Will More Cruise Lines Reverse Fuel Supplements?

March 11, 2008

As announced this week at Seatrade, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (parent company of Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara) has reached an agreement with the Florida Attorney General's office and will return fuel supplements paid by guests who had already booked a cruise at the time of the November announcement. Naturally, cruisers on other lines want to know if they can expect the same credit.

Well, we wish we could offer more good news, but the answer is you'll have to wait. For now, other cruise lines are remaining mum on potential fuel supplement changes -- or providing noncommittal remarks, such as this one from a Carnival spokesperson: "We are in discussions with the Attorney General's office for the state of Florida but have not reached a settlement at this time."

In the U.K., thing are pretty much staying the same. Spokespersons for the lines we contacted -- Fred Olsen, Costa Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Crystal Cruises -- explained that as the charges were imposed on new bookings, they wouldn't be refunding passengers. Oh well, there was hope!

The Attorney General's office also has nothing concrete to add. "We're in discussions with Carnival over similar issues but it is premature at this point to determine if or when other settlements may be reached," says Sandi Copes, press secretary. "The Attorney General has stated he would like to see the rest of the industry follow Royal Caribbean and Celebrity's lead."

We'd hazard a guess that most cruisers would agree with the Attorney General, but it's unclear when we'll find out if our wishes have come true. Cruisers will also have to keep waiting for the outcome of the actual lawsuit brought against the lines, which claims the fuel surcharges are evidence of cruise line collusion.

We can say that given Royal Caribbean's agreement, cruisers booked on future sailings are not guaranteed to receive a wad of cash if their line reaches a settlement prior to the departure of the cruise. These guests will likely receive onboard credit in the amount of the fuel surcharge -- meaning the cruise lines will still pocket your money. Only if your ship has sailed, so to speak, will you have a chance of being reimbursed with cash.

So perhaps waiting a few months for more news may not be such a bad thing after all....

--by Erica Silverstein, Associate Editor

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