I remember HAL doing that, as well. Their rationale was that they wouldn't know if they had enough for a charter, so they'd leave open to individual bookings until that point, just in case. I agree that it's unethical and sleazy. It should be that the chartering organization needs to fill the stated number of cabins by a stipulated date, and if that's not met, they lose the charter and it gets opened up to
I believe that they do give them a set date to fill the charter. But I think they still take the individual bookings as their back up plan. If they waited until the stipulated date and the charter wasn't a go, then they may have to discount the cabins significantly to fill the ship. By having the bookings earlier at higher rates they probably make more money. If they have to later cancel those people and reimburse airline change fees, and a stipend OBC for inconvenience, they are probably still making more than selling the cabins at a later date at a discount. There's going to be a % that rebook their cruises for the same date, different ship, so they wouldn't have to pay their airline change fees. Then there's going to be a % that will just take the loss. My brother has done this on his air. No other NCL cruise worked for them. NCL doesn't pay the airline change fees until you actual rebook your air ticket. So if you don't rebook your air tickets NCL doesn't have to pay.
Just got notification that Norwegian has cancelled our 14 day East & West Caribbean sailing on the Pearl in February 2011.
So sorry to hear about this inconvenience. It's a huge pain, but all is not lost. With 8 months' notice, I'm almost certain you can find another couple of cruises that sail during the same time frame from the same or nearby embarkation city.
Eastern/western Caribbean cruises in February are numerous, and hopefully you or your travel agent can find and book a couple that are in the same price range as was the Pearl. Any deposits paid to NCL should be fully refundable if you do choose to book with another cruise line.