Cruise Taxes: Hidden Fees Adding Hundreds to Your Fare

While no one would argue that an Alaskan cruise is a cheap vacation, considering what you get, rates are surprisingly low.

Think of everything you’d have to pay for separately if you traveled to Alaska on your own. You’d have to pay for airfare, car rental, hotel rooms, meals, entertainment, and more. With a cruise, you get all of this included in your rate, which can come in at less than $1,000 per person.

So while a cruise offers incredible value, it’s still a considerable chunk of change. What’s more is that the headline price you see when you shop around on websites is just a portion of what you’ll actually have to pay to get on the ship.

If you head over to Carnival.com, or NCL.com, or any other cruise line’s website and do a search for a cruise, here is the sort of pricing you’ll see:

Carnival Cruise Fare

It’s a big headline number┬áthat offers a great price. But what you don’t see are the cruise taxes and fees that can’t be avoided, yet aren’t included in the headline price.

I don’t mean to pick on Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Line. Most lines don’t show these taxes and fees right away. Royal Caribbean is one of the only lines that does show them right on your search, even though they are in much smaller print than the large headline price. That said, you will see the taxes and fees for your cruise on any line clearly broken out before you purchase. Here are a couple of examples:

Cruise fare with expenses

A Major Increase to Your Cruise Fare

While these charges are somewhat hidden at first, they are a major factor in how much you’ll pay for your cruise. In fact, for the typical 7-day Seattle/Alaska cruise, taxes and fees can range from between $150-$250 per person. So a couple traveling together can expect somewhere in the range of $300-$500 in fees and taxes!

The catch is that these rates don’t fluctuate with your cruise fare. So if you book the cheapest interior room, you’ll pay the same amount as someone booking the highest-end master suite. As a result, it hurts lower-budget cruisers the hardest. If a couple pays $1,600 for two guests in an interior stateroom and is hit with $500 in fees/taxes, that adds more than 30% to the total cost of the cruise.

So what exactly are these costs anyway?

Port fees and taxes can cover all sorts of expenses that the cruise line is charged. For example, the Port of Seattle charges cruise ships $16.37 for each passenger each way (boarding and deboarding) to use the port, so that’s nearly $33 per person. Meanwhile, other ports that the cruise ships stop at charge fees as well to cover the costs of providing a port and its facilities. This is why taxes are different for nearly every cruise since they often have slightly different ports of call, which charge differing rates.

Taxes at the Port of Seattle

The bad news is that you can’t avoid these extra expenses or even minimize them. Instead, you simply have to budget for them and know that even the cheapest cruise will likely have $150 per person in taxes tacked on.

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