Royal Caribbean announced that on its 3 brands, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara, bookings made after November 10, 2008 for cruises on or after January 1, 2010 will not have any fuel surcharges attached.
Like Carnival, they have a complicated formula of whether or not to refund 2009 fuel surcharges by way of onboard credit.
I think that, for all practical purposes, the fuel surcharge is sort of moot for 2009 as well. I think that the cruise lines are counting on the fuel surcharge to offset the drastic discounting that is now occuring. With some sailings offering rates as low as $40 a day, even if you add in the $10 fuel surcharge -there are bargains galore out there.
If the fuel surcharge was removed in 2009 the cruise rates would most surely go up. So I think that the fuel surcharge is sort of a non-issue for now. Things could change later next year if the economy picks up, but for now I just add up the cruise rate and the fuel surcharge and enjoy the fantastic bargains being offered.
The prices are so low right now it's actually disgusting. It's disgusting because:
1) The majority of the rate is all port fees, government taxes, and fuel supplement. Travel Agents are taking a real beating on the cruise rates right now. For instance I just saw an 8nt re-positioning cruise for $395. The actual cruise rate was $90 which the agent gets paid on. I've seen other base rates as low as $49 and $9 on third and fourth passengers.
2) This type of discounting only means they have to make it up in on board revenue. What does that mean? Higher drink cost, higher shore excursions, more ways to nickel and dime, more in your face "buy, buy, buy".
3) This type of discounting only leads people to believe they should wait until last minute to book. Which there are many reasons they shouldn't.
4)This type of discounting puts a mind set of "Expectation" that the prices "should" and "will" always be this low. It's turning cruising (at least the mass market ships) into a commodity. Which in turn only is devaluing the cruise experience.
5)Remember, you get what you pay for. The complaints have been rampant lately concerning cutbacks in food quality and service. Even on premium cruise lines like Holland America. If you want a $50 a day cruise don't complain when you get $50 a day quality and service. At least the luxury cruise lines like Crystal, Oceania, Silversea, and Regent appear to not be discounting and still offer a quality experience.
Cruising used to be an experience associated with a tradition of eloquence, fine dining and service. A truly unique experience where you could feel excitement in the air, and actually feel you were being treated as "special". Dressing up for dinner, and savoring each course after it was flamboyantly presented. You were experiencing something you just couldn't get back home, and that made it all the more special.
The mass market cruise lines are doing a good job eroding that fine tradition with all their discounting. If it keeps up, there soon will be nothing to distinguish a cruise from checking in at a cheap hotel you found on Priceline, and running out to the closest restaurant for a quick bite to eat.