A common facet of the travel industry involves reserving an airplane ticket, a hotel, a rental car without it costing you anything if you cancel. Here are some typical practices:
(a) For decades airline companies have had “refundable fares.” But those fares are commonly twice or three times as much as the lowest published airfares that are non-refundable.
(b) Hotels and resorts typically offer two prices for a room – a prepaid charge where you lose your money if you cancel, and a considerably higher cost where you can cancel up to one or two days before your booking date without paying anything.
(c) Car rentals require no money in advance. And if you don’t show up to get the car at the appointed time, it costs you nothing.
(d) Cruises are a bit tricky. Some lines allow you to reserve a stateroom with a deposit which is completely refundable if you cancel up to 75-days before the sailing date. Others require deposits which you forfeit if you cancel. And some will let you book with a refundable deposit except when they are having a special sale, in which case the deposit is not refundable.
NO REFUND: It’s interesting that Cruise Critic, an online travel site, recently gave the award for “Best Value-for-Money” for the second year in a row to Carnival Cruise Line. If you are booking one of Carnival’s lower priced staterooms, they won’t let you reserve your cruise with a refundable deposit. However, they offer higher rates in all types of cabins that will have a refundable deposit. In other words, a refundable deposit will cost you! Hmmmm. Shouldn’t that be part of a “value-for-money” equation?
Other lines will refund your deposit up to 75-days before your sailing unless your reservation was made in conjunction with a special promotion involving highly discounted fares.
DEPOSITS VARY: Most of the cruise lines ask for a $250 per passenger deposit in order to reserve a stateroom. Princess Cruises requires a 20-percent deposit. Usually, the full cost of the cruise is due at the same time the deposit becomes non-refundable. Also, sometimes cruise lines have a sale offering a half price deposit – some are refundable, some not. Of course, a good travel agent knows all of the variables – amount of deposit, is it refundable, etc. – and will call you before full payment must be paid.
USE A TRAVEL AGENT: A real, live, experienced travel agent you can talk to will know all of the details involving required deposits. Emphasis here is on “real” and “live” and “experienced” as oposed to websites or big-box stores selling cruises. Travel quite often involves the unexpected, and you need to have an actual person you can reach in case of problems. And it goes without saying, that person should know the ins and outs of travel and be experienced in resolving travel problems. Besides, it won’t cost you anything – the cruise line will pay the agent’s commission.by