Royal Caribbean And Celebrity Cruise Lines To Refund Sketchy Fuel Surcharges

Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruise Lines will refund fuel surcharges to customers who booked their cruises before November 16th, says the Orlando Business Journal. Passengers who have not yet sailed will receive their refund in the form of onboard credit.

“Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises are the first cruise lines to step forward and take actions to resolve this matter in their customers’ best interest,” Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum said in a news release. “This resolution will serve as a model for the rest of the cruise line industry and I expect the other companies to take this example and follow suit.”

The Attorney General’s Office said the agreements were reached after the Economic Crimes Division received several hundred complaints about the entire cruise line industry, alleging cruise lines were retroactively charging a fuel supplement charge after cruises had been booked and deposits had been made by consumers.

In addition to investigating how the charges were disclosed, the Attorney General’s Office said it looked into whether the charges violated an agreement from 1997, when six cruise lines agreed to not add any fees or charges aside from the advertised fare and any government fees to keep prices easy for consumers to compare.

The new agreements allow the fuel supplement as long as the charges are disclosed in a clear and conspicuous manner in advertising and bookings.

Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises will contact consumers eligible for refunds and must report to the Attorney General’s Office on the status of refunds within 30 days.

CNN says:

The surcharge is still in effect for North American bookings made on or after Nov. 16 for brands including Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Cruises.

The surcharge is effective on voyages departing on or after Feb. 1, 2008 and only applies to the first two guests in a stateroom, not to exceed $70 per person per sailing.

Adding hidden fees instead of raising prices is so shady. Boo.

Cruise lines to refund fuel surcharges [Orlando Business Journal]
Royal Caribbean to Drop Some Surcharges [CNNMoney]
(Photo:LinksmanJD)

Comments

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  1. BloggyMcBlogBlog says:

    Another reason to avoid cruises like the plague.

  2. SVreader says:

    “Adding hidden fees instead of raising prices is so shady. Boo.”

    Definitely. If I’m choosing a hotel, cruise, or whatever, the price needs to be what they said it would be. Many people make decisions based on price, so it’s completely unethical to have after-the-fact “surprise” fees.

  3. Wimpkins says:

    Actually, I’ll avoid the plague more than an relaxing vacation …thanks though.

  4. friendlynerd says:

    Hardly surprising when cruises are already the poster children for hidden fees.

  5. Bladefist says:

    @SVreader: you’re right. The price on the sticker is what pushes competition. Hidden stuff drives me nuts. It’s like on eBay when you see a guitar that is 20 cents and shipping $300. While these fees may not be that dramatic, it hurts the consumer. A lot of customers will pay more, you got to build a relationship with customers.

  6. MattO says:

    just saved me $140 on my honeymoon :-) this is great :-)

  7. shortcake says:

    As I understand it, they gave people the option to cancel if booked before Nov. 16. My mother was telling me about this last night (she just returned from a RCCL cruise). They added on the surcharge and gave everyone that booked by that date the opportunity to cancel the reservation without penalty, or pay the $5/day/person surcharge.

    I think the surcharge is pretty fair and it seems that they’ve been pretty good about being upfront with it, from what I hear. It’s all over the RCCL site today, but I don’t know if that is a new addition or not. It’s not a permanent price increase and the extra $5/day isn’t going to ruin your vacation budget (just order one less fruity drink). If the $5/day does you in, you can’t afford the vacation anyway.

  8. sirwired says:

    @shortcake: This most certainly is nothing more than a hidden price increase. Their gas prices have not gone up so much that it takes an additional $5/day in gas to lug your butt around the Caribbean.

    To add insult to injury, there was an earlier agreement with the FL atty. general where they were not to impose additional fees on top of the cruise fare at all, except for government-imposed fees or taxes.

    If the cruise is going to cost $X, then that should be what they advertise as the fare.

  9. babaki says:

    if you run a business that depends on fuel that should be factored into your operating costs. Raise the bottom line price but don’t give me some line about a fuel surcharge. like UPS now charing a fuel surcharge on every package. I’d like to see how they came up with the break down of packages per gallon of fuel. I really hate seeing a fuel surcharge on everything. i wish i could tack a fuel surcharge into my paycheck for the gas i use to get to work. yeah sure.

  10. alice_bunnie says:

    I remember a banner being very prominent on Royal Caribbean’s website, the very first page. If the travel agent booking didn’t make it clear, that may be a problem, but I think RC made it very clear. I know I have been seeing this for a long time, because we booked a cruise in July or Aug of 2007 and we started seeing it very shortly thereafter as a banner on their main page.

  11. Gannoc says:

    Just an FYI, it isn’t “$5/day” unless you’re on a 14 day cruise. On a normal 7 day cruise, it is still $70/yeach, so that’s $10/day each or $20/day per couple.

    It isn’t enough to really effect the price of the overall cruise, but it certainly isn’t negligible.

  12. Jachim says:

    @Gannoc: At least at RCCL, it’s a per-day fee of $5 per person. It applies to the 1st 2 people in a cabin, UP TO a max of $70 person/$140 per cabin.

    I have a 4 day cruise booked for 6 people (3 cabins) and there’s a total of $120 in fuel charges across the 3 invoices.

  13. shortcake says:

    @Gannoc: Sorry Gannoc, I think you may be mistaken. Here is the language from their announcement:

    For US and Canadian reservations, the fuel supplement is $5.00(USD/CAN) per guest, per day. The supplement applies to the first and second guests in a stateroom, up to a maximum of $70.00 (USD/CAN) per guest per sailing. [www.royalcaribbean.com]

    Not sure how this factors out because their cruises are done “per night” and the fuel charge is “per day.” I don’t know if a 3-night cruise comes out to $15/each or $20/each, but regardless, you’re not going to pay $70/each in fuel surcharges for a 3-night cruise, or even a 7-night cruise for that matter.

  14. emjsea says:

    @BloggyMcBlogBlog:

    Yeah, I’m sure they’re really going to miss your business. And the other passengers will really miss your presence.

    Always love the strong opinions of the uninformed.

  15. n301dp says:

    Interesting…too bad the airlines can’t do the same thing!

  16. Erskine says:

    @emjsea:

    Having read your comment history, I must say that you are quite the bitch. Must be from Gawker…

  17. dustinwwhite says:

    The amount of fuel used on each cruise depends on so many factors that setting $5 surcharge is just a money grab.

    Of course if they really charged you for all the fuelk they useed above the plan when they run in to bad weather or have to change the itinerary due to some 80 year idiot having a heart attack because he thought the rock wall climb looked easy…this surcharge would range from $50 to $100 per day per person.

    As usual they will try to get away with what ever they think they can.

  18. urban_ninjya says:

    Big problem is almost all these cruise lines are billions of dollars in debt from the investment of building / buying those massive ships. Unfortunately, that leaves no money to buy derivatives and futures to ensure stable fuel prices.

  19. TPK says:

    There is some hedging. From RCCL’s last financial report (found here: [www.royalcaribbean.com]) they say:

    “Fuel prices increased 41% versus the fourth quarter of 2006, while fuel costs per APCD (Available Passenger Cruise Days) increased 19%, benefiting from energy saving initiatives and hedging. The average at-the-pump price for the quarter was $555 per metric ton versus $395 per metric ton in 2006.” [emphasis is mine]

    Also, the “per-day” cost for things is always based on the number of nights spent on the cruise, not days.

  20. humphrmi says:

    @shortcake:

    I think the surcharge is pretty fair and it seems that they’ve been pretty good about being upfront with it, from what I hear.

    How do you like working for RCCL?

    No, it’s not fair, and it’s not legal. The law says that the cost of fuel should be reflected in the fares, not in surcharges. That’s why the Attorney General of Florida went after them.

  21. shortcake says:

    @humphrmi: I don’t work for them, though I have been known to (gasp!) travel on their ships, the last time being over a year ago. Like I mentioned, my mother just got off one of their ships yesterday and we talked about the surcharge for a little bit last night – then today I saw this post. I think my language: “as I understand it”, “seems” and “from what I hear,” make it pretty clear that I am by no means an expert in RCCL’s operating practices – I am just reporting my observations and opinion.

    As a traveler who occasionally cruises on RCCL or other lines, I don’t think the idea of a fuel surcharge is all that atrocious, that’s all. I know I’m supposed to get all up-in-arms, what-about-the-consumer!?, but frankly, I’m kind of surprised it took this long, regardless of whether it shows up as a surcharge or in the overall price.

    Your (and other) comments about the legality of it all is a good point. I don’t purport to know the ins and outs of fare structures and fuel charges or the laws therein. It appears that that’s where RCCL and other lines are getting into trouble, and yes, they were wrong to break the law/agreements.

  22. emjsea says:

    @Erskine:
    Thanks doll! From you that’s a raving compliment.

  23. radiationman says:

    There’s some information missing here.

    First, Royal Carribbean International AND Carnival Corp will be refunding the fuel surcharges. This means that Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Azamara, Celebrity, Carnival Cruises, Princess, Holland America, and Cunard are all affected by this. Carnival Corp hasn’t put out a press release yet. Also, the word hasn’t made it to all of the cruise line’s (both RCI and Carnival Corp) reservation agents – travel agents however are aware of this.

    Second, the issue that caused the AG to investigate wasn’t that the fee was introduced, but rather HOW it was introduced. Typically when a cruise line introduces a fee it applies to cruises that are placed under deposit after a certain date, a date that falls AFTER the announcement – if you have already placed a deposit on a cruise (or even paid in full) you wouldn’t have been subject to the newly introduced fee.

    However, this surcharge was retroactive. Even if you had paid in full for your cruise 3 months prior to the announcement of the fee, the cruise lines were still charging you the fuel surchage. That’s what ticked people off and that’s what triggered the AG’s investigation.

    Fuel surcharges from the cruise lines aren’t new – several luxury lines introduced them last year. However, they applied only to new bookings made after a certain date – NOT all current bookings.

    Finally, cruise lines are no worse than hotels, airlines, car rental companies, car dealers etc… with the so called “hidden fees.” Actually, the taxes and other surcharges are probably a lot less hidden than those levied by many hotels, car dealers, and car rental companies. There are even some travel agents who routinely advertise cruise fares that INCLUDE all taxes and fees. Cruises are regularly as good or even a better value than other vacation options…

  24. redhand32 says:

    I just returned from a Royal Carribbean Intl (RCI) cruise to the Caribbean (1st,– and last time cruiser!). I booked the cruise in Feb 2008 and was fuel surcharged. The fuel surcharge appears as an immediate pop up on the RCI website and is disclosed in their cheap, shoddy cruise documentation that they mail a few days before you depart.

    Cruises are great for anyone who does not drink alcohol and more importantly, does not care about spending more than a few hours at one of the ports of call. RCI wants to keep you at sea (my 7 day “Caribbean” cruise included 3 days out of 7 at sea)to spend most of your money on the ship. Drink prices are comparable to bars on shore at home. There are about 25 bars on the ship. You are never 30 yards from a beer or mixed drink. AND, the Cruise lines will throw you off the cruise if you try to bring your own alcohol on board. Duty free booze purchases are confiscated until you disembark at home port.(They know a cash cow sucker when they see one !) Cruise line “excursions” at ports of call are expensive too and booked thru the cruise lines. Many of the excursions and Cruise line literature is designed to direct you only to selected conveniently located jewelry stores and tourist traps instead of historical and cultural locations any intelligent person would want to see.

    Cruises are designed for those who don’t want to think about or read in advance about their itineraries. Cruises are nothing but consumerist America on the high seas. The Cruise ship has a giant shopping mall on board 3 decks high. In fact, not a minute goes buy when RCI is not trying to sell you something: “discount” T-Shirt racks poolside, selling $3.50/bottled water when you leave breakfast. Many of the fellow cruisers are ignorant, intolerant line jumping Bush supporters who just want to have their local bar, casino, and suburban shopping mall within 30 yards of them. There is a smoking room on board that will usually have FOX “news” on, the semi-official propaganda organ of the Bush/Cheney crowd.

    Many right wing cruisers revel at the opportunity of directing their 3rd world cruise line service staff with “Boy, go get me another glass of lemonade” from the self-service buffet.

    The 3rd world cruise line help are at sea 10 months of the year. The other 2 months they can visit their wives and children in India, Indonesia, Cambodia, or Africa. Most of the year they serve obese, “entitled” American, Canadian and some European retirees and 20s year old party animals who gleefully will pay $8/beer at sporting events. Cruisers wear their xenophobic, Disneyworld mentality as if it were a badge of honor. Never again ! There are some young Honeymooners who might have gotten better value by doing their homework on an individual trip.

    PS I never ordered cruise photographs but my credit card was charged anyway until I ripped them a new one and the “accidental” charge was removed !