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Federal Maritime Commission Proposes Cancellation Rule Changes to Protect U.S. Cruise Ship Passengers
Cruise ships in the Caribbean (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Federal Maritime Commission Proposes Cancellation Rule Changes to Protect U.S. Cruise Ship Passengers

Federal Maritime Commission Proposes Cancellation Rule Changes to Protect U.S. Cruise Ship Passengers
Cruise ships in the Caribbean (Photo: Cruise Critic)

August 25, 2021

Fran Golden
Contributor
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(2:10 p.m. EDT) -- The Federal Maritime Commission is proposing new rules for cruise refunds and wants to hear from passengers.

The proposed rules, as outlined in a 69-page Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Passenger Vessel Financial Responsibility published on the FMC website, are a result of consumer experiences with cruises cancelled due to COVID-19, the agency said Wednesday.

Among the changes is a requirement that cruise lines give consumers a full refund within 60 days if a sailing is canceled or boarding is delayed by three days or more, for any reason other than by government order or declaration (such as the CDC’s "No Sail" order).

If a sailing is delayed by a government order, the deadline for cruise lines provide refunds would be 180 days.

The proposed rules apply only to future cruise bookings.

The FMC began investigating the impact of COVID-19 on the cruise industry in late April 2020 and later concluded that "clear guidance is needed in determining whether a passenger is entitled to a refund" if a cruise line "cancels a voyage, makes a significant schedule change or significantly delays a voyage."

Discussing the proposed changes in an interview with CNBC, FMC Commissioner Louis Sola said the agency is looking to standardize cruise line refund policies in a manner similar to what has already been established within the airline industry.

Sola also expressed respect for cruise line's comprehensive health and safety protocols, telling CNBC, "I feel much safer on a cruise ship than I do flying. I'm not knocking flying, but you are interacting with more people of unknown vaccination status in an airport. You are breathing in recycled air in extremely close quarters."

Cruise Critic readers have expressed frustration with refund policies in the past. In a July survey, 58 percent of respondents who had canceled their own cruise said they were dissatisfied by their inability to get their preferred compensation, and 50 percent said their refund was taking too long.

In cases where the cruise line itself canceled the cruise, 57 percent of respondents said their refund was taking too long and 37 percent said they were dissatisfied with the compensation method.

The 60-day comment period for the anticipated rule changes ends October 25, 2021. To give feedback, respondents can email secretary@fmc.gov and include in the subject line: "Docket No. 20-15, Comments on PVO Financial Responsibility Rulemaking." (Comments need to be attached as a Microsoft Word or text-searchable PDF document.)

After that period, the commission is expected to schedule a vote on the measures.

Cruise Critic will update this story with more information as it develops.

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