The Panama Canal authority’s got cruise lines in a swivet over new talk about a 13 percent rise in the tax cruise ships pay. On a broad level the increase would cost Princess Cruises, which traverses the canal more than any other line, an extra $2 million a year.
Ships pay a tax to sail through the canal based on tonnage. The biggest of them -- at this point that title falls to Celebrity’s Infinity -- weighs about 90,000 tons; when that ship made a transitional crossing last winter (and again this spring), it paid a then-record $200,000 toll.
The cruise lines, via Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association, are fighting the proposed hike. A handful of executives, from lines like Holland America, Royal Caribbean and Princess, trooped down to Panama to attend a hearing and are registering a formal protest. No final decision has been reached but, whatever the outcome, it will not result in canceling of cruises already on fall 2002/winter 2003 schedules.
The tax, should it be approved, will go into effect October 1.