Fuel Surcharges Could Start To Put The Squeeze On Cruise Passengers

In November of 2007 most of the major cruise lines announced that they would be adding a 5 dollar per passenger per day fuel surcharge to their cruise bill. When it was announced, it was to apply to both current and new bookings. The surcharge was to apply just to the first two passengers in a room and had a cap, in most cases of $70 per person, or $140 per cabin. After some legal wrangling in Florida, the cruise lines dropped the fuel surcharge for bookings made before the new charge was announced. Passengers who had booked their cruise prior to the announcement would not be subject to the fuel charge even if they had not paid in full. Only bookings made after the announcement would incur the fee.

Just this month, most cruiselines announced that they would be increasing the surcharge to $8 per person for the first two guest, and adding a $3 per person charge for the 3rd and 4th guest. For a typical 7 day cruise for a family of 4 sharing one cabin, the fuel surcharge now adds $162 to the cost of the cruise.

My concern for the industry as a whole is that cruise passengers, at some point may, not be able to absorb the additional charges. While frequent cruisers may have enough disposable income to absorb both the rising gas prices at home and the increased cruise prices, cruisers who have to save and plan in order to be able to afford their cruise will be hurt. These cruisers may choose another form of vacation, or have to save longer in order to afford their cruise. With all the major cruise lines having ship orders for bigger and bigger “mega” ships, it will be interesting to watch the cruise prices and the supplements to see if they lines are able to keep their ships full . Without a doubt, I think as long as fuel prices stay at around or above $3 a gallon, the fuel surcharge is here to stay.