Cruise lines have confirmed that a Spanish tax will be added to guests’ drinks and speciality dining packages when ships are in Spain.
The tax, applied by the Spanish authorities since the spring, must also be paid when cruising in Spanish waters.
It must be added to all drinks, even where guests have bought all-inclusive drinks packages.
Some guests who had bought Norwegian Cruise Line’s Free at Sea all-inclusive drinks package have taken to social media to complain that they’ve received an additional bill for drinks at the end of their cruises in the Mediterranean.
In a statement, NCL told Travel Gossip: “Due to local tax regulations, a 21% Spanish VAT will be added to appliable retail items purchased onboard for sailings departing from Spain and calling to European port cities.
“Additionally, a 10% VAT will be applied to all food and beverage purchases made onboard, including purchases made under our Unlmited Open Bar or Speciality Dining packages, for certain sailings departing from Spain or any European itinerary while in Spanish waters.”
P&O Cruises confirmed it also passes the 10% VAT on to guests. A spokesperson said: “During the time a P&O Cruises ship is in Spanish waters, beverage and cover charges increase by 10%. Guests are notified of this via the daily Horizon newsletter [delivered to cabins].”
For cruises that depart from Spain and don’t call at any country outside the EU, the tax is charged for the entire voyage. On other cruises, the tax is charged whenever ships are within 22kms of the Spanish coast.
Spain has taken the view that since the VAT is charged on food and drink in restaurants on land, it should also apply at sea.
Guests who live outside the European Union, including British passport holders, might be able to reclaim some of the VAT by filling out a claim form at the ship’s store at the time of purchase. More information is available here.
NCL told the Independent that the Spanish authorities started imposing the tax at the start of its European summer sailing season. While some guests have complained they weren’t aware of the additional charge when they booked their cruises, the line does say in its terms and conditions that passenger bills ‘may reflect applicable VAT and/or taxes for certain ports or itineraries’.
It adds: “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.”
Travel Gossip has approached the other main cruise lines that operate in the region for comment.