Royal Caribbean oversold some of its 2023 itineraries as demand for cruises continues to rise.
Oversold ships are rare — but when it happens, the fallout can be expensive and complicated for travelers.
While cheaper, avoid reserving "GYT" cabins.
One booking tip could save your vacation if you've unknowingly reserved an oversold cruise — just be prepared to front more money.
Like hotels and airlines, cruise operators may overbook their floating resorts in anticipation of last-minute cancellations. Compared to these other industries, oversold vessels are a rare occurrence, Patrick Scholes, an analyst at Truist Securities, told Business Insider.
But when it happens, guests consequently facing an involuntary reservation cancellation could be left to figure out a logistics nightmare of refunds, replacement days off work, and new flights and accommodations.
How to prevent being booted from an overbooked cruise
On November 28, a group of travelers was left stranded at the embarkation Port of Brisbane after Royal Caribbean oversold their Quantum of the Seas cruise.
One of these would-be guests, 23-year-old Jai Raynor, believes he was left behind because he had reserved a "GYT" cabin, Raynor told Business Insider. (Royal Caribbean did not respond to Business Insider's inquiry about this.)
Booking a GYT — or guaranteed — cabin leaves the final stateroom assignment up to the cruise line. While it could save travelers a few hundred dollars, Scholes says going with this option could put the reservation at a greater risk of being canceled if the ship ends up oversold.
Instances of these are "so rare, I wouldn't lose any sleep over it," Scholes said. But, "If you want to be absolutely safe than sorry, pay for the guaranteed cabin number."
How worried should you be if you've already booked a 2024 cruise?
Throughout 2023, the number of people reserving cruises — especially last-minute — has been skyrocketing past pre-COVID-19 levels. This, compounded with multiple booking channels, may be leading to oversold cruises, Scholes said.
While these incidents are as rare, he "wouldn't be surprised" if a handful of them were to happen in 2024 as well. The cruise booking frenzy isn't slowing down. And even giant operators are wary of the decreasing number of available cabins on next year's itineraries.
"At some point, booking volumes for 2024 will recede as we simply run out of inventory to sell," Josh Weinstein, CEO of Carnival Corp, said in a call with investors in late September.
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