Carnival Caves on Fuel Surcharges

March 31, 2008
Six of the Carnival Corporation's cruise lines -- Carnival, Holland America, Princess, Costa, Cunard and Seabourn -- have agreed with the Florida Attorney General's Office to refund the fuel surcharges paid by guests who booked their sailings before announcements were made about the extra fees. An estimated $40 million will be returned on more than 1.1 million bookings.

The agreement states that consumers who made a deposit on a cruise as of November 6, 2007, will receive a refund for the full surcharge amount. The cruise lines need to report back to the Attorney General's office within 30 days as to how many refunds have been made. For cruises departing on or before April 4, 2008, guests will receive a refund in the same form used to purchase the cruise; for cruises departing between April 5 and June 23, guests will receive onboard credit in the amount of the surcharge; and for cruises departing on or after June 24, guests will find the charge simply removed from their final bill.

This announcement comes several weeks after Celebrity and Royal Caribbean volunteered to refund retroactive fuel surcharges in anticipation of the Attorney General's decision.

Cruise travelers should note that the agreement also indicates that fuel surcharges do not need to be included in the advertised price of a cruise (the only non-governmental fee given this exemption), but that the amount and frequency of the charge does need to be printed clearly above, beneath or next to the cruise fare. Therefore, fuel charges in general are allowable and are probably here to stay. However, the Attorney General is still investigating whether the fuel surcharges imposed in late 2007 were an act of collusion between cruise lines. If the lines are found guilty, this round of surcharges may be eliminated or reduced, but you can be sure new ones will soon be added in accordance with the current agreement.

We'll keep you posted on the outcome of the antitrust investigation, as well as the lawsuit filed against the cruise lines, also for collusion.

--by Erica Silverstein, Associate Editor