Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum will announce a settlement today with Miami-based Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and its subsidiary Celebrity Cruises Inc., in which the cruise lines will refund $21 million worth of fuel surcharges that the companies levied even after travelers booked their vacations.
Royal Caribbean and Celebrity customers who were retroactively charged the fuel fee — which added as much as $70 a person to the cost of a cruise — and have already sailed will get full refunds, the Attorney General’s Office said. Customers who were retroactively charged but have not yet sailed will get their refunds as on-board spending credits, the office said. The companies must also ensure that future surcharges are disclosed to customers in “clear and conspicuous” terms.
The settlements will affect an estimated 300,000 bookings.
McCollum’s office opened the investigations after most of the major cruise lines announced, in rapid succession late last year, plans to add extra charges to help absorb skyrocketing fuel bills. In many cases, travelers who had already paid for their trips or paid deposits were slapped with the surcharges.
Royal Caribbean followed the cruise industry’s biggest player, Miami-based Carnival Corp., in adopting a surcharge.
Royal Caribbean’s $5-a-day charge applied to the first and second persons in a stateroom and was capped at $70 a person and $140 a cabin. The cruise giant announced the charge in November and said it would apply to all cruises departing as of Feb. 1. In Royal Caribbean’s case, only customers who had already paid in full were spared.
The state is still investigating Carnival and several of its subsidiaries, as well as Norwegian Cruise Line of Miami.
“This resolution will serve as a model for the rest of the cruise-line industry, and I expect the other companies to take this example and follow suit,” McCollum, a former Republican congressman from Longwood, said in a prepared statement.
In a statement Monday, Royal Caribbean said it has voluntarily agreed to eliminate its fuel supplement on any bookings made prior to the Nov. 16 announcement of the fuel fee. The company said the charges will remain in place on bookings made on or after Nov. 16 involving three brands: Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Cruises.