Future cruise credits: What they are, how they work and when they expire

AvatarPosted by

Have you recently found yourself in possession of something called a future cruise credit?

If so, you’re not alone. Cruise lines have issued millions of future cruise credits to customers since the COVID-19 pandemic began in lieu of refunds for canceled sailings — far more than at any other point in the history of cruising.

In broad terms, a future cruise credit is just what the name implies — a voucher good for a future cruise. It’s not quite as simple as it sounds, though.

For more cruise guides, tips and news, sign up for TPG’s cruise newsletter.

Future cruise credits can’t always be applied to the full cost of a future cruise. For instance, at some lines, the credits can’t be used to pay for the initial deposit on a future cruise or for “extras” such as prepaid gratuities or drinks packages. At some lines, future cruise credits can only be used for a single future sailing, with any leftover balance forfeited.

Are you looking for an answer to the question: “How does a future cruise credit work?” The bottom line is it varies a bit depending on the line issuing it, and it can be a tad complicated at times.

For a primer on it all, we turned to one of the longtime leaders of the cruise-selling world: David Crooks, senior vice president of product and operations at World Travel Holdings.

Related: The ultimate guide to how to pick a cruise line

Even if you’re not familiar with World Travel Holdings, you surely know its brands, which include CruisesOnly, Cruises.com, Cheap Cruises, Dream Vacations and CruiseOne. The company is the largest seller of cruises in the world.

Here, Crooks answers the most common questions about future cruise credits, known as FCCs, in industry parlance.

What is a future cruise credit?

A future cruise credit is a voucher good for a future cruise. Cruise lines often issue future cruise credits to customers when [the lines] cancel a sailing, in lieu of a cash refund. In the past few years, lines have issued millions of future cruise credits to customers on sailings canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But they also issue future cruise credits when they cancel sailings for other reasons, such as delays with a new ship’s inaugural sailing. In addition, cruisers sometimes receive future cruise credits when [the cruisers] cancel a sailing.

Future cruise credits typically have a specific dollar value assigned to them, usually based on the amount the passenger paid for the canceled cruise. Often the dollar value is 100% of the amount the passenger paid. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, some lines have offered passengers future cruise credits with a dollar amount of 125%, 150% or even 200% of the amount the passenger paid for a canceled cruise.

When will my future cruise credit arrive?

Most cruise lines typically have issued FCCs within a couple of weeks after the cancellation has been announced, but other cruise lines can take weeks or months to process them. World Travel Holdings’ cruise brand websites have a help center that provides guidance on when FCCs will arrive.

How will my future cruise credit arrive?

Your FCC will be attached to your cruise line loyalty information or rewards profile — the VIFP Club at Carnival, for instance, or Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society. If you never registered with the cruise line or you do not have a loyalty account, your FCC information will be emailed to you on the email address you provided when you originally booked your cruise.

(Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

 

If I booked through a travel agent, will the credit be sent to the travel agent or to me directly?

In many instances, both. Your FCC will be attached to your customer profile at the cruise line, and your travel agency should be made aware of the FCC as well.

Do I need to wait for my future cruise credit to arrive before starting the rebooking process?

No, once you know you’re about to get a future cruise credit for a canceled cruise, you can go ahead and reserve your next cruise immediately. If you haven’t been issued your FCC yet, it is possible to pay the deposit and apply the FCC to the balance. In some instances, your travel agent can even hold your reservation while waiting for the cruise line to apply your FCC.

How soon do I need to use the future cruise credit?

This varies by cruise line. Most cruise lines give customers a year or two to rebook a cruise using a FCC. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, some lines have extended the “use by” dates for future cruise credits several times. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises recently said their pandemic-era future cruise credits would never expire.

(Photo courtesy of the All Inclusive Project/Celebrity Cruises)

 

Can I apply my future cruise credit to a balance due on an existing booking?

Most cruise lines only allow a FCC to be applied to a new booking that is made after the date the FCC is issued. There are some exceptions to this rule that allow you to apply your FCC to an existing reservation.

Can I use the future cruise credit to book more than one sailing?

Some cruise lines allow you to use your FCC for more than one booking by applying any remaining balance as another FCC. You can use the second FCC on another booking.

Does the future cruise credit need to be used all at once?

Every cruise line is a little different. Some cruise lines require you to pay for a deposit and use your FCC towards the balance. Some cruise lines require you to use all of your FCC at once or forfeit the overage — so, if you don’t use it, you lose it. Others will apply whatever amount you want to a booking and issue a new FCC for the balance. For example, Carnival allows you to use your FCC on one booking only, while Royal Caribbean will allow you to use your FCC on multiple bookings by issuing you a new FCC voucher with the balance of the unused amount after your first booking is made.

(Photo by jodi4art/Getty Images)

 

Can I apply part of my credit to the taxes and port fees in addition to the base fare?

Stipulations for what you can apply toward your FCC vary by cruise line. Working with a travel agent can help explain what parts of a booking are eligible to be used toward an FCC.

Can I apply part of my credit to “extras” such as prepaid shore excursions and drinks packages?

After applying the FCC to the full cost of your cruise, some cruise lines will take the remaining balance and use it toward prepaid gratuities on your reservation. In most cases, cruise lines do not allow FCCs to cover the cost of prepaid shore excursions and drink packages. Your travel advisor will be able to assist with the exact “extras” that your FCCs will cover.

Related: Are drinks packages worth the price? A line-by-line guide 

Can I use part of my future cruise credit to book flights to a future cruise?

Flights can be tricky when it comes to FCCs. Your travel advisor knows best. FCCs cannot be used toward flights when cruise lines allow customers to book directly with the airlines through their flight programs.

What if the new cruise I book with a credit is less expensive than my canceled sailing?

Several cruise lines will allow the balance of an FCC to be used on another sailing, but it is best to consult with a reputable travel agency to make sure you are maximizing the value. FCCs are not refunded back in the form of cash.

I can’t use my future cruise credit. Can I transfer it to another person?

Each guest on the original reservation will be issued their own FCC. Several cruise lines will allow FCCs to be transferred to another person, but it’s also important to note that they have no cash value and often times only one transference is allowed. It is best to consult with your travel agent regarding the cruise line policies regarding transferring FCCs.

(Photo by Simon Colbing/EyeEm/Getty Images)

 

If I never use the future cruise credit, is the money gone forever?

FCCs cannot be converted into cash. They must be used before they expire or the value is forfeited.

What if I don’t want a future cruise credit?

If the FCC has already been issued, you cannot revert back to a cash refund. In the future, if your cruise needs to be canceled, you can try requesting a refund, which the cruise lines consider on a case-by-case basis. Please be aware of deadlines in order to request a refund.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

The 5 most desirable cabin locations on any cruise ship
The 8 worst cabin locations on any cruise ship
A quick guide to the most popular cruise lines
21 tips and tricks that will make your cruise go smoothly
15 ways cruisers waste money
12 best cruises for people who never want to grow up
What to pack for your first cruise

Featured photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy.

Read MoreThe Points Guy