Skift Take

On July 1, consumers will find out if cruise operators are going to stick with the spirit of California's new junk fee regulation: full price transparency.

The world’s largest cruise operators are expected to disclose upfront port and other manadatory fees, as well as taxes, to consumers in the U.S. starting July 1 to comply with California’s junk fee law.

“We are updating the way we display our pricing in the U.S. beginning July 1. Guests booking with Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises will now see pricing that is inclusive of their selected cruise fare and all required taxes and fees,” said a Royal Caribbean International spokesperson.

And although the law only applies in California, Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian Cruise are implementing the changes nationwide to simplify their operations and the booking experience.

In October 2023, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a ban on hidden mandatory fees, i.e. junk fees. The law applies to all businesses with offices or customer in the state; it goes into effect on July 1.  Consumers can sue allegedly lawbreaking companies for at least $1,000 in damages.

California is the U.S’s most populated states and one of its most visited. It’s also has the largest economy in the U.S.

A common complaint about junk fees is how companies don’t include mandated charges like port fees, which can go upwards to hundreds of dollars, until the end of the booking process.

 “I think the winners are going to be the consumers for sure,” said Judy Perl, founder of Judy Perl Travel, a travel agency.  

In addition to Royal Carribbean, Carnival and Norwegian plan to meet the requirements of the the new law.

“To comply with this new law and to simplify the booking experience for all our guests based in the U.S. and Canada, Norwegian Cruise Line will be incorporating applicable government taxes, fees and port expenses into our advertised pricing beginning July 1, 2024,” said a Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings spokesperson.

There won’t be a change in the total price, only a change in the advertising price shown upfront on cruise company channels. “The final price paid does not change, simply the way it is displayed,” said a Carnival Cruise spokesperson.

Cruise’s Growing First-Time Passenger Base

The display update comes as large cruise companies chase “new-to-cruise” guests and upsell more onboard goods and services. “We have been improving our ‘casting of the net’ to go beyond brand repeaters and going into those new to cruising,” said Josh Weinstein, president, CEO and Chief Climate Officer of Carnival Corp., in a first-quarter earnings call.

Demand for cruises has been increasing despite rising prices. In their most recent earnings calls, executives at Carnival and Norwegian Cruise have reported strong bookings.

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Tags: carnival corp., cruise industry, junk fees, norwegian cruise line holdings, online travel newsletter, royal caribbean cruises, very online

Photo credit: Carnival Cruise's Costa Luminosa Daniele D'Andreti / Unsplash

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