According to Douglas Ward who authors "Berlitz Guide for Cruising and Cruise Ships, Port Charges are: " Port Taxes or Handling Charges -These are assessed by individual port authorities and are generally shown in the brochure. Port charges form part of the final payment, although they can change at any time up to the day of embarkation."
Some of smaller passenger cruise ships that are high priced may include the port charges in the fare. Over the years there have been a number of class action lawsuits on port charges. In defense of their port charges some cruise lines say that port charges are needed to reimburse them for governmental fees, pilot fees, tug boats, stevedoring. garbage removal, etc. As the result of the class action lawsuits I cannot recollect any passengers getting money back from a cruise line. Some settlements have been made where the passenger gets a token value vouche e. $50 that must be used within a year for another cruise with the same cruise line. One cruise line did pay monetary fines to the State of Florida. It has been established some cruise lines used part of the port fee charged to pay expenses such as employee salaries.