Celebrity Cruises hikes service fees for second time in a year

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Bad news, Celebrity Cruises fans: For the second time in less than a year, the line is hiking the service fee it adds to customer bills.

In a notice posted this week on its website, the Miami-based cruise giant said it would raise the automatic gratuity fee it levied on passengers by 50 cents to $18 per person per day for those staying in most cabins.

That’s on top of a $2 increase in automatic gratuity fees that the line just pushed through in October.

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Together, the two hikes amount to a 16% increase in the line’s daily service charge in just nine months.

The current gratuity rate at Celebrity is $17.50 per day for passengers in standard cabins, $18 per day for passengers in Concierge Class and AquaClass cabins, and $21 per day for passengers staying in the suite-filled The Retreat areas of ships.

The latter two rates are also rising by 50 cents and $2, respectively, to $18.50 and $23 per person per day.

The new rates will take effect on Tuesday.

With the increase, a family of four in a typical cabin will pay more than $500 in automatic gratuities on a seven-night cruise — one of the highest levies in the business.

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The news of the service charge increase at Celebrity comes in the wake of sharp hikes to service charges over the past year at other cruise lines.

Princess Cruises, for instance, hiked its service fees by more than 10% to $16 per day at the start of the year, just two days after a stunning 25% increase in Norwegian Cruise Line’s service charge took effect. Norwegian now charges $20 per person per day for passengers in most cabins, up from $16 a year ago.

Cruise giant Carnival also hiked its service charge rate by more than 10% earlier this year to $16 per day for passengers in most cabins. Sister brand Holland America pushed through a service charge increase to $15.50 per day for passengers in most cabins.

Among other big lines, Royal Caribbean currently collects $16 per person per day in service charges for passengers staying in most cabins. MSC Cruises adds an automatic service charge of $14.50 to final bills on most sailings out of U.S. ports.

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

The service fee increases come amid a surge in prices for all sorts of onboard items at many lines as the cruise industry struggles to return to profitability after three years of heavy losses.

In addition to this week’s announcement of service fee increases, Celebrity had already increased its room service fees sharply earlier this year.

A family of four will now pay more than $500 in service fees to sail on a Celebrity ship for a week. CELEBRITY CRUISES

Other lines, such as Carnival, have been sharply pushing up the cost of some marquee restaurants on ships. The charge to dine in some restaurants on Carnival ships is up as much as 26% over the past 18 months.

Norwegian has been announcing fee increases for multiple things in recent months by sometimes steep amounts. On Jan. 1, the brand increased the cost of its Unlimited Open Beverage Bar Package by about 10%, to $109 per day — in addition to raising service charges. The cost of a higher-end drinks package at Norwegian shot up from $128 per day to an unprecedented-in-the-industry $138 per day.

Many Norwegian customers get a “free” drinks package as part of a booking promotion. However, the 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.

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Cruise lines have blamed the onboard price hikes partly on the soaring costs of food and fuel needed to operate their ships.

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

Celebrity notes that passengers unhappy with the service they receive on Celebrity ships can adjust the amount of daily gratuities posted to their accounts while on board by visiting the guest services desk.

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