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Cruise gratuities and cancellation query


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We booked a 10 night cruise on the NCL Epic for November 2025. Booked it on 30th April and it sounded a good offer, drinks package and 2 speciality restaurant meals included. We paid £200 each deposit, with a balance if £4800 left over.

 

However, on browsing online, it seems that not only will we have to pay $20 per person per day for gratuities ( travel agent didn’t mention this!) but also extra gratuities on our drinks packages and speciality meal packages. If we cancel now, do we automatically lose the full £400 deposit and as we also booked cruise travel insurance is that all lost too or if we book with MSC for example on a similar cruise on similar dates, can our travel insurance company amend our existing policy for a fee?

 

Many thanks

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If you haven’t made final payment you should get a full refund.  Travel insurance depends on the policy and who you booked through. If you booked it through the cruise line you may not receive it back, especially if you are not moving to another NCL cruise.  If it is through a travel agent or independent insurance company, check with them. BTW, 20% on drinks and $20 per day is pretty much the norm on most pedestrian cruise lines.  

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3 minutes ago, NotADopey1 said:

If you haven’t made final payment you should get a full refund.  Travel insurance depends on the policy and who you booked through. If you booked it through the cruise line you may not receive it back, especially if you are not moving to another NCL cruise.  If it is through a travel agent or independent insurance company, check with them. BTW, 20% on drinks and $20 per day is pretty much the norm on most pedestrian cruise lines.  

The OP is not from the USA, and cancellation rules in the UK are different from ours, so the deposit may not be refundable.

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Probably not getting that deposit back due to your location. I believe all mainstream lines charge a daily gratuity. Getting charged $21 a day for the beverage package still makes it one of the cheapest beverage packages, drinks average around $13 each.

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Trip insurance is usually not refundable.  The providers were very lenient during the virus disaster, so there's always a chance.  When I'm faced with an issue like yours, I make up a spreadsheet of all the features that are important to me so I can compare easily.  Careful study will probably show you that the cost of most mainstream cruises are about the same.  Most cruiselines run on 'tipping', so it's usually just part of the total cost.  But let's NOT discuss 'automatic tipping' here.  I'm still not sure how the cruiselines get away with it.  If you booked with a real travel agent or directly with NCL, I would expect some monetary consideration when you book your next cruise.  That's a rather serious error on the agent's part.  If you booked by phone, it would be difficult to prove that you weren't informed.  If you used an online booking service, there's little recourse.  Always scrutinize your confirmation immediately so you're not sideswiped by this kind of thing in the future.

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Definitely contact your insurer. In the US, we have been able to transfer unused insurance to another trip. There was an additional charge when the cost of the second trip was higher than the original insured amount. 

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3 hours ago, allatsea97531 said:

If we cancel now, do we automatically lose the full £400 deposit and as we also booked cruise travel insurance is that all lost too

Almost certainly your deposit will be lost - you are choosing to cancel and there is no "fault" on the part of NCL. But check your contract with NCL. As always, "caveat emptor" applies to any purchases. 

 

With regard to insurance, we have an annual travel policy (with All Clear) which includes cruises, so have never had to look at the details of a "one off" policy. But I can't see any reason why the insurer wouldnt be able to transfer the policy to another cruise - but you'd need to look at your contract and then contact them. 

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3 hours ago, allatsea97531 said:

We booked a 10 night cruise on the NCL Epic for November 2025. Booked it on 30th April and it sounded a good offer, drinks package and 2 speciality restaurant meals included. We paid £200 each deposit, with a balance if £4800 left over.

 

However, on browsing online, it seems that not only will we have to pay $20 per person per day for gratuities ( travel agent didn’t mention this!) but also extra gratuities on our drinks packages and speciality meal packages. If we cancel now, do we automatically lose the full £400 deposit and as we also booked cruise travel insurance is that all lost too or if we book with MSC for example on a similar cruise on similar dates, can our travel insurance company amend our existing policy for a fee?

 

Many thanks

If you're in the UK and booked the Free at Sea package, then you don't pay any extra gratuities for your drinks or meals. That is something you pay if you booked in the USA.

 

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With the greatest of respect to them, ignore the advice of most North Americans - bookings (& usually travel insurance) terms are totally different in the UK, Aus. and most of Europe.

You can't simply cancel & get a refund - your deposit is at risk from the moment to hand it over.

(If you booked over the phone or internet it might be that you have the right to cancel & get your deposit back under the Distance Selling Regulations, though  you're almost-certainly out of time.  https://www.gov.uk/online-and-distance-selling-for-businesses )

A few insurance policies cover cancellation-without-reason, but I've never heard of them in the UK, so it's almost-certain that it's not covered on your travel insurance

 

But you do have rights ..........

NCL's "Free at Sea" packages should be what they purport to be, and any cost should be clear - if a charge is levied (see @Ladyshopper23's post) it's probably mentioned in their website, but buried deep on some obscure page and almost-certainly doesn't comply  with UIK consumer-law. I'm none-too-sure how you'd go about avoiding it - NCL will probably decline to remove it and charge it to your credit card, leaving you to seek redress from your card issuer (there are time limitations for disputing a charge). To avoid them having your card details you'd have to put down a cash deposit against you on-board account when you register at the cruise terminal and keep your on-board account in credit - you'd also be at their mercy on exchange rates, and using cash instead of card isn't worth the grief.

Pay-per-drink service charges on ships which make that charge are mandatory, - but folk rarely check drinks prices before they sail, and they'll cotton-on when it's added to the first drink that they buy.

...........................................................

It's much easier to dispute the daily charge for service (cabin steward & dining staff) because that's not included in or clearly mentioned alongside your cruise ticket price.

 

Experienced cruisers know the ropes and allow for that daily charge when comparing cruise prices. Those charges provide the bulk of crew "wages" so if you cancel them it's the crew who suffer. I regard those who cancel the charge even though they know the ropes as cheapskates - but for the cruise-line & TA not to disclose it is grossly unfair on the passenger.

So simply go to Guest Relations on the last evening and ask for the charge to be removed from your on-board account and tell them why. And explain it to your cabin steward on the last morning.

Most cruise lines will simply remove it on request, but unless things have changed NCL - a cruise line known for its nickel-and-diming - require you to complete a form (ask for a copy). The charge isn't removed but in due course your card is refunded the charge.

 

(NB We're experienced cruisers, we don't remove or adjust tips / gratuities / service charges / call-them-what-you-will. But it grieves me that Brit newbies - or even those who've cruised Brit ships which don't levy those charges - continue to be misled by most US & Italian cruise lines and some T/As. So I've got my tin hat on and will repel dissenters 😏)   

 

This is one reason why I always suggest that newbies choose a Brit ship for their first cruise.

 

Friends who've sailed with NCL have enjoyed their cruises, don't let this grief put you off cruising with them.

But don't use that travel agent again

 

JB 🙂

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, John Bull said:

Experienced cruisers know the ropes and allow for that daily charge when comparing cruise prices.

I cruise with Oceania. They have recently changed their policy on gratuities, following pressure from the UK cruise travel agency industry. Daily gratuities (usually $18 pppd) are now incorporated into the main cruise fare, instead of beinf added to the onboard account, for UK customers (and, I think, other Europeans) as they have been for Australian and New Zealand customers for some time. 

Edited by Harters
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On 5/15/2024 at 2:00 PM, allatsea97531 said:

...  and as we also booked cruise travel insurance is that all lost too or if we book with MSC for example on a similar cruise on similar dates, can our travel insurance company amend our existing policy for a fee?

 

Many thanks

Specifically answering your travel insurance question... you will have had 14 days 'cooling-off; in which to cancel.  If it's a single-trip policy, after that there will not be a refund. 

 

However, if you contact your insurer with amended dates they may agree to amend the policy, perhaps charging an admin fee and an additional premium if the cover is for a longer period.  Remember, if your new dates start on or after the original start date, and finish on or before the original end date, you need do nothing.  You're covered because the new trip falls within the original holiday dates.

 

Regarding the potentially unfair contact, here's Edinburgh Council's advice on some options you might have: https://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/trading-standards/consumer-advice-education

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Thanks everyone, very illuminating! We contacted the NCL advice line and they said we can pay £310 in advance for the gratuities, or pay onboard but we guess that would end up more costly. Hope this info is helpful for anyone else who considers booking  with NCL in future.

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