On Mar. 9th, 2019, The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) issued a warning for Canadians to avoid all cruise ship travel due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
Days later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) followed suit, urging travellers to defer their cruise plans until further notice.
In the weeks that followed, cruise companies around the world took steps to slow the spread of COVID-19, first by issuing precautionary measures, like temperature screening prior to boarding, and as a last resort, calling off all sailings for the foreseeable future.
With international ports closed, and no set date for new itineraries, cruise companies took to issuing Future Cruise Credits (FCCs) as a method of compensating their paying passengers.
Clarifying how FCCs work
FCCs work in a way that is similar to the way that airfare travel vouchers work—they’re meant to offer monetary value in place of a cash refund.
Royal Caribbean Cruise Line clarifies that the FCC compensation amount for any impacted sailings is based on the total cruise fare paid at the guest-level and is exclusive of taxes, fees, and prepaid gratuities which are being refunded to the original form of payment.
The FCC cannot be used to pay for the initial deposit to reserve a cruise, any taxes, port fees, pre-paid gratuities, or shore excursions. But, it can be used towards a new sailing a traveller books, or any existing sailing they previously booked.
Over the past month, PAX has received many questions from readers about how future travel vouchers work.
One question we received asked if whether or not travellers who have received an FCC could take their issued voucher to a travel advisor, regardless of where the sale occurred.
It depends on the supplier, presumably, and after reaching out to some leading cruise companies, the general consensus is that yes, travellers can take their FCCs to travel agents, even if the traveller purchased their cruise on their own.
But what about commissions?
Once an individual receives the FCC from the supplier, they may reschedule their new holiday plans in any way that they see fit, so long as it complies with the supplier’s booking policies.
“A guest can use the Future Cruise Credit (FCC) and make the new booking in a different sales channel than their original channel,” said Joyce Oliva, media spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Line. “Carnival was the first cruise line to pay full commissions on the value of the future cruise credit. Carnival understands how hard agents worked for the first booking and re-booking their clients using the FCC involves additional work, and the line wants to recognize this effort and ensure that agents get commission on both bookings.”
Travel agents dealing with FCCs from Carnival Cruise Line will also earn commission on all fully paid bookings, Oliva confirmed. The affected guest needs to have their original booking number to identify the FCC and then it’s simply moved to the new booking.
Royal Caribbean Cruise Line is protecting travel agent commissions on FCCs issued due to COVID-19, after making it a standard policy back in 2018 in response to the year’s hurricane-related cancellations.
“Travel partner commission will be protected on both the cancelled booking and the future reservation where the correlating Future Cruise Credit is applied,” said Lyan Sierra-Caro, senior manager, public relations, Royal Caribbean International. “Commission protection will only occur on cancelled reservations that are paid in full, fall within the final payment window, and where guests have opted to take advantage of the Cruise with Confidence FCC option.”
If a guest misses Royal Caribbean’s cancellation deadline of 48-hours prior to the sail date and requests a late cancellation, full penalties will be assessed, and commission will be protected. Travel agents should note that Royal Caribbean FCC commission earnings are payable only on sailed reservations.
And, if a guest decides to switch travel agents, or seek out the expertise of an agent for a future holiday?
“The commission follows the FCC and is not guaranteed to the original travel partner unless the guest returns for the rebook,” Sierra-Caro said. “For example, Agent Z receives commission on the cancelled booking and Agent W gets it on the future booking when the FCC is redeemed.”
Through its Peace of Mind policy, Norwegian Cruise Line will protect commissions on cancelled bookings so long as that commission has already been paid out.
"During this unprecedented period, we have been protecting travel partner commissions since the very beginning. Commissions currently paid will be protected and not recalled," a spokesperson for NCL confirmed. "Commissions that have not been issued for sailings through September 30th, 2020 will be paid as per our standard policy, at the time of final payment. Commission on new bookings where the FCC is applied, will be paid per our standard policy."
Travellers are advised to consult with a travel agent and/or cruise supplier, as individual terms and conditions vary.
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