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Is this love? A major cruise line just picked Valentine’s Day for a big service charge hike


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Is this what love is, Holland America?

The Seattle-based line plans to significantly hike its daily service charge beginning Feb. 14 — Valentine’s Day.

In a notice posted this week on its website, Holland America said it would raise the “crew appreciation” fee it adds to customers’ bills to a record $17 per person, per day for those staying in most cabins.

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That’s a 6.25% increase from the current rate of $16 — nearly twice the rate of inflation in the U.S. over the past year.

Holland America last raised its service charge rate almost exactly a year ago, Feb. 1, 2023.

As part of its announcement, Holland America also said it would raise the automatic service charge for passengers staying in suites to $19 per person, per day — an 8.6% increase from the previous rate of $17.50.

The news of a service charge increase at Holland America comes just two months after rival Royal Caribbean announced an even heftier 12.5% increase of its service charge rate. Royal Caribbean currently charges $18 per day in service charges for passengers in most cabins — one of the highest rates in the cruise world.

With the increase at Holland America, a family of four in a typical cabin on one of the line’s ships will pay nearly $500 in automatic gratuities on a seven-night cruise.

That puts Holland America ahead of several of its key competitors when it comes to gratuity fees. Among other major lines, Carnival Cruise Line, MSC Cruises and Princess Cruises add $16 per person, per day in service charges to passenger bills for most cabins.

Celebrity Cruises adds $18 per person, per day and Norwegian Cruise Line adds $20 per person, per day in such gratuities to passenger bills.

Related: TPG’s ultimate guide to cruise ship gratuity charges and tipping

The recent fee hikes at Holland America and Royal Caribbean come amid a surge in price hikes at cruise lines for all sorts of things, even as they cut back on service in some cases.

Related: The 9 most exciting new cruise ships of 2024

Most of the biggest cruise lines, such as Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian, automatically add some sort of service or gratuity fee to passenger bills. Passengers often have the choice to prepay the service fees when booking or have them added to their bill for onboard expenses, paid at the end of each sailing.

That said, the total number of lines with a service fee has been shrinking over the years. Many smaller and higher-end cruise operators have been folding these charges into their base fares.

Lines that now include gratuities in their fares include Azamara, Ponant Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours, Seabourn, SeaDream Yacht Club, Silversea Cruises and Virgin Voyages.

For those lines that do have them, service and gratuity charges are touted as a convenient alternative to the practice of cash tipping on ships — something that was once common.

The cruise lines with such charges typically increase their rates every year or two.

Note that, in some cases, passengers who are unhappy with the service they receive on Holland America ships can adjust the amount of daily gratuities posted to their accounts while on board by visiting the Guest Services desk.

Adjustments are only allowed when gratuities are being charged to onboard accounts during sailings. Passengers who have prepaid gratuities cannot adjust the amount they have paid while on board.

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