An interesting editorial appears today in the Jamaica Gleaner about a proposal to increase the head tax on visitors who arrive via air to Jamaica from $10 to $20. The writer characterizes this proposed increase as unfair considering the head tax on cruise passengers is only $2 per person.  These taxes help pay the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) which funds projects that enhance Jamaica’s tourism industry. 

Jamaica - Cruise Passenger - Head TaxBut the problem, according to the editorial, is that the cruise lines are refusing to pay Jamaica the head taxes collected by the cruise lines from the passengers:   

". . . the tax on cruise-ship passengers is US$2 per passenger, but the cruise lines mostly honour this obligation in the breach. They owe Jamaica more than US$12 million.

And unlike hotels, cruise lines pay little or no taxes in Jamaica and purchase little in the country."

Cruise lines already don’t pay U.S. taxes themselves by incorporating their businesses and registering their cruise ships in foreign countries. 

Are the cruise lines charging head taxes on passengers who sail into Jamaica and keeping the money?  I’ll ask the cruise industry’s trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), for an explanation. 

Don’t hold your breath waiting for its answer. 


Photo credit:  AOL Travel

  • Andy Gord


    I’m not clear on your reference to Nassau. Was that a typo (Nassau being in the Bahamas, of course), or do you suspect cruise lines are withholding port charges from the Bahamas as well as Jamaica?

  • Andy:

    Thanks for your comment.

    That was a typo, and I replaced “Nassau” with “Jamaica.”

    I don’t know if the cruise lines are current with the Bahamas. The cruise lines collect the head taxes before the cruise begins so it would seem to be easy to transfer the money over to the port country when the ship arrives. . . .

    Jim Walker