I’ve been daydreaming about going to Greenland, of seeing its other-worldly wilderness of icebergs and glaciers before they’re gone (thank you, climate change).
So I thumbed through an enticing-looking brochure from an expedition-cruise company called Adventure Canada, a family-run business that takes travelers on small-ship cruises to remote northern places such as Canada’s Arctic, Scotland, Greenland and more.
One cruise, called Greenland & Wild Labrador, looked enticing. The price for the Sept. 5-18 cruise: $3,995 per person (that’s in the cheapest stateroom which is, ahem, a quad with bunk beds; a two-berth room would be a dizzying $6,695 per person). Still, not all that bad for a 118-passenger ship that would cruise to Canada’s wild Labrador coast and to Greenland. And I wasn’t looking for a luxury cruise nor planning to spend much time in the stateroom.
But then I began toting up the extra charges as outlined in the 2013 brochure. And I ended up with sticker shock. The additional fees (all per person and in U.S. dollars):
Discovery Fee: $250. It’s described as a contribution to local projects in the areas in which Adventure Canada travels. But it’s billed to you.
Credit card pricing: $160. If you use a credit card, you’ll have to pay more — $4,155 for the cheapest Greenland & Wild Labrador fare instead of $3,995 if you pay by cash or check. Yes, you could avoid the extra charge by not using a credit card, but I’d never pay for a tour/cruise with cash or check. If you pay by credit card there is protection under federal fair credit laws in case a company goes bankrupt or doesn’t deliver what was promised; you don’t have such protections when paying by cash or check.
Mandatory medical evacuation insurance: About $250 (for trip cancellation and medical/evacuation insurance, varies depending on the passenger’s age). OK, fair enough, to require medical insurance (which usually comes bundled with other protections). Otherwise it could cost a traveler thousands of dollars to be evacuated and stick the cruise line with the arrangements. Still, it adds up.
Fuel surcharges: Not specified, but they can be imposed.
Tips: $210. The cruise line suggests a gratuity of $15 per passenger per day. Many big cruise lines automatically add gratuities to your bill, other cruise lines “suggest” it and you feel like a heel if you don’t tip. What about paying ship staff a living wage and not sticking passengers for tips?
So before even considering the cost of any optional shore excursions, I was looking at more than $850 in extras. Ouch.
The moral of the story: Add up the extra fees — so prevalent in the travel business these days — before you buy so you know the true price.