Will a fuel surcharge go into effect this summer?
That question pops up from readers occasionally, but more frequently of late, with oil prices back over the $100 mark. The answer? I don't know. What I can tell you is there is not one cruise-line executive who wants to pull that trigger.
If you look at the fine print on your contract to cruise, you will see that cruise lines have the right to add a surcharge when the barrel price reaches $65 to $75. We're long past that stage and major cruise lines have been ignoring it for some time.
While cruise prices are holding in a lot of areas, you've probably noticed there has been some weakness in selected markets, and we are seeing many enticements in the form of quickie sales, upgrades, free tours, onboard credits and reduced airfares. What it tells me - keep in mind it's a moving target and changes from week to week - is that with this weakness, a fuel surcharge is currently not on the cruise-line radar. That doesn't mean it won't happen, but I think it would take a significant jump before it's added to your ticket.
Meanwhile, cruise lines are taking positive steps in Europe, announcing new destinations and committing to the 2012 capacity for 2013
It appears that most lines are upping their offerings for Norway and Iceland cruises, along with cruises around the British Isles. The Brits have taken to cruising in a big way, with double-digit growth over the last few years. Most of it has come through the influx of major lines finding British home ports in Harwich, Southampton and Dover.
Princess and Celebrity are two that are already out with their European schedules for next summer.
Princess will be launching its new ship, Royal Princess, next year, and it will take over the 12-day Grand Mediterranean route. Caribbean Princess will be expanding its 12-day British Isles cruises with more departures, while the smaller Ocean Princess will debut a 14-day Iceland and Norway itinerary, along with more eight-day British Isles sailings.
New ports for Princess include: Toulon, France (for Provence); Bordeaux (Le Verdon), France; Heraklion, Greece (on the island of Crete); Tra-pani, Italy (on Sicily); Milford Haven, Wales; Kirkeness, Norway; Klaksvik, Faroe Islands and Skjolden, Norway.
Celebrity has some Europe 2013 cruises on sale now, and more will be available at celebritycruises.com on March 27.
Celebrity's Infinity is making its debut in Europe next year with 10-and 11-day itineraries sailing the British Isles, Norwegian fjords and Iceland, with departures from Harwich. Infinity will also be sailing wine cruises in September, with overnight stays in Paris/Normandy (Le Havre), France; Bilbao, Spain; and Bordeaux (Le Verdon), France.
Maiden ports for Celebrity are Liverpool, Torshavn (Faroe Islands), Varna (Bulgaria), Sevastopol (Ukraine) and Kristiansand (Norway).
I'll finish off this week with an item that goes under the heading of "thank goodness this didn't happen."
Did you know that Hannibal Gaddafi (yes, the late dictator's son) was in the process of building a cruise ship - a big one that would have accommodated 3,500 passengers, with a massive aquarium tank filled with species of sharks to entertain the passengers. This ego-based cruise ship, complete with gilt-edged interiors (for obvious reasons) was cancelled in its early stages and put up for sale. Major European line MSC Cruises bought the ship, to be named the MSC Preziosa.
With the sale, the shark tank and all that gilt-edged opulence is gone.
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