The Princess and the fee — an unbelievable but true story

When little things add up to big inconvenience, it’s no fairy tale.

Princess is the latest cruise line to raise fees on services and gratuities, giving some customers who were expecting the low fare they saw when booking a little crick in the neck after they get home.

It reminds me of a children’s story…

The Princess and the Pea is the tale of a young traveler who takes refuge in a castle of riches. Unbeknownst to her, a tiny pea is hidden under the stack of mattresses where she sleeps.

Although the young woman can’t see the pea, it’s the source of untold agony throughout the long night, and she wakes the next morning bruised and bewildered.

Some passengers of Princess Cruises will disembark bewildered indeed when faced with paying the myriad of fees hidden among their stack of Princess brochures.

And after Jan. 1, the cruise line will raise the gratuity for service staff from $11.50 to $12.95 per passenger, per day, for most passengers. Fees for passengers staying in suites will increase from $12 to $13.95 per day.

The increase in fees means a family of four will pay more than $360 in gratuity fees on a typical seven-night cruise. That’s enough to bruise some checkbooks.

The charges are typically reflected in the bill customers receive after their cruise. And while passengers have the option to adjust their gratuities when disembarking, to many inexperienced cruisers the fees come as a shock.

Especially when they find out that Princess deems gratuities “undisputed” once they leave the ship.

It’s the same old story we’ve seen with airlines. An attractive low base fare turns into an ugly beast of a price by the time we’re charged for everything but the lavatory.

Other cruise lines, including Norwegian, Royal Caribbean and Holland America Line, are following suit with gratuity fee increases of their own.

Carnival Cruise Lines’ current ticket contract reads (take a breath):

Cruise Fare does not include Cruise Taxes, Fees, and Port Expenses. Cruise Taxes, Fees, and Port Expenses may include any and all fees, charges, tolls and taxes imposed on Carnival, by governmental or quasi-governmental authorities, as well as third party fees and charges arising from a vessel’s presence in a harbor or port.

Cruise Taxes, Fees and Port Expenses may include U.S. Customs fees, head taxes, Panama Canal tolls, dockage fees, wharfage fees, inspection fees, pilotage, immigration and naturalization fees, and Internal Revenue Service fees, as well as fees associated with navigation, berthing, stevedoring, baggage handling/storage, and security services.

Whew!

Some cruise lines have seen the light and eliminated these types of fees entirely, and instead, include gratuities for crew members in the base fare.

And to you, Azamara, Crystal, Seabourn, Regent, SeaDream, and river lines, Uniworld, Tauck and Scenic Cruises, we say “thank you.”

As for the rest, even with all your luxury and royal accoutrements, there is no amount of padding that can soothe us from your hidden peas. I mean, fees.

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About the Author
Hailing from the great white north, Joe’s background is in corporate communications. He is a writer, media junky and believer in the power of the consumer for change.
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