Friday, November 16, 2007

From the fuel surcharge department:

From our letters to the publisher, a subscriber writes:

Good Morning,

In a very succinct writing may I just say that there are many ways to play the game. If the cruise lines want to take away my on-board money with a surcharge, I just take away money that I would have spent somewhere else. There is plenty of good food to be had in a variety of venues so I will simply choose not to dine at one of the specialty restaurant's a couple of times per cruise. Other people will cut back on cabin attendant's gratuities. People really aren't dumb!

Ron Young

Hi Ron,

I believe that the fuel supplements are justified. This isn't just a way for cruise lines to extract more money from the passengers. Just watching the price of crude oil or a trip to the gas pump proves it. Costs of everything are going up because of the price of fuel, not only goods and services where fuel is a major component, such as cruises, but even any product that has to be transported to the seller, and retailers are routinely passing those increased costs on to the consumer. It doesn't make sense that cruise lines wouldn't.

Naturally everyone has to stay within their vacation budget. Those who are going to recoup the fuel supplement by reducing the cabin steward's gratuity are grossly unfair. The cabin steward had nothing to do with the price of fuel or the fuel supplement, so I see no reason to punish him, because he didn't reduce his service to the passenger.

Reducing your other onboard spending would be a valid way to contain your cost, but in the end, I think you'd really only end up punishing yourself.

When I was a travel agent, occasionally I'd have people who would be on such a tight vacation budget that after buying the minimum accommodations on the ship, they really wouldn't have much money left to spend on the trip. I sometimes had people ask me to help them select one shore excursion because they could only afford one for their entire trip. Once I remember a couple telling me that to stay within their budget they were limiting themselves to only ordering one bar drink per day.

Those were the type of people I'd try to talk out of going on the cruise. I'd suggest to them delaying the trip a year and saving a little more so they could go and spend whatever they wanted. In my opinion, they would have a much better time going once and having the freedom of being able to do whatever they wanted rather than going twice and having to be careful about every cent they spent.

In the case of the fuel supplements, on most lines, for a week's cruise it's going to cost passengers between $35 and $50 (or $70 to $100 per couple). Whatever the reason for the increase, I believe that if your vacation budget doesn't have that much flexibility in it, like the people who can only afford one drink per day, you'd be better off cancelling the cruise and rescheduling a bit later when you've saved enough that you're not going to have to restrict things you might really want to do during the cruise, such as the specialty restaurant, as you suggest.

I suspect you really have that $100 worth of flexibility in your budget, and it's really just a matter of principle. In this case, my principles wouldn't tell me to punish myself along with the cruise line.