise that you’ll enjoy on the whole rather than setting your heart on one day or afternoon out of the entire experience.
The couple had booked an Antarctic cruise and were advised a few days before departure that one of the ports on the itinerary would no longer be stopped at.
Once on its way, the ship was delayed in docking at a port meaning paseengerrs had to disembark a lot later than planned, and then cyclone-type winds forced the ship to abandon plans for a tendered stop in the Falkland Islands. The changes, however, were categorised as minor changes in the cruise terms and conditions and the cruise line therefore wasn’t under any obligation to pay out.
Is that normal?
Most cruise lines’ terms and conditions state that they can make changes to the itinerary, and while they will notify in advance where possible, this can happen once the cruise has already begun.
According to Royal Caribbean’s Ts&Cs: “Royal Caribbean International and the Master of the ship have the right to omit or substitute any port(s), call at any additional port(s), vary the order of call for ports, change the time of arrival at, departure from or time spent at any port of call, deviate from the advertised itinerary in any way or substitute another ship.”
Cruise lines also don’t guarantee that you will see specific things on your cruise. The couple in this case were looking forward to seeing the world’s largest colony of Magellanic Penguin, which they could not do as a result of the changes.
Another good example of nature not being subject to guarantees is Northern Lights cruises, which can’t certify that the natural phenomenon will be sighted – even in the dead of winter. Hurtigruten promise passengers a second cruise for free if they don’t spot the Northern Lights at all on certain cruises, but this is an exception and the repeat cruise no doubt has many of its own terms and conditions.
The Antarctic cruise case demonstrates the importance of reading those terms and conditions for all bookings, and of understanding what cruise and travel insurance can cover.
Isn’t bad weather covered in my cruise insurance policy?
Our MD Kate Huet explains: “Weather can affect a cruise a lot – it is Force Majeure in the Royal Caribbean booking terms and conditions. A decent cruise insurance policy would make provision if this affects you being able to commence your cruise because you can’t get to the port or are delayed and miss your departure, but weather is not insurable once the cruise starts – for example if it means you miss excursions because of weather conditions, or your itinerary has to be changed.”
Royal Caribbean lists a few examples of significant and minor changes to help passengers understand the difference:
- A cruise itinerary change from two days port of calls to two days at sea instead
- A change in UK departure airport (excluding changes between local airports)
- A change in the time of your outbound flight by more than 12 hours on a 14 night holiday.
- A cruise itinerary change from one port of call to another
- A change from one day’s port of call to one day at sea
- A change in timings for any port(s) of call but the ship still calls at all confirmed ports
- A change in order of ports that are visited
- A change in the time of your departure or return flight that is less than 12 hours on a 14 night holiday.
In the case of significant changes, you can usually choose to accept the changes offered, swap to a different booking of similar quality and value, or cancel and receive a refund BUT this will depend on your specific Ts&Cs. Make sure you also read your cruise insurance policy wording carefully and understand what it covers.
Read those details carefully when you book, and don’t let a cruise be ruined by changes – remember that changes are relatively infrequent, but a new port of call could mean a whole new adventure too!
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