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). EDITED to add: I should have mentiioned that 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 complimenary room service, instituting a $7.95 convenience fee for all room service hours, 24 hours a day. As you’d expect, NCL is billing the change as an “enhancement” for its customers, with the trade-off being an expanded room service menu. Coffee and continental breakfast will still be available at no charge, and the convenience fee does not apply to higher-end suites.
I’m of two minds about these changes. On the one had, it ticks me off to no end when travel companies, whether airlines, cruise lines, hotels, etc., attempt to spin these types of moves as “customer enhancements”. Sorry, but while there might be a legitimate reason to start charging $7.95 for a service that used to be free, it’s not an “enhancement”, it’s a downgrade. I’d much rather Norwegian just raise cruise fares by $8 a person, a number which is frankly a rounding error in most cruise fares. 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, since 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, 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.