March 10, 2008
Passengers who booked cruises and were forced to pay fuel charges they hadn't bargained for may get some relief. This evening Royal Caribbean announced that it will return fuel supplements -- in the form of either a refund or onboard credit -- to those who had paid at the very least a deposit before November 16, 2007. The new policy impacts bookings on Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. lines; these are Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara.
Other cruise lines, ranging from Carnival Corp.'s Carnival, Princess, Holland America and Costa to NCL and MSC, which have also levied fuel-related surcharges, have not reported changes at this point.
The Royal Caribbean fuel supplement, as it was announced on November 16, consisted of a $5 per-guest, per-day charge for sailings that departed on or after February 1, 2008. The surcharge applied only to the first and second guests in each stateroom and did not exceed $70 per person per sailing.
Here's the thing though: While the fees were implemented for cruises beginning on February 1, 2008, the controversy was not so much about that -- fuel surcharges have been levied on everything from airline fares to FedEx shipments. It was that people who had booked prior to November 16 (and hadn't paid in full), at least as far as Royal Caribbean and its sister lines is concerned, were being forced to pay these fees retroactively.
Passengers who bought cruises after the announcements, which of course depend on the individual cruise line (all majors have instituted some sort of fuel surcharge), and including Royal Caribbean, Azamara and Celebrity, will still have to pay them.
For now, if you're a Royal Caribbean, Azamara or Celebrity Cruises customer, and you booked your cruise before November 16 and have already sailed on the cruise, you'll get a refund which, according to the cruise line, will be repaid via the type of payment you used to purchase their sailing. If you booked pre-November 16 and haven't yet sailed, you'll get the refund in the form of onboard credit.
--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief, and Dan Askin, Assistant Editor
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