One-Sided Cruise Contracts
PRICES AND FEES
The cruise line can increase base rates without prior notice. If you've paid in full, you're exempt from such increases, but not if you've just made a partial deposit. In addition, most cruise lines "reserve the right" to pass along government fees and taxes, however assessed, and impose fuel surcharges, sometimes with a specified maximum.
In an itinerary deviation subject to the cruise line's control, you can get full cash refund or accept an alternative voucher offer. But if you decide to cancel because of a deviation due to force majeure, some cruise lines assess regular cancellation penalties; others are a bit more generous. Once at sea, the cruise line owes you nothing in a deviation for any reason. And if a ship can't continue, the cruise line may dump you at an intermediate port, without further compensation.
In general, you lose 100 percent if you cancel less than 15 days in advance, and lower-level penalties start to kick in as early as 90 days in advance. You can avoid such penalties by buying either a cancellation waiver (cheaper, but poor coverage) from the cruise line or third-party trip cancellation insurance (more expensive but better coverage).
BAGGAGE AND PERSONAL PROPERTY
Unless you buy extra insurance, the cruise line imposes a strict limit on liability for damaged, lost, or stolen property. This limit can be as low as
You may not board with any alcoholic beverages, except for one bottle of wine, and the cruise line can search your baggage. You may buy "duty free" beverages in low-tax ports, but the cruise line keeps any you buy and returns it to you just before debarking.
If your cruise does not touch any U.S. port, the cruise line's liability for death or personal injury is limited by an international convention at about
LAW AND FORUM
When you cruise outside
As I read the literature, some courts have held some of these limits valid; others haven't. In a serious situation, you obviously need a good lawyer. But, in general, the contracts stack the cards against you. The upshot is simple: If everything goes well on your cruise, you don't need to worry. But if anything goes wrong, you'll have a tough time making it right.
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