Cruise lines have changed their prices because of California's new 'Honest Pricing Law'

02 Jul 2024
Elizabeth Wright

When you book your next Royal Caribbean cruise, prices may appear higher than in the past. 


On July 1, Senate Bill 478, also known as the "Honest Pricing Law," went into effect. Rather than create confusion with different booking systems, cruise lines—including Royal Caribbean—have changed how they advertise cruise fares in the United States. 

Now, the advertised price will include a breakdown of fees to help give consumers more transparency when budgeting for their vacations, regardless of whether they reside in California, Florida, New York, etc. However, it neither impacts the total price of the cruise nor the portion of the fare that's commissionable to travel agents

Read more: New law forces Royal Caribbean to change advertised price for cruises

Ovation of the Seas docked in Alaska

If, for example, you find a 7-night sailing aboard Wonder of the Seas advertised for $1,282 per person, you won't be surprised with added fees later on. Instead, you can estimate how much the fare will cost. In the past, passengers had to prepare for the cruise fare to increase once port fees and taxes were added. 

Though the total price is the same, the $1,282 cruise on Wonder of the Seas may have been advertised at around $1,120 per person in the past, with taxes & fees added once the cabin selection was made. Now, the $325.18—or $162.59 per person—of taxes & fees are included in the price, simplifying the booking process by providing transparency. 


Taxes & fees are included regardless of whether you're sailing to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Alaska, Europe, Australia, or Asia. With port fees notoriously higher in Alaska, potential cruisers aren't left shocked by the $300+ in fees added to the cruise fare. 

Note, however, that the law doesn't apply to bookings made from Canada. 


A sailing onboard Wonder of the Seas in July 2025, the price starts at $1,672 CAD, with taxes and fees listed as an extra $203 CAD. However, the same sailing on Royal Caribbean's Australian and United Kingdom websites includes taxes and fees. 

Port fees are charges imposed by each port of call to allow the ship to dock which are passed on to passengers 

Mariner of the Seas docked in CocoCay

It doesn't matter whether you're staying in a multi-level suite or a tiny interior stateroom, as everyone onboard pays the same amount in port fees. 

They're a combination of several charges, including the per-passenger fee (head tax), docking fee, and pilot fee, which covers the costs of bringing the local pilot onboard to help guide the ship into port. 

Unlike gratuities, you don't have the option to pay them onboard. Instead, they're part of the cruise fare that must be paid in full by the final payment date. 

Though the new advertised prices include taxes & fees, passengers will still have to budget for gratuities

Guest service crew members

As of November 2023, the daily gratuity for passengers in standard staterooms (i.e., interior cabins to Junior Suites) is $18.00 per person, per day, and $20.50 per person, per day for guests in Grand Suites and above.

If you're going on a 7-night cruise in a balcony stateroom, gratuities will amount to $126 per person. Unlike discounted rates for third and fourth guests, they're still subject to the full gratuity rate, so a family of four can expect to pay around $500 in tips for a weeklong sailing. 

This is upsetting to many who are fans of the updated pricing model. 

"Just need to include the gratuities in the headline cost and we'll all understand the basic cruise fare before we start the booking process," Mike Shad commented on a Royal Caribbean Blog post. 

"Good, now we just need gratuities in there too, because that's another $200-$300 that they don't disclose," added Tiffany Miller


When it comes to gratuities, passengers have the option to prepay them or have them added to their onboard account during the sailing to be settled at the end of the cruise. If you choose to prepay them, they must be paid in full by the final payment date.

Royal Caribbean isn't the only cruise line impacted

Celebrity Ascent

The advertised fares for Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean's upscale sister line, are also subject to California's Consumer Legal Remedies Act, as fares for sailings with Carnival, Virgin Voyages, Princess, and Holland America Line. 

"The prices displayed for Carnival cruises are now inclusive of taxes and fees. The total price has not changed due to this update, and by showing the total price while shopping you can now see the total cost before completing your booking," reads Carnival's website

Read more: After 6 Royal Caribbean cruises this year, my wife and I tried Carnival for the first time, and here’s what we liked and didn’t like

Elizabeth graduated from New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute with her M.A. in Journalism in May 2023. Growing up, she had the privilege of traveling frequently with her family and fell in love with cruising after sailing on the Oasis of the Seas her freshman year of high school. She wanted to pursue a career that highlighted her passion for travel and strengths as a writer. 

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