When Mel McBeth and his wife booked a cruise on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 last year, they weren’t expecting any additional charges. But that’s exactly what they got when the cruise line helped itself to another $180, which it claimed was a fuel surcharge, on the day they paid for their vacation.

McBeth was sure there wouldn’t be a fuel surcharge. On the day he booked his cruise, the price of light sweet crude for December delivery fell to $59.33 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange — far below the $70 a barrel-level that would have triggered the charge.

Was the Queen Mary 2 having a gas problem?

Before I continue, let me be clear about my bias: Cruise lines have no business adding fuel surcharges to their tickets.

I can understand why they would have wanted to do that a few years ago, when fuel costs were going through the roof. But just a few months shy of 2010, it’s something they should have factored into their pricing. If they can’t, they shouldn’t be running a cruise line. Simple as that.

I suggested McBeth contact Cunard, asking it to adjust his fare.

On January 13, 2009, I wrote to Ms. Carol Marlow, President of Cunard Line, requesting a refund of the $180 I paid as a fuel surcharge. The reply I received stated “to be eligible for a refund of the fuel supplement the price of light sweet crude oil according to the New York Mercantile Exchange Index had to stay below $70 a barrel.”

I wrote her again that her arbitrary rule was wrong and that the price of crude at the time of my cruise was $59.33, well below $70 a barrel, and that I wanted a refund of the $180 I paid in September. She again refused.

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  • Elliott

    Christopher Elliott has been called one of the world’s leading travel experts. But his focus isn’t on the destination, or ev…

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