Welcome to Ask Clark, a column designed to answer your financial questions by money expert Clark Howard.
Brian from Florida asks: "We've been following your advice regarding our upcoming cruise. First, let me say that we are not going to go regardless of what happens in the next few months and I've been waiting for the cruise line to cancel the cruise. The cruise is in late January of next year. My question is, we're coming up on the final payment date, and I want to know should we cancel ourselves before this date, or should we wait and hope the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) does the right thing and extends the no-sail order?"
The CDC has issued a Framework for Conditional Sailing Order, which clears a pathway for cruises to return to the seas. But there are a lot of hoops cruise ships would have to jump through in order to start sailing again, including a one-month quarantine for employees. So Clark calls this a travel dilemma "without a perfect answer."
The issue is the current status of the cruise industry because of the coronavirus pandemic versus cruise companies’ policies regarding your money.
Clark says: "I'd say that the smart money is that the cruise you have booked for early next year isn't gonna happen."
Instead of refunding your money, some cruise lines may choose to retain your payment to keep you on the hook for a future trip.
“If you do pay and your cruise is canceled, generally the cruise lines are very reluctant to give the money back and they hold on to it,” Clark says. “And so it becomes like a gift certificate for a future cruise.”
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