Tax Warning Issued For Cruise Passengers When In Spanish Waters

Three people enjoying a drink

Terms and conditions specify when charges are applicable. Credit: Freepik

Simon Calder has issued a warning to people going on a cruise around Spain.

The expert is renowned for his travel advice and regularly shares the latest guidance on Good Morning Britain, Lorraine and This Morning. In his Independent column, he has explained how some cruise ship passengers on Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) are being hit with charges during their trips.

The expert explained on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter: “When is an ‘inclusive drinks package’ not inclusive? On Norwegian Cruise Line voyages that include Spain.

“Passengers who sign up for the Free at Sea deal don’t get entirely free drinks: they must pay the tax on anything they consume within Spanish waters.”

The expert explained the Free at Sea package typically costs £20 per person per day and includes all inclusive drinks and wi-fi. However, voyages beginning at ports in Spain and, and while in Spain territorial waters during other cruises, attract 10 per cent in VAT on drink.

Simon explained NCL passengers were told: “10 per cent VAT will be applied to all food and beverage purchases made on board, including purchases made under our Unlimited Open Bar or Speciality Dining packages, for certain sailings departing from Spain or any European itinerary while in Spanish waters.”

Not “Free At Sea”

Simon added: “The tax also applies if they dine at one of the “specialty” restaurants on board an NCL ship. A meal in one of these à la carte restaurants is included in the package – but ‘Free at Sea’ passengers now face a bill for tax on the cost of whatever they order.”

The policy was introduced in the spring of 2023 as the Spanish government take the view that tourists aboard ships should pay the same as those on dry land. A spokesperson for NCL said: “We were advised with the beginning of our Europe season earlier this year that guests will be charged additional VAT on certain sailings.”

Read the small print

In its terms and conditions, the company tells passengers: “Guest’s bills may reflect applicable VAT and/or taxes for certain ports or itineraries. Taxes which are not included in the confirmed holiday price must be paid by you. Additionally, unless otherwise specified at the time of booking, fares do not include charges imposed by local authorities whilst in port or within territorial waters on goods and services provided on board ship.”

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Written by

Jo Pugh

Jo Pugh is a journalist based in the Costa Blanca North. Originally from London, she has been involved in journalism and photography for 20 years. She has lived in Spain for 12 years, and is a dedicated and passionate writer.


    • Dave

      23 September 2023 • 18:44

      Spain is becoming a miserly penny pinching country unsatisfied with the millions it pulls out of the EU. If it keeps on grabbing every cent it will become a wart on the holiday scene.

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