When you receive a quote or purchase a ticket for a cruise, there normally up to 5 components to the price:
1) Room or Voyage fare (the cost or fare for the stateroom/cabin)
2) Non-commissionable fees (NCF)
3) Governmental taxes and fees
4) Gratuities (optional, but depends on the cruise line)
5) Travel insurance (optional)
The most confusing component is “non-commissionable fees.” What does “non-comm,” “non-commissionable,” or “NCF” fees mean? They are called “non-commissionable fees” (NFC) because the travel agent is not paid a commission on those fees. Several years ago, the Federal Trade Commission required cruise lines to list all “non-commissionable fees” in the price they advertise – in other words, they are supposed to tell you the entire price for the cruise (room/voyage fare + non-commissionable fees + governmental taxes and fees). The purpose of the FTC order was to make sure the customers understood the true cost of their cruise.
Unfortunately, “non-commissionable fees” is not a very consumer friendly term, and has been used by cruise lines to merely bump up their profits. These fees typically include port fees, but can include any other fee the cruise line wants to include, such as administrative fees, or fees related to services provided while in ports (piloting fees, stevedores, waste disposal, immigration fees, etc.). You won’t normally see the “non-commissionable fees” broken down or listed, and there are not any requirements or limitations on what a cruise line can or cannot include in the fee. In all honesty, NCFs can be whatever the cruise line wants. The only requirement is that it must be disclosed to the customer or included in the final price.
Some travel agencies merely list NCFs as “port fees,” but this is not correct, and it can lead to confusion and frustration. For instance, if your NCFs were labeled as “port fees” of $150 for your cruise, but unfortunately a hurricane prevented you from visiting any port, you would expect to get your $150 “port fees” back. Bad news, you won’t. NCFs are not “port fees” but may include port fees.
So make sure you read the fine print. Make sure you know what you are buying.