Florida investigates cruise line fuel surcharges


You’re not alone if you’re angry about the fuel surcharges cruise lines have begun adding to bills.

More than 150 cruisers have filed complaints about the practice with Florida’s attorney general’s office, prompting the agency to open an investigation, says spokeswoman Sandi Copes.

Copes tells us one of the issues the agency is looking into in particular is “whether cruise lines can retroactively impose a (fuel surcharge) on passengers.” Another issue, according to several Florida newspapers, including the Miami Herald and South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Do the fuel surcharges, which the lines are calling “supplements,” violate a 1997 legal settlement in which the lines agreed not to put certain extra charges onto bills.

As we’ve reported here before, most major cruise lines have unveiled fuel surcharges over the past four months as oil prices have shot up. Carnival Corp., the parent company of Carnival, Princess, Holland America and more than half a dozen other lines, is charging passengers an extra $5 per day. Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara also have started charging $5 per day, while Norwegian Cruise Line has begun charging $7 per day. A few lines are charging even more, including Windstar ($8.50 per day), Silversea ($10 per day); and Cruise West ($12 per day).

Carnival, in particular, has raised the ire of its customers because the line has applied its surcharge retroactively to those who already had booked and paid for cruises.

The Herald notes this isn’t the first time cruise industry charges have drawn scrutiny from the Florida attorney general. In 1997, six lines agreed to revise their advertising policies to settle charges that they misled consumers about cruise costs. Under the settlement, the lines swore off charging customers extra fees other than those required by government-related agencies.

There still are a few holdouts in the rush to add fuel surcharges. Among major lines, Disney has yet to add one. And as we reported here in December, small ship and river cruise operator Tauck World Discovery has vowed not to add a fuel surcharge, despite soaring fuel costs.

“Our customers purchased a cruise experience from us (for a certain price), and that was our promise to them,” Tauck CEO Dan Mahar told us at the time. “We just don’t feel right going back and changing it now, after the fact.”