(1 p.m. EDT) -- Should consumers be pumped about Fred. Olsen's new 'no fuel surcharge' guarantee? The Britain-based line announced last week that it won't be levying the dreaded supplements, reinstated earlier this year to offset the burgeoning barrel, on any 2012-13 bookings made before 31 August.
The potential to cruise surcharge-free is only for new bookings. Any fuel cost supplement (currently 5.5 percent of fare paid) that has already been applied to a 2012 cruise will remain in place.
But is the guarantee just a ploy to get people to book early for higher-priced cruises in 2012? Quite the opposite, said Nigel Lingard, Fred.'s marketing director.
Lingard told Cruise Critic that the offer is an effort to reward early bookers -- many of whom are Fred. Olsen diehards -- by selling 2012-13 cruises at current rates. Come June, said Lingard, prices will be raised across the board. "The brochure prices for the 2012-13 season [released in June] are going to be higher than those for the 2011-12 season, as the price factors in the rising cost of fuel (based on current projections), which we have had to levy separately in the form of fuel cost supplements/fuel surcharges for the 2011-12 season."
"2012-13 is when we're going to see the real impact of [this year's] fuel prices on cruise lines. We could see that all prices are potentially up 10 percent year over year," he added.
A quick comparison of similar cruises in 2011 and 2012 revealed mixed results. An eight-night Norway Fjord cruise leaving in July 2011 is actually more expensive (£948) than a comparable sailing in 2012 (£919). (That's not to say that the 2011 fare won't move, depending on how much capacity the line still has to sell as the departure date nears.)
Meanwhile, a nine-night round-Britain sailing this June starts at £843, while the starting fare for a comparable sailing in 2012 is priced significantly higher at £1,079.
Our advice, as always: Compare prices. Match up fares for 2011 -- with the 5.5 percent fuel surcharge factored in -- to comparable cruises in 2012.