Cruise customers were rocked in 2020 by the pandemic. At the time, no-sail orders were issued, cruise operations began to delay expeditions and some cruises were canceled altogether.
Many passengers received cruise refunds, but NBC 6 Responds heard from consumers who had difficulty receiving refunds from previously purchased cruises.
The Federal Maritime Commission also heard from frustrated customers.
“I was stuck here in Washington, I couldn't go home. So I would work the phones,” FMC commissioner Louis Sola said.
The commission is tasked with regulating US-based sea travel across the globe.
“As far as the consumer protection goes, what we found is that almost every single cruise line had a different refund policy,” Sola said.
As a result, the FMC is amending its regulations governing non-performance by Passenger Vessel Operators and establishing new requirements for when cruise passengers should be provided refunds for canceled or delayed voyages.
Responding to every consumer complaint
“It's the first time that the law has been changed since 1881,” Sola said.
The rule change defines “non-performance” as a cruise canceling or delaying a voyage by three or more calendar days. If this happens, it entitles passengers to get back all money down including ancillary fees.
Cruise lines are also required to publish clear instructions for obtaining refunds online.
“After a two-year rulemaking, we've finally got that across the hurdle, it takes a long time for the government to, to move the ship, so to speak,” Sola said.
The CDC lifted its risk advisory for cruise ship travel last month after two years of COVID warnings. The new refund rules go into effect on April 18th.