Royal Caribbean has recently decided to alter a 9-day Western Caribbean cruise on the Serenade of the Seas, replacing it with a 5-day Western Caribbean itinerary. This decision has led to a significant change for guests looking forward to the original journey, set to depart on September 13, 2024.

The change has been made so the cruise line can accommodate a charter sailing. While unfortunate for guests booked onboard for this voyage, Royal Caribbean has the right to make these changes. 

Royal Caribbean International has informed guests booked onboard Serenade of the Seas for September 13, 2024, that their cruise has been changed to a 5-day Western Caribbean cruise instead of the original schedule of sailing a 9-day Western Caribbean cruise. 

The change from a nine-day sailing to a five-day sailing has been made to accommodate a charter sailing. The 9-day cruise onboard the 90,090 gross tons Serenade of the Seas had visits scheduled to Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, and Colon, Panama, a rather rare itinerary for Royal Caribbean International.

Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas (Photo Credit: Joni Hanebutt / Shutterstock)

The cruise line said in the letter to guests: “To accommodate a new charter sailing, we’ve adjusted the itinerary for our upcoming September 13th, 2024 Serenade of the Seas sailing. Serenade will now sail a 5-night Western Caribbean itinerary. We understand this is not an ideal situation, and we’re truly sorry for the impact this has on your vacation plans.”

The new five-day cruise will also sail to the Western Caribbean but will call to Cozumel and Costa Maya instead. Royal Caribbean International has provided guests with several alternatives to alleviate the situation, all detailed in the letter sent to those booked on the voyage.

Royal Caribbean International has provided various options to the affected guests. The possibilities include rebooking to another 9-day cruise departing either on September 27 to the Eastern Caribbean or October 11 to the Western Caribbean. 

The Eastern Caribbean itinerary will sail to San Juan, Puerto Rico; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; and Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. The Western Caribbean itinerary on October 11 will be the same as the original September 13 cruise.

Serenade of the Seas Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Jeff Whyte / Shutterstock)

Should guests wish to keep their September 13 booking and are happy with the reduced days onboard, they can choose to sail with their cruise fare adjusted to the new rate and receive a pro-rated refund for the change in sailing nights.

Guests can also opt to rebook on any other Royal Caribbean sailing, with the cruise line waiving any non-refundable deposit change fees, but guests will be responsible for any difference in pricing. If none of the above options suit the guests, they can cancel and receive a full refund of any paid portion of the cruise fare and any pre-paid amenities.

It’s worth noting that the cancellation of regular cruises to accommodate charter sailings is not uncommon in the industry. It’s a practice governed by the cruise contract that passengers agree to, with provisions that allow cruise lines to change itineraries or even replace them with charters.

Royal Caribbean International’s terms and conditions state: “Carrier may, for any reason at any time and without prior notice, cancel, advance, postpone or deviate from any scheduled sailing, port of call, destination, lodging or any activity on or off the Vessel, or substitute another vessel or port of call, destination, lodging or activity.”

While Royal Caribbean has been quick to inform guests of the changes, the cruise being more than a year out, the episode underlines the balance between business decisions and customer satisfaction that cruise lines often navigate. A practice that very rarely is in the guests’ favor. 

While not an uncommon practice, the alteration of the Serenade of the Seas cruise shows the unpredictable nature of travel plans and should serve as a reminder to guests to know the terms and conditions governing their bookings.

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