Some cruise prices are about to get a little more clear


Cruise lines love to hype their value. But the low prices most dangle don’t tell the full story — for now. Soon, some of the country’s largest lines will better reflect reality.

Starting July 1, operators including Royal Caribbean International, Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises and Princess Cruises will include the cost of port expenses, taxes and other fees in the price that potential passengers see. The additional charges can tack on more than $100 to the fare, or even double the cheapest base price on some short itineraries.

The changes kick in when California’s “Honest Pricing Law” goes into effect, restricting companies that do business in the state from advertising a price that is lower than what a consumer will ultimately have to pay.

“While this is a California state law, we are making this change nationwide to ensure our advertised pricing is consistent no matter where guests shop for our cruises,” Carnival Corp. spokeswoman Jody Venturoni said in a statement. Other Carnival brands include Princess, Holland America Line and Cunard. Venturoni said the total advertised price would include the mandatory extras that have previously been “itemized separately for consumer awareness.”

In a list of frequently asked questions about changes to advertised pricing, Royal Caribbean Group said that it would not treat California different from the rest of the country, which “could have created confusion and introduced unnecessary complexity.”

Norwegian Cruise Line, another major player in the market, said it was still evaluating how it would implement changes in response to the new law. The industry group Cruise Lines International Association did not respond to a request for comment. Disney Cruise Line and some luxury operators already include the cost of taxes, fees and other charges in their upfront price.

For now, cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean promote bargain sailings, such as a seven-night Western Caribbean cruise “starting at” an average of $437 per person. But that number does not reflect the nearly $164 more that’s required for taxes, fees and port expenses and displayed in smaller print. A four-day Mexico cruise from Long Beach, Calif., shows the cheapest cabin for $234 — but the additional charges are an additional $240.

“The current ‘drip pricing’ technique where you show a low price and then tack on a lot of the extra fees later is a great attention disrupter but very misleading,” Doug Parker, founder of the podcast and news site Cruise Radio, said in an email.

Gratuities are also extra for most mainstream cruise lines, but tips will not need to be advertised up front. Cruise lines also offer optional drink or dining packages, shore excursions, and other add-ons that would increase the cost of a trip.

Parker said the cost of a seemingly inexpensive cruise can balloon with taxes, depending on the itinerary. He said the new policy will give families “a better idea on what the vacation will actually cost.”

California’s law comes amid a larger focus on “junk fees” from the Biden administration, which has targeted what it calls deceptive pricing from airlines, hotels, live-event companies, banks, cable providers and other industries.

Major cruise companies said that while they would show the cost differently, actual prices would not change.

“Fortunately, despite how our prices will now be advertised, the total price guests pay today for our cruises has not changed — guests still get the same great value and affordable prices we’ve always provided,” Venturoni said in her statement.

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