Everything you need to know about a future cruise credit

Do you suddenly find yourself in possession of something called a future cruise credit?

If so, you're not alone. By our back-of-the-envelope calculations, more than 5 million cruisers are now holding one of those credits, or soon will get one.

Cruise lines have been offering the credits to customers on sailings that have been canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak, in lieu of a refund. They're also issuing the credits to customers on not-yet-canceled sailings who want to postpone the trips.

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In broad strokes, a future cruise credit is just what the name implies — a voucher good for a future cruise. But it's not quite as simple as it sounds.

We've been getting a lot of questions about the credits from readers, some of whom have noted the credits can't always be applied to the full cost of a future cruise. For instance, the credits can't always be used to pay for the initial deposit on a future cruise or for “extras” such as prepaid gratuities or drinks packages.

Just how exactly do these credits work? It varies a bit from line to line, and it can be a tad complicated at times. To sort it all out, we turned to one of the longtime leaders of the cruise-selling world: David Crooks, the senior vice president of product and operations at World Travel Holdings.

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

A Royal Caribbean ship at sea. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean).
Royal Caribbean has been offering passengers on canceled sailings a future cruise credit in the amount of 125% of what they paid. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean).

Between now and May 22, the company's CruisesOnly brand is offering a 5% bonus credit to any customer who applies a future cruise credit to a booking. The offer is available to any cruiser holding a future cruise credit. It doesn't matter if you originally booked your canceled cruise with CruisesOnly. When booking a new cruise with CruisesOnly using a credit, customers also can get up to $750 in the form of an Amazon gift card or onboard credit.

Here, Crooks answers the 15 most common questions we've been getting about future cruise credits, known as FCCs, in industry parlance:

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When will my future cruise credit arrive?

Some cruise lines are processing FCCs faster than others. For example, Carnival's FCCs are processed [in] real-time, whereas others have been slower to process all of the FCCs during this unprecedented period. Most cruise lines are issuing FCCs related to COVID-19 cancellations within a couple of weeks after the cancellation has been announced. CruisesOnly has a help center that also 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.

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 also have a copy on file.

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

No, you can go ahead and reserve your next cruise now. 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 are requiring customers to rebook using their FCC by the end of 2021 or within one year of the original sailing date for travel by the end of 2022.

Can I apply my future cruise credit to a balance due on an existing booking or is it only good toward a new booking?

Most cruise lines only allow the 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.

Can I use just a portion of a future cruise credit to put down a deposit for a sailing, or does it need to be used all at once?

Every cruise line is a little different. Some cruise lines require you to pay 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 — if you don't use it, you lose it. Others will apply whatever amount you want 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.

Related: Could cruising come back in August? That's the plan at Carnival 

Can I apply part of my credit to the taxes and port fees due for a future cruise, 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” on an upcoming sailing 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. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises will give you any remaining amount as another FCC.

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 — will the balance of the credit be refunded?

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. Most cruise lines will not allow FCCs to be transferred to another person and it's also important to note that they have no cash value. Viking is one example of a cruise line that does allow the FCC to be transferred to another person.

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 you do not want the FCC, which is often worth more than the value of the cruise you purchased, in most cases (for a cruise canceled by the line) you can request a cash refund.

Additional resources for cruisers during the coronavirus outbreak:

Feature image courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

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