When most people book a cruise, they typically choose not to pay for it in full, right then and there. In order to reserve a room onboard, cruise lines will accept a deposit, or portion of the full cruise fare to secure your place.
There are generally two types of cruise deposits: refundable and nonrefundable. What is the main difference between the two, and which one should you opt for? To check what makes the most sense for you, and if your cruise deposit is refundable, read the following information compiled by Cruise Critic.
Is my cruise deposit always refundable?
No. While cruise deposits historically were refundable, more cruise lines have begun to offer nonrefundable deposit options. These options are usually bundled as a promotion, offering cruisers a savings or bonus in return for the financial commitment of a nonrefundable deposit. Also, some cruise lines only offer nonrefundable deposits for suite-level cabin categories or guarantee rooms.
Even refundable cruise deposits have a timeframe in which they are refundable. For most cruise lines, as long as you cancel before your final payment date, there is no penalty. After final payment, you will lose your deposit or the deposit and a portion of your cruise fare, depending on when you cancel in relation to your sail date. Check with your individual line on its cancellation policy and final payment window, as each one can be different.
Deposits are refundable unless otherwise indicated. It's always best to comb through the fine print, especially when booking a promotional fare, or consult a cruise or travel professional for reassurance before booking.
What are the pros and cons of a refundable cruise deposit?
Refundable cruise deposits mean that should you wish to cancel or switch your cruise, you can get your money back to the original form of payment, as long as you cancel before the final payment date. Bookings with refundable deposits are often eligible for price adjustment -- before the final payment date -- as well as changing to a different sail date or ship without penalty. Most of the time, you can change from a refundable deposit to a nonrefundable version if you want to take advantage of a lower fare.
The downside to a refundable deposit is that it's often not associated with the lowest price you'll find for your cruise.
What are the pros and cons of a nonrefundable cruise deposit?
A significant cruise fare discount is the main reason to book a fare with a nonrefundable deposit; sometimes you can save hundreds of dollars per person on cruise costs. Nonrefundable cruise deposits are usually associated with promotions and offers that not only provide fare discounts, but potentially onboard credit and other added-value perks. If you are comfortable taking the risk, these rewards can pay off once onboard.
Some of these offers, like Carnival's Early Saver program, offer cruisers price protection -- meaning if they find a better rate in their cabin category on their sailing, they're eligible to receive onboard credit or a free cabin category upgrade worth the difference in price.
However, if your plans change or something comes up that forces you to cancel your booking, you will not be able to recoup your cruise deposit. Change fees can be incurred if you decide to change ship or sail date with a nonrefundable deposit option.
Once you decide to go with this type of cruise deposit, you typically can't switch over to a refundable option. Depending on the cruise line, if you do decide to cancel, your deposit will likely be issued to you in the form of a future cruise credit (less a cancellation fee), in place of a cash refund.
Which cruise deposit is right for me?
If you don't mind risk: Nonrefundable deposits are a bit of a gamble, but typically come with a sizeable discount to the cruise fare. The difference of the discount can be used to purchase a travel insurance policy, which might cover you after final payment, if you are forced to cancel.
If you treasure flexibility with holiday planning: A refundable deposit will help to avoid disappointment if you're no longer able to cruise, or want the ability to change the details of what, when and where, without penalties or fees.