Planning a Holland America cruise for the coming year? Brace yourself for higher daily fees.
Effective December 1, the Seattle-based line is hiking the hotel service charge it tacks onto final bills by 7.4% to $14.50 per person, per day for passengers staying in most cabins. Passengers in suites will pay $16 per person, per day — a 6.7% rise.
With the increase, a family of four will pay at least $406 in service charges on a typical seven-night cruise.
The hike comes in the wake of recent increases in service charges (also called gratuity charges) at several other major lines including Norwegian, Royal Caribbean and Princess. It brings Holland America in line with Norwegian and Royal Caribbean, which now also add a $14.50 per person, per day charge for most cabins. Carnival and Princess levy $12.95 and $13.50 on most cabins, respectively.
Such fees have been growing in recent years at rates many times higher than inflation. As recently as November 2015, Holland America was adding just $11.50 in service charges to passenger bills. With the latest increase, service charges at the line will be up by more than 26% in just three years.
Some but not all lines allow passengers to lower or remove the service charge while on board vessels if they are unhappy with service.
The practice of adding service charges to passenger bills is at a crossroads in the industry. While Holland America and other mass-market lines have been hiking such fees, a growing number of more upscale ocean lines including Azamara, Crystal, Seabourn, Regent and SeaDream have eliminated them entirely, and the practice also is disappearing at some river cruise lines. River lines Uniworld, Tauck and Scenic Cruises are among those that now include gratuities for crew members in the base fare.