Passengers onboard the Norwegian Dawn were dismayed when the ship was rerouted from Bermuda to Canada because of Hurricane Florence.

When the Norwegian Dawn’s passengers booked their vacations, they were likely envisioning sitting on the beach and basking in the Bermuda sun. Instead, chances are they’re now digging around for a sweater as their ship makes port in Eastern Canada — and other cruise passengers could soon find themselves in the same boat.

As Florence intensified from a tropical storm to hurricane over the weekend, Norwegian Cruise NCLH, +0.68%  decided to change the itinerary of the Norwegian Dawn, which set sail from Boston last Friday. Instead of going to Bermuda, the ship traveled north to Canada.

The last-minute change caught passengers off-guard, with many taking to social media to lament the beach vacation they never got — and complain about the money they lost.


Unhappy passengers are likely out of luck

Passengers on the Norwegian Dawn have been wondering whether they can get refunds, but they’re probably not eligible for one.

When a cruise ship changes its itinerary, passengers have very few avenues for recourse. “They’re not due anything,” said Stewart Chiron, a cruise industry expert. “Written in the passenger’s contract is the cruise line’s right to alter the itinerary for any reason with no compensation due to the passenger.”

A spokesperson for Norwegian pointed to the company’s guest ticket contract, which includes a clause regarding itinerary deviation. That clause specifies the carrier has the right to alter a vessel’s planned voyage and cancel a scheduled call “for any reason and at any time before, during or after sailing of the vessel.” The contract further clarifies that in doing so Norwegian is not liable for any losses incurred by the passengers.

“The safety and security of our guests and crew is always our top priority,” a spokesperson for Norwegian Cruise Line said in an email. “While we recognize these itinerary changes may be disappointing, our on board teams are prepared to ensure the best vacation experience possible given these weather related necessary changes.”

Tourists should not expect travel insurance to help them out if the ship still sets sail. “Because the cruise was not canceled outright and travelers still had the option to take the trip, unfortunately trip cancellation coverage would not be available,” said Steven Benna, a marketing specialist at travel insurance marketplace Squaremouth.

Passengers might have more options if the itinerary is changed ahead of their departure. If they purchased a travel insurance policy that allows cancellations for any reason, they might be able to use that to cover their lost payments if they choose not to take the trip. But even then, they will have needed to purchase travel insurance well in advance, because it cannot be used to cover tropical storm-associated issues once the storm has been named.

Consumers could also try their hand at negotiating with the cruise line to rebook for a later voyage — but this isn’t guaranteed to work out in their favor, said Colleen McDaniel, senior executive editor at travel website Cruise Critic. “You’ll likely need to cover the cost of additional incidentals – like airfare – but there could be some flexibility there,” she said.


Florence is affecting several cruises

Itinerary changes are rare, but they can happen for a variety of reasons, with weather being a major one. Generally, cruise lines will make every effort to steer clear of a major storm to protect their passengers….


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Trip insurance may not help if a hurricane ruins your cruise vacation
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