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Some cruise lines charging for room service, others considering it

Some cruise lines charging for room service, others considering it

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Old Jan 10, 19, 6:21 pm
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Some cruise lines charging for room service, others considering it

Current cruise lines charging for room / cabin service.

Royal Caribbean charges $7.95 for room service other than Continental breakfast orders (as of March 2017).

Norwegian Cruise Line charges $7.95 for room service other than Continental breakfast orders (as of 2015).


Carnival Cruises actively considering room service charges link to USA Today article

Carnival Cruises announced on December 31 that they’d begin charging for room service orders ordered prior to 10 p.m., “to reduce food waste”. A per food item charge of $2.00-$5.00 charge was proposed.

The cruise line received a ton of feedback (40,000 posts and comments on Cruise Critic alone) and announced this week they’d be "making some adjustments to that plan to balance the interests of our guests with our efforts to reduce food waste costs. For the time being, there will be no changes until we finalize a plan that will be communicated to guests and travel agency partners alike."

Note that Carnival Corporation & PLC owns

. . . AIDA Cruises
. . . Carnival Cruise Line
. . . Costa Cruises
. . . Cunard Line
. . . Fathom
. . . Holland America Line
. . . P&O Cruises
. . . P&O Cruises Australia
. . . Princess Cruises
. . . Seabourn Cruise Line

If one initiates room service charges, you can bet these will become as ubiquitous as airline baggage fees and the like, and imagine other items currently considered included in cruise charges will become monetized. The unbundling of cruise fees will not be welcome, but they offer lots of revenue to cruise ship companies now left with over capacity due to their ship building binge.
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Old Jan 10, 19, 10:12 pm
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Seems it'll be no better than European ferries eventually: Pay for a seat, or a berth, pay for food and drink. All that'll be included is transportation.

A lot of capacity needs to be sunk or scrapped but no one wants to do that and take a hit in write offs or revenue. Either that or a lot of ships will need to be moved to new markets (the one for primarily english-speakers is oversaturated). I notice that cruise rates for markets such as the German-speaking one (Aida, TUI Mein Schiff) seems high but perhaps more is included, or I haven't been able to find where they dump unsold inventory.

Then there's also the listed cruisecos that need to maintain their rate of earnings and revenue growth.
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Old Jan 11, 19, 6:55 am
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I’m not sure where the mass market segment of the cruise industry will eventually settle. My wife and I have been cruising for some 26 years now and have seen a lot of changes, some good but many not so good. Certainly mainstream lines offer much more onboard variety than before. While the old saying that cruising is for the “newly wed, overfed, and nearly dead” still rings a bit true many cruislines have tried to change that image. In our cruise lifetime we’ve seen lines go from a country club or Las Vegas-lite environment to a more family oriented “Disneyland” approach. Capacity (i.e., number of ships, size of ships) has increased substantially probably triple or more what it was when we first cruised in 1993. At the same time cruise fares have increased but not at the same rate as inflation. Case in point is that I have our cruise documents from a cruise in 1995 so I know exactly what we paid. I go to the same line, same itinerary, and same almost exact dates to compare fares. While inflation over that period is 40+% the fare has only increased 20+%. Something has had to give and in our experience it has been cost reductions in service levels, food quality, and an increase in fee-for-services. Charging for some room service offerings is just another of many cost cutting/revenue generating moves.
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Last edited by Randyk47; Jan 11, 19 at 7:53 am
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Old Jan 11, 19, 7:38 am
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Small fees won't affect overall spend, but they will reduce overhead because people won't order just because it is "free".

Nothing is "free" it is simply included.
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Old Jan 11, 19, 9:08 am
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
Small fees won't affect overall spend, but they will reduce overhead because people won't order just because it is "free".

Nothing is "free" it is simply included.
Certainly in and of itself charging a fee for some level of room service won’t or shouldn’t be a major source of revenue or cost savings but from the cruise line’s point of view it helps. I think the bigger issue is the number of cuts or now additional fees for aspects that were generally considered as not necessarily free but were included in the fare. Some experienced cruisers see that as a degradation and now being “nickled and dimed to death” above the fare.
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Old Jan 11, 19, 10:21 am
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The average consumer is so fickle and uneducated about what really goes on. We hear all of the time of things that went away from cruising and how much better it was 30 years ago. When it reality, there are so many apples to oranges comparisons. Mass market brands of today were closer to luxury cruises back in the day. That model would not have made cruising as large as it is today. People want a lower barrier to entry. Adjusted for inflation, the mass market is more affordable that cruising used to be, by far. It is basically a different product. The luxury cruises still exist, but we'd rather complain instead of paying more for them.

Carnival has back peddled their change. What their final decision is, we will see. People feel like this is a victory as Carnival will no longer "take anything away". Like the cost cutting/revenue boost will be forever paused because the people fought back. The money will be just rolled up somewhere else. People would be ok with a $100 price hike, but god forbid there is $50 in itemized charges. In the end, the people who don't use this service are largely subsidizing the gluttons who demand they be pampered, will take one bite, and waste the rest, all because they "are on vacation!"
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Old Jan 11, 19, 10:58 am
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Other than paying the kitchen staff who are already on duty anyway, and waiting stewards who do it for tips, and some loss of service items and cost of individual packaged condiments, I really don't see any incremental cost in offering room service. I can certainly see the stewards getting fewer tips. Maybe kitchen staffing levels will be reduced.

Agreed that cruise fares are lower when inflation-adjusted but certainly the bigger ships have produced significant economies of scale. Same could be said for (long-distance) air travel and surface freight (thanks to container ships). I didn't pay for any cruises as a kid but I remember what air fares (IATA-regulated) were in the mid '70s. No matter which airline you chose, the lowest published R/T fares between LON and SIN and HKG respectively were GBP 350 and 500.

With all the said enlargement of ships to achieve economies of scale, huge amounts of capacity had to be filled. And even so, some cruisecos are adding even more cabins to existing ships. One ship I was on recently is currently having more cabins added where a lot of the spa used to be located. The same cruiseco introduced a new ship in the past couple of months and is rumoured to be sailing with empty cabins to maintain a huge premium in fares (no dumping of fares supposedly.)
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Old Jan 11, 19, 11:54 am
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On a big ship, that may be some number of fewer crew needed. Each one of them gets paid, is fed, and requires berthing space.

The flip side is that given the small charges being discussed, I find it unlikely that anyone who really wants it won't order it.
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Old Jan 11, 19, 12:08 pm
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
On a big ship, that may be some number of fewer crew needed. Each one of them gets paid, is fed, and requires berthing space.

The flip side is that given the small charges being discussed, I find it unlikely that anyone who really wants it won't order it.
100% agree. I tend to only order room service early mornings on port days & late at night anyway. It's worth paying $2-5 when you have an early port & want to get out quickly!
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Old Jan 14, 19, 8:11 am
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Not a charge for service but I read on Cruise Critic where the relatively sedate Holland America is doing away with onboard libraries. Whether accurate or not when one cruise director was asked about the cut the answer was that doing away with the libraries fleet wide would save the company $2M a year. Sounds high but his explanation was they could eliminate a couple of positions per ship, the cost of buying new materials, replacing material appropriated by passengers, etc. Personally that doesn’t impact us but again it’s another one of those minor cuts around the fringe that’s probably not a big deal by itself but gets added to the “death by a thousands cuts”.
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Old Jan 14, 19, 11:44 am
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In my minimal cruising experience (6 on Princess, 2 Royal, 1 Carnival), I've noticed quite a big demographic change from 15 years ago when I first started. Albeit I'm only 24, so the way I viewed things at a younger age very easily could have been misconstrued, I remember really only seeing older couples on the ships. Princess (our families preferred line) had very little to offer to families/kids for on-board activities, the sports decks & putting range were quiet frankly unusable & seemed completely ignored by the staff. Further, the teen zone & kids centers were lucky to have 10-20 on board participating previously. Now, my brother and sister seem to have 30-40 each time they go in.

It appears to me that families & the 20-40 year old base has grown significantly from when I first started cruising. With the 3rd & 4th passengers in each cabin having heavy discounts, it's made cruising a cheaper vacation for most families. A lot of these changes seem to shift more towards that consumer base. Most parents would prefer to just go up to the buffet real quick in the morning instead of having kids stuck in a tiny room eating breakfast. I'd also assume very few would even consider room service throughout the rest of the day. They'd rather be out exploring the ship and just getting a quick meal at the top decks. As for on-board libraries, I don't even know if Princess Royal or Carnival even had these. But I'd be willing to guess Holland America is experiencing a demographic change as well.

While some of these changes aren't too significant to me & I welcome the changes as a younger person. I feel for the older crowd. I remember the days as a 10 year old kid when the Princess staff wouldn't let me enter the dining hall at night because I had on blue jeans & a tee shirt! I had to go back up to my room & throw on some slacks/chinos & even have my parents buy a shirt with a collar from the shops! Last year I saw a 50 some year old guy wearing swim shorts and a tank top at dinner for formal night Cruising appears to be shifting from a formal/higher class vacation towards a cheap way to get away for a couple days. As the pricing can be extremely favorable for consumers that choose inside cabins (sometimes less than $50/day). I can see why the cruise lines are cutting some of these programs. The margins are probably much tighter from what they used to be.
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Old Jan 14, 19, 11:58 am
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Originally Posted by Randyk47 View Post
Not a charge for service but I read on Cruise Critic where the relatively sedate Holland America is doing away with onboard libraries. Whether accurate or not when one cruise director was asked about the cut the answer was that doing away with the libraries fleet wide would save the company $2M a year. Sounds high but his explanation was they could eliminate a couple of positions per ship, the cost of buying new materials, replacing material appropriated by passengers, etc. Personally that doesn’t impact us but again it’s another one of those minor cuts around the fringe that’s probably not a big deal by itself but gets added to the “death by a thousands cuts”.
Holland America's (a.k.a. HAL) mgmt is not just reducing expenses but trying to boost revenue. Staffing in the library - namely the librarian - was reduced or eliminated some years ago (sometime after I took my last cruise on HAL in late 2014) and the library was then left uncurated. Part of the library had already been converted to a pay coffee bar. Haven't read what the plans are for the space. On a trial basis, HAL is also trying to jack up revenue by selling most privileges afforded to suite pax for $50 pp pd.

To continue on the subject of cutbacks and revenue enhancement, a ship that I used for a TPAC trip, the Celebrity Millennium, is currently in drydock. Major work includes eliminating the two saunas and part of the spa and exercise room to add more premium cabins. The library and a pay acupuncture clinic hidden in the middle of the ship, taking up space on 3 decks, will be turned into more inside cabins. I believe I've read that more open deck space will be reserved suite pax too. A few weeks before I embarked last year, mgmt trialed converting the pool side grill (or really burger bar) on one ship into a pay facility selling what it claimed to be Kobe burgers. Some pax were itching to file deceptive advertisement as the beef used would likely be anything other than even Wagyu but the trial was discontinued pretty quickly

I think the revenue-boosting plan is in play for every publicly-traded cruiseco as they all try to maintain earnings growth rate.

Not sure how it is with privately-held lines such as MSC but I do know that Ponant (now owned by a French family who buy up luxury brands) has apparently been treating passengers with bookings pretty poorly; namely cancelling their long-booked booked cruises at relatively short notice (5 to 11 months) so as to charter out the boat with almost nothing in compensation or moving over to another cruise.
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Old Jan 15, 19, 1:06 pm
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Room Service. Hmmm.

For us, most cruise cabins are very small and we spend as little time in there as possible. Even breakfast can be hard to negotiate. Our room service experiences have been very few, and mostly limited to breakfast before a very early tour departure (booked through the ship) and when the only other option would have been a very rushed breakfast - like 5 minutes rushed. I'd expect any fees to be comped in situation where it was an issue caused by the ship. Then there was the one night when we just had the munchies after dining service had closed down and we ordered some chips and guac. For that, I guess I wouldn't mind paying a small fee. Oh, there was the one lunch where the entire ship went on an island picnic and we didn't feel like going, the only option was room service, which we actually ordered and then took up on deck. For an obscure reason they don't deliver to the deck but you are free to take it up there yourself.

All that having been said, this whole idea seems more palatable when the ship already has dining options you pay far above the basic dining room, My experience is mostly with Windstar which has no dining options with additional fees, I'd have a harder time if they imposed a room service fee.
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Old Jan 16, 19, 1:51 pm
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There are several reasons people choose to eat in the room.

ONE of those reasons is that they are SICK. Does the cruise line really want to incentivize sick people to eat with the general public? This IS one way virus's are spread. When that happens the cost to the cruise line is gigantic, and the impact on reputation can also be very costly.

We tend to eat breakfast in the room, almost always. An exception to this is when we are in Club on HAL, then we eat breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill. The few times one of us had a cold, that person would eat breakfast and dinner in the room, and the other would bring back a bit of lunch from the Lido. WE have never ordered anything from room service and not eaten it, except in the often events we get something we did not order (breakfast potatoes added but not ordered), but we did not want to eat. Lots of food is wasted in the dining room. This has grown since they plate the food in the kitchen versus adding "sides" dished at the table. Waste has also grown since the steaks are often too tough/grislily for people to eat. We order our food from the menu in detail. We ask what sides are on the plate, excluding ones we will not eat. If we are not that hungry, we get 1/2 orders, or even split a course. That whole process was easier when they brought your entre and then "offered" you the side at the table...this has been gone for a very long time for you younger readers.

Another reason people may choose to eat in their room is to avoid getting dressed/dressed up. Charging for room service may put additional pressures on sorting out diners that are not dressed to "code" on those special nights. This could impart bookings?

Another reason people may choose to eat in their room is getting back too late from a tour to eat during the scheduled periods. The 2 pm lunch. Not allowing this might put more pressure to keep the Lido open more hours, a very costly alternative.

The reason we mostly use room service for breakfast, is that we do not like all the crowds that early in the morning, we are slow risers, and we pay for upgraded suites that afford comfortable in room dining. The main shortcoming is minimal choice. On cruises to some locations the viewing from the veranda is spectacular, and we do not want to waste any time...Arctic, Antarctic, whales in Hawaii, etc. These places really yell for breakfast in the room (casual dining...a bit at a time).

As an aside, hotels charge for room service...inflated prices, plate fee, delivery fee, required gratuity, and optional tips too! These charges have gotten so crazy, that we often will bring back a bottle of wine, Subway sandwich and chips for dinner. Obviously this option does not work on a cruise. To be fair, dining is NOT a big deal with us.

The argument that people waste more food ordered to the room versus served at a table or selected at the buffet do not ring true to me. The argument that the cruise line could do this and many people would pay seems true. So it could raise revenue, but at what COSTS?

Many other reasons exist for people choosing room service...too numerous to name all of them. Charging for a current service will always impact someone negatively. Cruise lines are doing well in this improved economy, changes line these can be very costly in a down turn.

Finally, when you are paying $250-$1,000 pp/pd, does this really make sense? Yes I know there are cheaper cruises/cabins.
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Old Jan 18, 19, 3:43 am
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Originally Posted by Super Mario View Post
The luxury cruises still exist, but we'd rather complain instead of paying more for them.
This. There is no better summary of the situation.
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