Their ship was under threat of a pirate attack—But they probably won’t get a refund

Here's what you need to know about cruise refund policies.

U.S. Navy Delivers Aid to Stranded Canival Cruise Ship
Getty Images | U.S. Navy

Onboard a luxury Princess Cruise that was touring the Indian Ocean, the lights went out. And they stayed out for 10 whole days.

Why? Because there was a “real” threat of a pirate attack and it was for the passengers’ safety. Needless to say, the travelers were upset, but Princess Cruises probably won’t be issuing a refund anytime soon.

There were 1,900 passengers on the cruise ship the Sea Princess, and each had paid nearly $40,000 for a 104-day (!!!) luxury cruise around the world. But as they passed through dangerous waters where pirates—and not the cute Johnny Depp kind—could pose real danger to the ship, all of the expensive fun ceased.

“No deck parties, no movies under the stars, no late-night outdoor bar hopping or pool dipping,” wrote cruise passenger Carolyne Jasinski, listing everything affected by the threat. “No lights, no party atmosphere, no lapping up tropical breezes on their balconies. All around the ship, as the sun set, all curtains were drawn and all shutters closed.”

Despite this, passengers will probably be out of luck if they want even a partial refund, thanks to the nearly airtight Princess Cruises passage contract. Under a section headed “Notice concerning safety and security,” the contract specifically makes a point of the possibility that the ship might need to sail without lights.

What You Need To Know About Cruise Ship Refunds

If you’re a cruiser (or intend to go on one in the future), you need to know what to expect from cruise ship policies that surround refunds. Mostly, you’re going to be out of luck—cruises are very careful to make sure they won’t have to give up a single dime. But read closely, just in case.

According to Condé Nast Traveler, most major cruise lines abide by the Cruise Line International Association’s Passenger Bill of Rights. This document explicitly says that cruise lines are responsible for refunding passengers if your cruise is cancelled due to mechanical issues, but not if there’s a weather-related issue. So if a hurricane crops up and your cruise gets cancelled, you’re probably out a ticket.

In fact, there are very few reasons a cruise might issue you a refund—in one case, a passenger traveling on Norwegian Cruise Lines to Alaska couldn’t even get a refund after his mother’s death caused him to cancel the trip a day before their schedule departure.

The answer? Travel insurance. It will cover some things, but not all things. Or you could just forget the cruise and go to a resort. Up to you.

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