• Hobbled by the coronavirus pandemic, cruise companies are doing everything they can to entice customers to book now.
  • Royal Caribbean said Wednesday any cruise could be changed without penalty through August 2022. 
  • Some operators, like Carnival, hope to begin sailing as soon as August. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

As the cruise industry begins to look beyond its near-total shutdown due to the coronavirus, Royal Caribbean is extending its flexible cancellation policies in a bid to win back wary cruisers — and their money.

Any voyage booked before August 2020 — when some of the company’s competitors hope to begin sailing again — can be cancelled without pentaly until 2022, the company said Wednesday, so long as it’s cancelled at least two days prior to departure.

Customers with existing reservations can also “lift and shift” their booking to a later date with no penalty, the company said.

“Guests are reacting positively to our Cruise with Confidence policy,” Richard Fain, Royal Caribbean’s CEO, said in a press release, “because it enables them to make informed decisions and to better manage complicated travel plans during this unprecedented time of uncertainty.”

The coronavirus pandemic has brought the global cruise industry to its knees, as many ships became hot beds for infection. Without customers on board ships and no new cruises setting sail, the high fixed costs of the industry are eating into bottom lines and stock prices.

Royal Caribbean, in particular, has seen its market value plummet more than 70% since the beginning of the year. It and competitors have raced to shore up credit lines and sell stock and debt in order to slow their cash burn.

There may be some good news for operators upon cruising’s return. 45% of the guests who contacted Carnival about canceled cruises accepted future cruise credits instead of a cash refund, suggesting cruise customers are loyal — and ready to come back.

“If you look to the past crises, companies have survived them all — and there were some really bad ones,” Morningstar analyst Jaime Katz previously told Business Insider in April. “They pared back marketing spend, and they let the demand come back naturally over time. It takes a few years to get to that same demand level with respect to how people feel about your brand.”

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