Many online cruise agencies charge a sneaky nonrefundable processing fee with each booking. This fee is hidden in the fine print on the bottom of the screen, but only after you have clicked through several times while you’re making a booking. The fee is not shown added to the cruise fare until the final booking page.
Finding Out About the Sneaky Hidden Fees
I have signed up to get promotional emails from many online cruise agencies. It seems like I get an email everyday from CruisesOnly. I scan through the emails quickly and investigate any appealing deals. It wasn’t until recently that I noticed that they charge a non-refundable $24.99 processing fee. This disclaimer is in the fine print at the bottom of the email.
I was curious about this fee and went to the CruisesOnly website to do a dummy booking. I searched for a cruise and went through the motions of making a booking. It wasn’t until the fourth screen that the disclaimer about the $24.99 processing fee appeared at the bottom of the page.
As I got to the page that showed the total invoice, sure enough, the processing fee had been added. Those of us who are experienced cruisers are used to agencies quoting prices before taxes and fees. These fees are government taxes and fees charged by the ports. It is just traditional to advertise cruise prices this way. We know that the advertised price doesn’t include these charges. The “processing fee ” however, is an added kicker to the travel agency’s bottom line, which they receive along with their commission from the cruise line. Agencies that charge this fee are essentially “double-dipping”–they are getting paid by both the cruise line and the client.
Cruise Agencies That Are Partners With World Travel Holdings
The CruisesOnly format looks very similar to some other companies who send me promotional emails. I decided to see if these other companies were related in any way, and if they also charged this processing fee. It turns out that there is a travel conglomerate called World Travel Holdings. They own outright several cruise agencies. They also partner with many other agencies to provide them with booking engines and services. The following table shows travel agencies who use the World Travel Holdings booking platform:
If you look at the online booking engines of these partners, you will see that it is essentially the same booking engine. Only the company logos change. I didn’t do a dummy booking on all of them, but I did check two others–Priceline and Delta SkyMiles Cruises. They also charge a $24.99 processing fee.
Travel Agencies Owned by World Travel Holdings
The following lists travel agencies that are owned by World Travel Holdings:
I’m not sure why CruisesOnly is listed as one of their possessions, because it is also on the partner list. I did a dummy booking on CruiseOne, and finally found the processing fee after clicking through several pages. CruiseOne calls it a Service Fee, and it is $19.95
Please note that I am not angry that these agencies are charging an extra fee to book my cruise. If an agency is charging me $200 less or giving me $200 on board credit, I will look past their processing or service charge. They are in business and can charge what they want, but I am very annoyed that the fee is hidden until the very end of the booking process. And it is annoying this is just another thing that I have to remember to take into account when I’m pricing out a cruise.
Are there any other agencies that I haven’t listed that also charge a service or processing fee?