Policies vary, and the situation is extremely fluid.
Easing cash-flow crunch
'Agents are encouraged by these protections. This is a cash-flow issue for them,' said Mark Conroy, managing director, the Americas, Silversea.
Some pay commission on FCC, too
Many lines have instituted more flexible cancellation policies that give future cruise credits. Some, like Silversea, are even paying commission when the FCC is redeemed.
Among the others that do this are Silversea's sister brands Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara, plus Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, MSC Cruises USA and Princess Cruises.
Commission protection a lifeline
'Every travel agent I talk with is urging other lines to follow these brands because it's a lifeline,' particularly for some of the smaller agents, said Mike Driscoll, editor of Cruise Week, a bible for retailers.
Driscoll said commission-protection policies ensure that 'when the business comes back, this distribution channel is ready to sell when the cruise lines need them most.'
Avoiding the post-9/11 scenario
According to Driscoll, after 9/11, by the end of 2003, the travel industry lost 50% of its sellers. 'By doing these types of protections, that's not going to happen this time,' he said.