Norwegian Dawn docked in Cruiseport Boston
It used to be that cruising was like staying at an all-inclusive resort. You would pay a hefty cruise fare up front, but all food and drink, including alcohol, would be included. Cruise lines actually preceded the airlines by several years in “unbundling” certain items like sodas and alcohol from the base cruise fare in the 1990s (I stand corrected, apparently these charges have been around a lot longer than that), followed by the introduction of “premium” dining options available for an extra charge. However, passengers were still able to dine at the main dining room, buffet, poolside, and even in their own staterooms from the room service menu at no additional charge (except from midnight to 5 A.M.on certain itineraries). Some upmarket, niche lines, such as Azmara Club Cruises, Silversea Cruises, and Viking River Cruises, are closer to truly all-inclusive.
Now, Norwegian has decided to take unbundling a step further by eliminating complimentary room service, instituting a $7.95 convenience fee for all room service hours, 24 hours a day. As you’d expect, NCL bills the change as an “enhancement” for its customers. In this case, an expanded room service menu serves as the enhancement. Coffee and continental breakfast will still be available at no charge; the convenience fee also does not apply to higher-end suites.
I’m of two minds about these changes. On the one had, it ticks me off when travel companies spin these types of moves as “customer enhancements”. Sorry, but charging $7.95 for a service that used to be free isn’t an “enhancement”, it’s a downgrade. I’d much rather Norwegian just raise cruise fares by $8 a person, frankly a rounding error in a cruise fare. Or at least have two room service options, a basic one that’s free, and an expanded menu with the upcharge. But I also realize that ship sailed a long time ago, no pun intended. Nobody wants to show up $8 more expensive in a GDS.
On the other hand, I think I’ve ordered room service on a cruise once. That was when we did a cruise-by of the Sawyer Glacier in Alaska and didn’t want to leave the room. Usually, I find it much more enjoyable to find a window seat or outdoor table at the buffet for breakfast, and to take in the full cruise experience by eating dinner in the main dining room. By golly, I’ve paid good money for a cruise, so I’m going to enjoy the view! So in that respect, it’s a charge that’s easy enough to avoid. That being said, now that the cat’s out of the bag, expect this fee to proliferate like weeds to the other mass market lines before too long.