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Commission Initiates Rulemaking Process Addressing Cruise Line Performance and Refunds

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The Federal Maritime Commission has initiated a process that may ultimately lead to amending its regulations concerning “non-performance” by a Passenger Vessel Operator (PVO/cruise line) and under what circumstances passengers must be provided a refund for a cancelled or delayed voyage.

On Monday, the Commission voted to accept the recommendations made by Commissioner Louis E. Sola in the Fact Finding 30 Interim Report issued in July, which examined the effects of COVID-19 on the cruise industry. In the same action, the Commission directed staff to draft a notice initiating a rulemaking to implement the regulatory changes proposed by Commissioner Sola.

Through the rulemaking process, the Commission will solicit public comment, gather additional information, and develop proposed regulations to reflect these changes. Based on the public comments, the Commission will then consider whether to issue a final rule implementing these changes.

The specific changes proposed by Commissioner Sola are:

  • When a sailing is cancelled or a passenger boarding is delayed by at least 24 hours due to any reason other than a governmental order or declaration, full refunds must be paid within 60 days following a passenger refund request.
  • When a sailing is cancelled or consumer boarding is delayed due to a governmental order or declaration, full refunds must be paid within 180 days following a passenger refund request. This includes all consumers who, at their own discretion, cancelled their booking within sixty (60) days prior to said governmental action and commensurate cancelled or delayed sailing.
  • If, following a declaration of a public health emergency, any consumer cancels a cruise booking of a sailing that may be affected by such emergency after the PVO’s refund deadline, but the sailing is not cancelled, the PVO will provide a credit for a future cruise equal to the consumer’s amount of deposit. In all other cases in which a consumer cancels and embarkation and sailing occur within the prescribed timeline, the cruise line’s rules for cancellation will apply.
  • A PVO may set a reasonable deadline for a consumer entitled to a refund to request the refund which shall not be less than 6 months after the scheduled voyage.
  • Refunds should include all fees paid to the PVO by consumer to include all ancillary fees remitted to the carrier by the consumer.
  • Refunds to be given in same fashion as monies were originally remitted to the carrier.
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