A leading travel agent association is challenging cruise lines to
detail what is included in the non-commissionable extra fees tacked
onto the price of a cruise.
Nancy Linares, chairwoman of the Association of Retail Travel
Agents and owner of CWT-Holidays 'N Travel in Austin, Texas, is
sending letters to the chief executives of companies that belong to
the Cruise Lines International Association.
"It seems as though the base cruise price, which we are paid off
of, is getting lower and lower, while more is shifted into taxes
and fees," Linares said. "It seems like they are obviously trying
to pay us less money."
Linares is asking the cruise line executives to respond within
"If cruise lines are truly charging our clients only those fees
and taxes that consumers should be paying directly, then we will
need to know that in writing," Linares wrote in an ARTA message.
"If cruise lines are padding their non-commissionables, though,
then we need to know that."
The extra charges commonly added onto cruise fares were formerly
known as "port charges," but that term was dropped several years
ago in a settlement with the Florida Attorney General's office.
As part of that settlement, the major cruise lines agreed to
include non-commissionable fares, or NCFs, in the advertised prices
of cruises to avoid surprising customers with unexpected
The issue has recently resurfaced on another front. A Miami law
firm is seeking class-action status for a suit charging that Royal
Caribbean Cruises Ltd. collects more in government taxes and fees
from passengers than it must pay.
RCCL said the lawsuit's claims are "dead wrong."
Terry Thornton, vice president of marketing planning for
Carnival Cruise Lines, said his company basically has added fees in
two components: non-commissionable fares and government taxes and
The non-commissionable fare includes all costs incurred in ports
that are not assessed on a per-passenger basis, such as dockage and
This levy generally amounts to $89 for a three-day cruise to
$139 for a seven-day voyage, Thornton said. Those charges aren't
detailed because the cruise lines negotiate confidential agreements
with ports, he said.
He said the taxes that passengers pay are U.S. departure taxes,
user fees imposed by U.S. Customs and Immigration, and port fees
assessed on a per-passenger basis in home ports and ports of
Carnival is not padding the NCFs, Thornton said.
"I know that perception’s out there," he said. "But the NCFs and
taxes have remained pretty stable. The commissionable portion has
gone down, but that's because the fares have gone down rather than
the fees going up. ... Our cruise pricing has been very volatile,
much more volatile than we’d like it to be," he said.