So, your dream vacation for 2020 has been dashed to the rocks by the Covid-19 pandemic. Whether you were headed on an ocean cruise, river cruise, or land tour, you are most likely stuck at home until at least the fall. For those of you that took Future Cruise Credits (FCCs) or Future Cruise Vouchers (FCVs) or any other credit, this article is for you.
As you may know, the name of your Future Credit can vary from vendor to vendor. There are SEVERAL terms for this. For the sake of simplicity, this article will call your credit FC, which stands for “future credit.”
These days, we travel advisors are using a few puns to keep our sanity….We are all in the same boat, our ship has sunk, etc. The reason is that Covid-19 event has forced us all to read pages and pages of terms and conditions for cancelled bookings and how the FCs will work….a lot of technical jargon. Phew! I’ve distilled the major points here. If you’re one of the thousands of travelers that now have FCs, you’ll want to read this.
1. The FC is owned by the customer. What does this mean? As the customer, you are responsible for your FC. You need to know the assigned number and the expiration date. You are responsible for using your FC before it expires.
Since you own your FC, you are free to book with any travel advisor or book the next cruise directly with the vendor. If you have a great travel advocate, they would appreciate you continuing to use their service for your next booking. Most have worked long, grueling hours for very little pay in the last 2 months.
If you booked with a clearing house or directly with the vendor, you are free to find a travel specialist to help you navigate your next booking. You may have waited on hold for hours to speak with a clearing house phone representative. Having a personal travel agent gives you the peace of mind that someone is thinking about you. That a travel agent knows your name, cares about your travel plans, and understands the monies that are at stake is of great value. Eagle Adventures would love to assist you in using those FCs for 2021 or 2022 travel. Please give us a call at: 936-756-1217 or e-mail at Brenda.Hall@AvoyaNetwork.com.
2.The FC has an expiration date. What does this date mean? When do I need to book by and when do I need to travel by? Every vendor has a different policy. Know your vendor’s policy well. What should you consider?
By what date does your next trip need to be booked? Some vendors require you to book for instance by December 31, 2020. Others do not. Is there an expiration date for booking?
By what date must your trip begin/end? Many of the current FCs will expire the last day of 2021 or 2022. This likely means that your ship must embark by the expiration date. Be careful to plan your vacation carefully.
If you work with a travel advisor, they will set appointments to call you about your FC. You will have time to let this current crisis pass and then have a travel agent to help you navigate the details.
3. What can the FC be used for? This also varies from vendor to vendor and can be very confusing. You will need to have the terms and conditions of each vendor at the time you cancelled or from the date that the vendor cancelled. Having an extra set of eyes on the policies can really help. Eagle Adventures also has access to the Business Development Managers at many cruise lines and can request special assistance when needed.
Mass Market – What should you expect with mass market vendors like Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Holland America, Princess, Norwegian, or Carnival? Typically, your FC will only apply to the base cruise fare of your new cruise. So, you received a FC for 125%. However, this FC cannot be used for insurance, port charges, taxes, gratuities, or excursions. Depending on the price of your next cruise, you will be able to get a comparable stateroom or an upgrade….hopefully! Most Mass Market lines are still requiring a deposit for your next cruise.
Luxury Market – The luxury brands are being very slow to cancel. Many bookings are a month out and the vendors are just now cancelling the sailings. Why? If a client cancels, the cruise line can offer you 100% FC during this pandemic. If the vendor cancels, they have to offer you a refund as well. The best situation for the cruise vendor is for you to panic and cancel early. A travel advisor can help you navigate the game being played. We are truly in the middle! We love our customers and our vendors. To find a happy median for both is our goal.
River Market – What is typical with brands like Viking River, AmaWaterways, Uniworld, etc. As stated, every vendor’s policies are different. However, many of these brands are allowing you to roll your FCs into the next booking. No deposit is required and you will make any additional payment at final. Most vendors are waiving your air penalty, refunding insurance or moving it to the new booking, and allowing for FCs to be used for cruise, land, air or travel insurance on the next booking.
4. Will travel insurance cover your FC? Travel insurance typically covers “out of pocket” expenses for a traveler. When choosing your insurance plan, which is always the customers responsibility, check and see if the FC will be covered.
The best way to protect your FC might be to book your insurance through the cruise line. Travel advisors can speak with the vendors and ensure that your FC is covered by the new insurance policy. Insurance vendors such as Allianz Global Assistance will cover the FC deposit. However, they will not cover the “bonus” amount given.
5. What if I have extra credits after my sailing is re-booked? So you had a $10,000 FC, but only used $9200. What about your extra $800. Remember that FCs are not convertible to cash normally. What should you do?
You will be assigned a new FC number. Again, check the expiration dates. Make sure to book and sail again so that these credits can be applied to another booking. It is very likely that the expiration date will be the same as the original FC.
If you don’t want to have extra FCs, then consider upgrading staterooms to use all your FCs on one trip. For river cruising, add that land extension that you were dreaming about, but passed over because of cost.
6. How is a FC calculated? Again, our standard answer is that policies vary slightly with each vendor and a travel advisor can help you. Here is how to get a good estimate:
Taxes, port charges, transfers, and excursions are refunded to the charged credit card. Find out if your insurance costs will be refunded, lost, or rolled-over to the next cruise. Remember that luxury brands like Regent Seven Seas include many extras like gratuities in their base cabin costs.
Subtract the above refunded expenses from the monies you have paid. Usually, you will be left with base cabin fare, air, and maybe a land extension for a river cruise. This amount will be used to calculate your FC. If you have, for example, a 125% FC, then multiply by 1.25 to get your FC credit.
7. Can FCs be converted to cash? I would normally say a resounding NO! However, during this unprecedented event, there have been some exceptions. Since polices are continuing to changes, keep up with the policies of your vendor. A travel specialist can be of great value during this ever changing, fluid time.
Viking River Cruises is allowing customers who do not use their FC in the next 24 months to convert their FC to cash. However, you will only receive a 100% refund.
Celebrity and Holland America Cruise Lines are also giving current customers until Dec. 31, 2021 to decide to change their FCC to a refund. Other cruise lines may update their terms and conditions to include a refund option at a later date.
8. Is your FC transferable? Again, I would usually say a resounding NO! These are unprecedented times and all policies are in flux.
Several vendors have stated that the Covid-19 FCs will be transferable. Working with a travel advisor and vendor specialist will be of great benefit. Your travel advocate can work with your vendor if you or one of your family members is unable to travel during the valid FC period.
9. Can your FC be used on an existing booking? Do you have another booking for late fall or 2021/2022?
Your FC can be applied to any current booking. Remember that the FC is a credit to your personal account with the vendor. Ask your travel agent to apply the FC to your existing booking. Make sure that you receive an updated booking confirmation showing the FCs have been applied.
10. Will the cruise line keep track of my FC? There is a simple answer: NO!
You must keep track of your FC expiration dates. Once this credit has expired, you have lost your credit and the initial monies paid for the credit.
Not to beat a dead horse, but this is the value of having a travel advocate. Your advisor can schedule e-mails/calls to remind you when it is time to make important decisions about FCs.
2021 and 2022 will be interesting years in the travel industry. With millions of travelers having Future Credits to use, the market will be boosted by all this business. Travel agents can help clients navigate all the details of the FC tidal wave.
If you would like assistance with your travel plans for 2020, 2021, or 2022, please give Eagle Adventures a call at: 936-756-1217. You can also send an e-mail to: Brenda.Hall@AvoyaNetwork.com.