Cruise Line Fuel Surcharges Back on One Line -- More to Follow?

January 8, 2010
Fuel Surcharges

(6:34 p.m.) -- Just when you thought cruise line fuel surcharges had dried up for good, they're back -- kind of. As the price of fuel has crept beyond $80 a barrel, Disney Cruise Line has again been collecting surcharges from its passengers.

Turns out, in fact, that some Disney passengers have been paying surcharges for months. Those who booked cruises between May 28 and December 1, 2008, have been paying extra on every sailing taking place since July 1, 2009 -- and that'll continue through at least March 31, 2010.

A little explanation: Starting on May 28, 2008, with oil at nearly $130 per barrel, Disney instituted a fuel supplement of $8 per person, per day, for first and second passengers in a cabin, and $3 per person, per day, for third, fourth and fifth. (Disney was one of the last lines to even add a fuel surcharge, which others first began adding in late 2007.) But as oil plummeted in the fall of 2008, lines began repealing the surcharges, and the Mouse removed its own on all new bookings made on or after December 1, 2008. For those who had already booked -- again, between May 28 and December 1 -- the family-friendly line's plan was to provide a refund (in onboard credit) if the closing price on the NYMEX of West Texas Intermediate fuel was below $70 a barrel two weeks prior to the beginning of the calendar quarter in which the sailing falls.

Disney's Fuel Surcharge Schedule

As the price of oil exceeded $70 per barrel on June 17, 2009, Disney stopped issuing refunds on cruises departing on or after July 1, 2009, and has continued to do so ever since (price per barrel being above $70 on September 17 and December 18).

Is it simply a case of Disney holding true to its initial plan? "It's not like this is anything new. We're just following through with what we originally said we'd do," spokesperson Christi Erwin Donnan tells Cruise Critic.

Still, while Disney has been charging the surcharge as they said they would, other lines have held off from reinstating them. Royal Caribbean, which also reserves the right not to refund surcharges it's still collecting from certain passengers (if the price of oil exceeds $65), is still issuing the refunds (as onboard credit), says spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez.

Carnival and NCL, both of which did not charge surcharges at the time of bookings for 2010 cruises, have also decided not to reinstate. AnneMarie Mathews, NCL's Director, Public Relations, told us, "We are continuing to closely monitor the price of fuel and continue to reserve the right to reinstate a fuel supplement."

Carnival Corp. Chairman and CEO Mickey Arison delivered the following statement in June, and it's still the line's policy as of now: "At the time we suspended fuel supplements for our six North American brands [December 2008], we reserved the right to reinstate them if the price of light sweet crude oil, according to the NYMEX, should increase above $70 per barrel. While we have now exceeded that threshold, in light of the economic crisis and resulting consumer weakness, we presently have no plans to institute a fuel supplement. We will continue to monitor the situation in the markets and review our position as the situation warrants."

Stay tuned.

--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor