By Theresa Boehl
Whether you’re a first-time cruiser or a seasoned cruise veteran, there’s nothing like the joy of booking a cruise and marking the official sail date on your calendar. But alas — sometimes life gets in the way. In this case, the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected leisure travel, putting a pause on cruising for the moment.
But that doesn’t mean you should put away your sunscreen and flip-flops and forget about cruising altogether. If you had a cruise booked that was canceled due to the pandemic, you likely received a Future Cruise Credit (also called a Future Cruise Certificate or an FCC depending on the cruise line) in lieu of a cash refund.
Think of this credit as an IOU or a raincheck from the cruise line you booked with. Airlines and other travel operators have been known to issue these vouchers when they have to cancel trips at the last minute for reasons out of their control.
Since most cruise companies would rather have your future business than give you a refund you’d likely pocket, they’ve issued Future Cruise Certificates, some of which sweeten the deal by giving you more credit than the original dollar amount you booked for.
That means you’ll have extra money for your choice of upgrades, so you could potentially have an even better trip than the one you planned in the first place. That’s why knowing how to maximize your FCC is important — you have the opportunity to squeeze every bit of value from your credit.
Below, we highlight a few tips for making the most of your Future Cruise Credit.
Read the Fine Print
There are a few rules that come with the Future Cruise Credit. It only applies to the cruise fare, and likely won’t cover the additional expenses that get tacked on when you book a cruise, such as deposits, taxes, fees, gratuities, and extras like shore excursions and onboard spending, for example. So you’ll still be on the hook for those extra expenses even once your credit is applied to your trip, just as you would have been had your trip sailed as planned.
It’s also extremely important to take note of the expiration date of your FCC. Your voucher won’t last forever — some are only valid through the end of 2021. Some popular cruise routes are booked up an entire year in advance, so it’s smart to start considering now which trip you’d like to take and when. (There may be blackout dates, too, a crucial thing to keep in mind as you plan.)
Don’t lose track of the expiration date! If you don’t use your credit for a future cruise, your FCC is forfeited, and you lose your money.
Be Prepared for a Price Difference
Cruise fares fluctuate, which means that even if you rebook the exact same cruise for a later date, you may find that there’s a difference in price. In cases where the cruise costs more than your FCC is worth, you’re expected to pay the difference.
When your new trip costs less than your original trip, you may still be able to use that leftover value, depending on the cruise line’s policy. The right travel agent can help you figure this out; see the tip below for a more detailed explanation on making use of an agent’s expertise.
Understand Your Rebooking Choices
Most FCC recipients may not realize that they don’t necessarily have to rebook their trips with the travel agency they originally used. You have the freedom to use any travel agency you want to redeem your FCC, which can be a major advantage if you choose an experienced one that can get you the best and latest offers.
When you choose a travel agent who specializes in cruises, you not only have a professional scouring his or her network and resources for ways to get you the most value for your Future Cruise Certificate, you have someone who can act as your own personal advocate and who will sit on hold with the cruise line on your behalf should your plans change.
Your agent will work hard to get you the lowest price and can hook you up with exclusive bonus perks like onboard spending, specialty dining offers, and spa credits, for example. That’s important, since your cruise line removed all the promotional offers and amenities that came with your initial booking.
Your agent will make sure your new cruise is at least as good as the original one, if not better.
Remember That Your Future Cruise Credit is Non-Transferable
It’s important to realize that the Future Cruise Certificate is issued in the names of the individuals listed in the original reservation, regardless of who paid. So the voucher can only be used by those guests and can’t be transferred to someone else. That means that even if you no longer plan to take a cruise, you can’t give away your trip and book on someone else’s behalf using your FCC. Use it or lose it!
To get help using your FCC, visit CruisesOnly, America’s Largest Cruise Agency.