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Yet another major cruise line to hike service charges in the new year

Dec. 13, 2022
5 min read
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Yet another major cruise line to hike service charges in the new year
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Add Holland America to the list of cruise lines hiking service charges — albeit only by a tad.

In a notice posted on its website, the Seattle-based cruise line said it would raise the automatic "crew appreciation" fee it charges passengers to $16 per person per day for those staying in most cabins, effective Feb. 1.

That's a 50-cent increase from the current rate of $15.50.

The line also said it would raise the automatic service charge for passengers staying in suites to $17.50 per person per day — a 50-cent increase.

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The news of a service charge increase at Holland America comes just days after Princess Cruises, a sister line to Holland America, announced a 10% hike in its service charge that will take effect on Thursday.

With the increase at Holland America, a family of four in a typical cabin on one of the line's ships will pay nearly $450 in automatic gratuities on a seven-night cruise.

The new $16 rate for most cabins at Holland America is the same rate Royal Caribbean currently charges and Princess will charge after its increase. Among other major lines, Carnival Cruise Line has a lower service charge rate of $14.50 per person per day for those staying in most cabins. Norwegian Cruise Line has a higher rate of $20 per person per day for those staying in most cabins.

Related: TPG's ultimate guide to cruise ship gratuity charges and tipping

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Just last week, Norwegian hiked its service charges by an unprecedented 25% for most cabins, effective Jan. 1, 2023. Passengers staying in some top suites on Norwegian ships will pay $25 per person per day in service charges in the new year.

The fee hikes at the lines come amid a surge in price hikes for all sorts of onboard items on ships.

Among the cruise operators sharply raising prices for onboard items in recent months is Carnival; the line has pushed up the cost of some of its marquee restaurants on ships this year by as much as 26%. For instance, the fee for the line's signature steakhouses has jumped from $38 to $48 per person in two steps over the past seven months.

Carnival has also increased the cost of its signature Chef's Table experience this year by nearly 24%, so it's now $99 a person. The cost of drinks packages on Carnival ships is up significantly this year, too, in some cases by more than 15%.

Meanwhile, Norwegian has been announcing fee increases for multiple things by sometimes sharp amounts. On Jan. 1, the brand will increase the cost of its Unlimited Open Beverage Bar Package by about 10%, to $109 — in addition to raising service charges. The cost of a higher-end drinks package will soon be $138, up from $128.

Many Norwegian customers get a "free" drinks package as part of a booking promotion. However, the booking promotion does not include an automatic 20% bar gratuity on the theoretical cost of the packages. As the cost of Norwegian's drinks packages rises, the cost of its automatic bar gratuity fees rises, too.

Related: The 9 most exciting new cruise ships of 2023

As high inflation takes hold in the economy and ongoing supply chain challenges arise, cruise lines blame the onboard price hikes on the soaring costs of food and fuel needed to operate their ships.

That said, in many cases, the prices that cruisers are finding at onboard venues such as restaurants and bars — and the amount they are spending on board ships — are rising much faster than the rate of inflation.

Holland America says customers with existing cruise reservations for the coming year and beyond can lock in the current, lower gratuity rates by prepaying gratuities before the new rates take effect.

Also, in some cases, passengers who are unhappy with the service they receive on Holland America ships can adjust the amount of daily gratuities posted to their accounts while on board by visiting the guest services desk. A key exception: Passengers who prepay service charges cannot adjust the amount at a later date.

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Featured image by HOLLAND AMERICA LINE
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