Royal Caribbean has made a major change to cruises on Rhapsody of the Seas for the winter 2023/24 season, with the ship no longer sailing along the Panama Canal.
Instead, the cruise ship will offer voyages throughout the southern Caribbean. The original plan was for Rhapsody of the Seas to offer 7-night sailings between Colon in Panama and Panama City at the other side of the canal, but now all sailings will depart from Colon.
The new itineraries include Cartagena from the original plans, but now sail to destinations such as Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire.
The news is disappointing as the Panama Canal is seen as a unique attraction for cruise guests, and many will have booked explicitly for the opportunity to sail along it.
Now, guests have been given three options by the cruise line:
- Stick with their new itinerary, with a refund of the difference if the price of the cruise drops
- Change to any other Royal Caribbean cruise, on any ship, without the deposit change fees that would normally be levied
- A complete refund to the original payment method. Any Future Cruise Credit used would be reinstated
For the first two options, up to $200 per US passenger and $400 for international passengers will be offered to reimburse guests for non-refundable travel costs that are now incurred. Any additional expenses above this will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
No additional compensation has been offered to guests, which is a little unusual – cruise lines tend to go above and beyond when making drastic changes such as this.
It’s also unclear why the change has been made. The cruise line is being purposefully vague, leading to rumours that it’s because increased port fees and costs associated with traversing the canal have made the season less financially viable.
More Cancellations At CocoCay
While not as significant as the changing of entire itineraries, more Royal Caribbean guests have been left disappointed after the cancellation of the popular hot air balloon rides at Perfect Day at CocoCay, the cruise line’s private island.
The attraction is scheduled for maintenance, which has seen guests with bookings for the balloon contacted with a cancellation notice on sailings from August to October.
Refunds are being issued to all affected guests.