Another Added Fee: Royal Caribbean’s Iconic Lounge Adds a La Carte Dining

December 14, 2011 | By | 91 Comments

Ka-ching? Splendour of the Seas‘ Viking Crown Lounge (VCL), the circular top-ship space easily identifiable on every Royal Caribbean vessel, has been transformed into a for-fee tapas bar. The 15-year-old ship recently emerged from a five-week, $50 million refurb that included the addition of iPads in every cabin, a nursery and a half dozen new dining options, four of which are for-fee.

Heretofore a lounge serving drinks, as well as tasty views from the floor-to-ceiling windows, the VCL’s new a la carte menu includes choices like heirloom tomatoes, Serrano ham and Manchego cheese with ciabatta ($5); shrimp gyoza dumplings ($5); and Kobe beef sliders ($7). Peruse Splendour’s full Viking Crown Lounge Dining Menu.
Richard Fain, chairman and CEO for Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., has regularly explained that adding new dining experiences isn’t cheap. When fielding a question in July about Celebrity Silhouette’s for-fee and grass-covered Lawn Club, he had this to say: “The overall cost of providing that extra service is actually quite high, so we thought it appropriate to charge reasonably for something that’s above and beyond the regular things you’d find on a cruise.”
There’s no word from the line on whether it’ll add the extra-charge munchies to other ships’ Viking Crown Lounges. We’ve also reached out to the line for clarification on why they chose to include a fee.
Now it’s your turn: What do you think of the latest added fee? Does the up-charge trend make you wary or do you like the idea of new optional experiences?
Don’t let these little fees sneak up on you: Check out our 10 Hidden Costs of Cruising — and How to Fight Back .
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    91 Responses to “Another Added Fee: Royal Caribbean’s Iconic Lounge Adds a La Carte Dining”

    1. Rachel
      December 14th, 2011 @ 2:28 pm

      I understand having one or even two “for a fee” restaurants but so many of the cruise lines are going overboard, in my opinion. For instance, NCL’s Epic. Out of 16 restaurants about 10 of them have an additional fee associated with them. To me, it seems like the cruise lines are being greedy and it’s another way for them to get more money. For the price you pay for a cruise, the food should be included. I can understand an upscale steakhouse, but charging extra for tacos, sushi etc. makes me want to avoid that cruise line all together. I will stick with the Carnival owned cruise lines such as HAL & Princess. They are some of the only lines left that don’t charge extra for 90% of the food. I’ll enjoy my free pizza while the people cruising NCL can enjoy the pizza for $5 :)

    2. Rob
      December 14th, 2011 @ 2:32 pm

      So long as you can still go up there and just drink without having to eat. I assume thats the case..

    3. Scott
      December 14th, 2011 @ 2:39 pm

      And next year will they institute a charge for eating at the buffet or in the main dining room? This seems silly.

    4. Rusti Walter
      December 14th, 2011 @ 2:55 pm

      Maybe Royal Caribbean should take a hint from Princess. We recently sailed on the Ruby Princess and thoroughly enjoyed the International Cafe where you could get pastries & breakfast dishes int he morning, sandwiches, salads and more throughout the rest of the day and delicious cookies every evening–NO EXTRA FEES WERE CHARGED! They do have a small charge for gelato and for speciality coffees. I’m so tired of all the extra fees for what used to be considered an all-inclusive experience.

    5. Debbie
      December 14th, 2011 @ 3:17 pm

      I think RC has too many extra charges. Seems like everytime we turned around on our RC cruise there was a place that charged extra!

    6. Ron Casalotti
      December 14th, 2011 @ 3:22 pm

      First, as stated, this is an optional fee for tapas dining. It sounds like the offerings currently served at the Vintages wine bar on the Oasis and Allure.

      Second, the free dining a previous commenter noted as enjoying on the Ruby Princess has always been available (and still is) on Royal Caribbean ships in the Mondo Cafe on some ships or as part of Sorrento’s Pizzeria on others.

      Yes, the fee-based dining options are flourishing, but you can still use the buffet, main dining room and other smaller dining venues inclusive of your cruise fare. I, for one, welcome the options.

    7. Jeff
      December 14th, 2011 @ 3:37 pm

      I just sailed Mariner of the Seas and we did not choose to eat at any “for fee” location and it was a wonderful cruise…The Windjammer had plenty of options for breakfast and dinner and the main dining was great…If you needed a snack or coffee, then Cafe Promenade did the job…It’s what you make of it…still plenty of options included in your cruise fare..

    8. Maria
      December 14th, 2011 @ 3:50 pm

      I agree with Rachel. Fair enough charging extra for a top line meal experience in one or two specialty restaurants, but I would expect all other dining costs to be included in my fare. We pay enough now as it is. They definitely like to make their money on us.

    9. steve mcg
      December 14th, 2011 @ 4:30 pm

      Just another way to dip into your sign and sail card. I wouldn’t mind it if the food in the main dining rooms was as good as it was several years ago. The quality, selection and service has all declined. Sailing twice a year and anyone would agree. The speciality restaurants are very good and we tried mostly all offered. Still, the dining rooms suffer. Nickle and dime the customer is the norm.

    10. Texasgirl
      December 14th, 2011 @ 4:32 pm

      There is the main word ” Optional”. They are not forcing you to eat at any of these venues. I have been on many cruises and I choose NOT to dine in those “extra fee” venues and I am more than satisfied with the food I am served. I personally think it’s a good thing if they can make more money and give more options for those willing to pay.

    11. Adam
      December 14th, 2011 @ 5:09 pm

      I agree chargeing for top of the line steak is fine. All the extras are getting out of hand. I will stick with CCL. The dream has 12 dif places to get some type of food. The buffet, tandori, deli, pizza, wok, burger, pasta place, bbq, sushi, main dinning, steak house, coffee bar with pasties, and only two of the places charge. After its refit in 2012 it will have 3 more places and then there will be a total of 3 places that charge.

    12. Neta Platt
      December 14th, 2011 @ 5:46 pm

      No need to pay extra, the regular food is usually good. We always eat at one or two of the pay restaurants but then the regular dining rooms are fine. As others have noted these are optional if you don’t want it don’t buy it.

    13. Jason Thompson
      December 14th, 2011 @ 6:12 pm

      They are really starting to get greedy on us. But like @Neta said, probably no need to pay extra anyway.

    14. Dave
      December 14th, 2011 @ 6:21 pm

      They have to pay for all those new iPads somehow. I’d take another free dining option over an iPad in my stateroom any day!

    15. Neil
      December 15th, 2011 @ 5:19 am

      I don’t see the big issue? It’s not a compulsory payment, purely optional for the passenger. If you don’t want to pay, then don’t eat the food! There are plenty of other free dining options.

    16. Jim
      December 15th, 2011 @ 8:21 am

      Most people seem to agree that “optional” does not mean you should expect something for free. I can still enjoy the views from the Viking Crown with my “optional drink” and skip the munchies – same as always. You want everything for free? Pay for an all inclusive cruise – everything is included in the cruise price, which is a few thousand dollars more than a RCI cruise on the same itinerary. You figure out how much you eat and drink and make your choice.

    17. Harriet
      December 15th, 2011 @ 10:27 am

      My new mantra RCCL ships all fees The Carnival owned ships like HAL are free!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!RCCL is leading the way to pay for everything except the actual cabin. It is disgusting to have to pay for so many additional things. Cruising was all about one fee except tours and liquor now RCCL is ruining the concept!!!!!!!!!!!!!BOO TO ALL THE RCCL SHIPS and their executives. You are making the food that is free so bad so everyone will have to eat at pay restaurnats or feel like real second class citizens. How about adding some new ” free” amenities!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Like the great food you used to serve. We will never go on another RCCL ship nor will any of our friends or family or anyone we can talk out of it!!!!!!!!!!!!

    18. Steve G
      December 15th, 2011 @ 11:47 am

      I love having the Tapas option on a cruise ship. I really enjoyed having a Tapas dinner on Allure while dining outside in central park. It was one of the highlights of the cruise. That said, it was also my most expensive meal on the ship because of the a la carte pricing. That was on me though….we ordered a ton of food and had 2 bottles of wine. But it was a CHOICE I made, not something RCI forced on me. Tapas, Chops and Giovanni’s were all favorites and made for an even more memorable cruise. Again, that was my CHOICE.

    19. Tyler
      December 15th, 2011 @ 11:52 am

      I still think cruising has great value over land based vacations. Everyone has just gotten so used to how cheap cruising was now that prices are going up and cruise lines are adding for fee restaurants everyone is complaining. No where can I go and have the entertainment, all the food I can eat, see the ocean and go to several countries during my trip all included for around $100 a day per person. You are not forced to buy anything once onboard. In my opinion the for fee restaurants are a great value over what I can get at home!

    20. Kathy
      December 15th, 2011 @ 12:26 pm

      I don’t have a problem with higher end “tapas” being offered with a fee AS LONG AS this doesn’t mean that we won’t be able to use the lounge without ordering the food. The Veranda Lounges have always been our favorite place on the ships and now they seem to be slowly eroding their space. Parts of them are being turned into Diamond Lounges and on some sea days they are completely taken over by Art Auctions. Leave the Veranda Lounges alone!

    21. Sherri
      December 17th, 2011 @ 6:46 pm

      I think it is great, the fee is quite reasonable and you get some nice new choices. If you do a cruise once or twice a year regularly as your vacation, some of the other options get a bit mundane, and this is a nice change of pace. Also, it is very nice prices for what you are getting, and you can eat upscale once for 1/2 the price of the steakhouse. I say, the more options, the merrier. They add two no fee options too and this shows their commitment to ALL cruisers.

    22. Jeffrey
      December 17th, 2011 @ 6:51 pm

      Maybe I was lucky; I sailed on the Splendour of the Seas in August / September before the renovation. I had a great time, even without an iPad in my stateroom or extra fee dining options.

    23. Mrs O
      December 17th, 2011 @ 6:52 pm

      Gee Harriet – you sound a bit bitter. It is optional after all. Personally, I prefer options. If you think about the challenges involved with cooking so many different foods on a ship, it’s no wonder some things cost extra. When I first started cruising there were no “extra fee” dining options but the food choices were limited – and boring. We typically will eat in the main dining room for 5 of 7 nights and try different specialty restaurants on the other two. It’s really no different than choosing to pay to eat in a restaurant in a port vs. free on the ship. I guess Harriet must take a break in each port, and head back to the ship to eat her “free lunch”.

    24. Miss G
      December 18th, 2011 @ 12:38 am

      If you want an all inclusive cruise you should look at Azamara Club Cruises. I think Royal Caribbean are great value for money. If you were on a land holiday you would spend way more than that if you break down what you are getting in the cost of your holiday. The fact that you can now have extra options for dining is only a bonus surely. If you don’t want to pay extra then use the main dining room, windjammer or cafe promenade.

    25. Mindy
      December 18th, 2011 @ 8:34 am

      I wouldn’t mind all the extra charges for true specialty items & extraordinary service, but sadly the food quality & service in the MDR & buffets have declined so drastically over the years, you feel like you have to do the specialty places or it’s not the same. We cruise typically twice each year, and it’s beginning to feel like it’s not true cruising any more. We may start looking at other options for our vacations.

    26. Christy
      December 19th, 2011 @ 3:18 pm

      I’m curious how all-inclusive resorts are able to provide food, snacks and both alcoholic and non beverages (with varying degrees of quality, to be sure, but most are quite decent and similar to MDR) for a price fairly comparable to a regular cruise? (Azamara etc. sounds lovely but a major hit to the pocket book!)

    27. Pete
      December 19th, 2011 @ 3:23 pm

      We just got off of the Carnival Splendor last week. While on the cruise, we went up to the pool deck and stopped to pick up a couple of towels. As we received the towels, the attendant asked us for our sail and sign card. I asked why she needed that and she stated that if we did not return the towels to her that we would be charged $25.00 PER TOWEL. I asked that if we simply forgot and left the towel on the chair that we would be charged $25.00??? She stated that that was correct. At the end of the day my wife and I saw the deck attendants picking up numerous towels left by cruisers on the deck and on chairs. Carnival is making hundreds, no thousands of dollars off of that new fee!!!

    28. Kathy
      December 20th, 2011 @ 11:14 am

      Extra fees for food is ridiculous. I don’t go on a cruise just for the food. I go for all that they have to offer throughout the ship. So, having yet another place to purchase food is just another place for the cruise lines to waste more food. I want to go to a bar for a drink and maybe some salty, crunchie munchies to go with it. (if I can get it without an extra fee) I don’t need anything else. There is enough places on any ship to get all the food anyone could need or, in my case, want. I never pay extra for anything except a specialty coffee once in while.

    29. houstontx
      December 20th, 2011 @ 5:34 pm

      I agree with steve_mcg who says:

      \I wouldn’t mind it if the food in the main dining rooms was as good as it was several years ago. But the quality, selection and service has all declined.\
      This is true for certain!

      The food in the MDR on many cruise ships today are below par I believe. Seems it continues to get worse as they open more & more \Specialty restaurants\.
      The cruise lines are steadily looking for ways to increase their revenue. We, the customers, are where they need to get it from.

    30. George
      December 21st, 2011 @ 5:58 am

      They are coming up with ways to take our money, but they think everyone is stupid… 50% off deposit that saved me a lot… oh no it did not!!! DUMP.

    31. AlanOnTheGo
      December 21st, 2011 @ 7:15 am

      Let’s stop calling food \free\ and call it \included\. You get what you pay for, and an upgraded experience and specialty dining come at a price. A cabin is \included\ in your cruise fare. A window is optional, but extra. Same for a balcony or suite. Why not extra for specialty restaurants and higher quality food? If you pay the basic fare, you get basic meals, and they are very good for what you’ve paid.

    32. Joe
      December 21st, 2011 @ 7:38 am

      This is a step in the direction to have as much revenue as possbile and eliminate any freebie’s except in the main dining rooms. Same business model as the airlines are using. I will expect continuing changes to the cruising model for the next few years, until bookings drop, or complaints dramatically increases. Stay tuned. You ain’t seen nothing yet!!

    33. J. D.
      December 21st, 2011 @ 7:40 am

      So what. The Viking lounge is the least visited lounge on any RCI ship I’ve been on and they need something to draw folks. My wife and I routinely buy tapas at Vintages and enjoy them very much. No biggee as far as I can tell.

    34. J. D.
      December 21st, 2011 @ 7:42 am

      So What? It’s no biggee. The Viking is the least visited lounge on any ship I have been on and they need something to draw folks in. My wife and I often buy tapas at Vintages and enjoy them very much. Who cares?

    35. Ingrid Windsor
      December 21st, 2011 @ 7:53 am

      I really don’t even want an ipad in the room, I really don’t care to use a pay venue for food and don’t understand why Royal Caribbean thinks this and the movie screens going on the pool deck in refurbishments (put one in on the Radiance right before I sailed last). While I absolutely favor Royal Caribbeans service over Princess or Carnival, I am starting to look around at possible other lines to sail which is unfortunate because I always liked Royal. I just prefer the traditional experience with regular dining and pool parties at night. I understand I don’t have to use the other venues but what is being left out to make room for them?

    36. Josh
      December 21st, 2011 @ 8:04 am

      I think “for fee” services, especially food, has severely degraded the quality and service of the inclusive amenities onboard. On the latest cruise vacations, I have been severely disappointed in the quality and variety of the free dining venues. and I primarily blame “for fee” restaurants.

    37. nora
      December 21st, 2011 @ 8:25 am

      I have been on 40+ cruises over the last 30 years. The cruise line are getting more greedy and giving us less. The steaks in the speciality restaurants used to be the norm in the main dining room. I REFUSE to pay for what used to be included. One night on Princess they had meatloaf for dinner in the main dining room….that is not cruise fare. Last year on the Constellation, the food was okay….I struggled with the menu at night and I am not a picky eater….it was so boring. I have always enjoyed the food on Celebrity, but not last year. We used to rave about the food when we would return from a cruise….not now! The cruise lines need to get their hands out of their greedy pockets and put the good food back on our plates.

    38. Carol
      December 21st, 2011 @ 8:42 am

      I just looked at the menu for the Viking. The prices are more than reasonable. Most items were in the $5 range, with some $3.50 or $4. The most expensive was a steak for $8.75. Since it’s optional, I see nothing wrong with charging a fee for food like Kobe beef sliders, shrimp cocktail, etc. Things like these are not normally served in the Viking. As long as the munchies are still free and the fee is optional, I say go for it.

    39. Spector
      December 21st, 2011 @ 8:51 am

      Absolutely have no problem with additional fees on specialty items. It comes down to a personal choice since there are other dinning options.

      However, I have to chime in two fees that make me wonder as to the thinking of senior management. “Bingo and Shore Excursions”….There was a time when Bingo cards were $8 – $10 and hundreds of people would show up to play. Now for some strange reason they think charging $28. for a session of Bingo creates more revenue when 20 people show up to play. So 50% of 200@$10 for onboard earnings of $1000. or 50% of 20@$28 for onboard earnings of $280. Do the math guys, on a 7 day cruise you’re missing out on $5000. in additional revenue. They have a captive audience and can’t seem to see the forest for the trees.

      Shore Excursions…Another cash cow that has been dwindling down by shear greed and lower participation. Saw a notation the other day on Carnival’s financials that shore excursions are down 40%. Once again these cruise ships have a captive audience of 2000-4000 people and they just don’t see the economics. Most people don’t mind paying a little bit more (30%-40%) for not having the hassle of finding something to do in a new port. But when that number approaches 100% plus those C.F.O.’s need to go back to school and take business 101 again.

    40. Alan Rosenbaum
      December 21st, 2011 @ 8:56 am

      Suppose you had a choice of having no tapas a the Viking Crown Lounge or having tapas at a fee. Having it at a fee would be a better choice than having nothing at all. It’s not an extra charge. It’s a new service that happens to have a charge associated with it. If you don’t want it, don’t have it and it will be just like the old days.

    41. Jerry
      December 21st, 2011 @ 9:07 am

      My wife and I paid the extra fee once on an NCL cruise in Hawaii and found it no better than the MDR. I for one am getting a little ticked off at all the extra fees being charged while on a cruise. It seems that the quality of the food in the MDR has declined so you have to pay the fee to dine in one of the many restaurants in order to get better quality food. Part of the whole cruise experience was the exceptional dining. IMO, the quality of the beef served on RCCL and Celebrity has gone down.

    42. Robert Platt Bell
      December 21st, 2011 @ 9:09 am

      Drinking on an empty stomach. What’s not to like?

      During our cruises on RC, we would go to the lounge or bar and order a Martini. Cocktails and hors d’ouvres go together like beer and peanuts.

      The alternative – drinking a martini on an empty stomach – is a recipe for an ulcer. It is also very UNSOPHISTICATED. But then again, we are talking about cruise lines, so I am being redundant.

      I don’t mind paying for food – GOOD FOOD. But so much of the cruising mentality (as evidenced by the postings above) is all about getting things for “FREE”.

      Here’s a clue: Free things are worth what you pay for them. And when the cruise line has no incentive to make the food better (e.g, $$$) then you can expect bland mediocrity. RC is famous for bland mediocrity in the food department. Ever had their pizza? Ugh.

      And I’ve had their Tapas on Allure at the wine bar. Nothing to write home about, and served poorly (Hint to RC: Tapas is not served all at once, but in courses. Go to a real Tapas bar and figure this out. Plus, a wine bar should have a good selection of wines. Just a suggestion. McTapas is not the answer.)

      So I would applaud this as a good move – if they could make the food good. Here’s the problem, though. Most of the brain-dead idiots who think that fun is being locked in a bad hotel for a week e.g., cruising) are going to HATE this. To them, it is all about scoring “Freebies” and then regaling their neighbors back home about how they got an “upgrade”.

      Cubicle dwellers on vacation. It’s all about the coupons and frequent flyer miles.

      Cruising is not travel. It ain’t even fun. If you want to simulate the experience of a cruise, lock yourself in the Paramus Mall for a week. If you love the smell of new carpet, you’ll love cruising.

      For me, I would rather actually TRAVEL to a destination, pick out the restaurant I WANT to eat in (and no, it ain’t a food court!) and then PAY for good food and experience LOCAL CULTURE.

      RC might have had good intentions here, but the el cheapo people who make up the bulk of cruisers (and you all deserve each other’s company, believe me!) will revolt.

    43. Harry Baxter
      December 21st, 2011 @ 9:12 am

      I find it amazing that a cruiseline with some of the most mediocre food on the high seas would attempt to charge customers to eat more of it.

    44. joan
      December 21st, 2011 @ 9:12 am

      I too, find RCL’s never ending need to nickel and dime passengers to death most annoying. I could forgive this if passengers received value for their dollar. We recently returned from a week on LOS. The food was so bad in the “pay per chew” Portofino, I did not eat any of my entree and we then left before desert. Organization and planning for shore excursions was non-existant and, dispite many, many conversations and one 2 am visit by staff, no one could ever identify the source of the “banging” that began EVERY night at 11:30 and continued to the wee hours. The best they could do was give us earplugs. It was our last cruise on RCL.

    45. Bob
      December 21st, 2011 @ 9:22 am

      I think Carnivals Towel charge is great! It STOPS the chair hogs from saving the chairs.

      It seems nice to add small plates in the bar for rather modest fees if they are good quality and not too scimpy… they do have to provide extra staff for this. I do agree that the main dining room quality has declined a bit, but the higher cost of cruising is based on high fuel costs. Those ships only go a few FEET per Gallon of gas!

    46. Peter
      December 21st, 2011 @ 9:31 am

      On my last cruise with Norwegian most of the restaurants were offered for a fee. I did not like it but for the days onboard I could live with the other options available. Most of the cruise lines always telling that people want this extra. I would disagree, although I always hear many people in cruises only talking about the food. I really enjoyed Princess and Carnival were I was not permanently getting forced to pay something on top and thats why I will go with them again. Royal Caribbean even sells you tours with free bottled water, at the end we got 1!!!! cup of water out of a bottle and this touring for hours in the Mexican heat. Additional water would be available for a fee – that´s ridiculous when paying $99 for a shore excursion.

    47. celem
      December 21st, 2011 @ 9:33 am

      I agree with Rusti Walter – I’m so tired of all the extra fees for what used to be considered an all-inclusive experience. It cheapens the experience. I also am just off of the Ruby and my experience with the extra charge dining room was negative. I know that there are plenty of people that feel that the extra charge dining room is worth paying $25 per person on top of the meal allocation of the cruise cost but I am not among them, especially when the food was a dissapointment for some at the table. The more tawdry that cruise lines make the experience with nickel and diming the customers, the fewer cruises I will purchase.

    48. Susan
      December 21st, 2011 @ 9:34 am

      Personally I would rather pay more to have better food in general. The problem with the added fee based dining is that this food is now in line with what used to be served by the dining rooms; now they serve some pretty questionable stuff.

      People used to go on cruises to eat, people came back having gained weight but I doubt that happens much anymore.

      I choose to spend my money eating ashore when in port, I don’t fret if I don’t make dinner anymore as it really doesn’t matter. The cruise experience is not what it was 10 years ago but the prices are about the same so you can’t have it all.

    49. Nancy Hecker
      December 21st, 2011 @ 9:53 am

      I agree with many of the above comments regarding the quality of the “included” meals. As an avid cruiser (25+),
      I have definitly seen the quality of food and service decline in direct correlation with the rise of specialty options. Granted you will never go hungry on a cruise, but the dining experience is not what it once was. At the end of a wonderful cruise day you would anticipate the several delicious menu choices, the elegant presentation, the attention of the “not so overworked” wait staff, and the socialization with amazingly well-suited table mates. Granted, you can still purchase the meals but only the food. The long standing traditions of dining at sea seem to be no more. Could we, please, have them back at least for “formal nights”?

    50. Chris
      December 21st, 2011 @ 9:55 am

      This is why we like Disney. Yes the cruise costs a bit more up front. That neon said, since we don’t gamble, it is nice not to have a casino on board (although they do have Bingo, but that’s as far as gambling goes). We don’t smoke, so their smoking policies are good. They include non alcoholic drinks that are not served by a bartender (yes, smoothies and alcoholic beverages (we don’t drink, so that’s not an issues for us) and such cost extra, but that’s about it). There are one to two restaurants with optional up charges. You cam choose to purchase snacks for the ahows, but you can also get them from a little firther away for free. The spa of course costs extra. And of course tips, at your discretion, cost extra. Other than that, there are no up charges. When typing it out, it looks like a lot, but not including tips, on our last 7 day Disney cruise, we spent $543 and $520 of that was on Merchandise. We wouldn’t have spent that much, but two days before the cruise ended, we won a $500 on board credit and we already had $50 on board credit. As you can see, we had a hard time spending it all.

    51. bob
      December 21st, 2011 @ 10:09 am

      Indeed all companies are trying to make the extra buck but NCL is the limit by charging 8% VAT in Spanish waters in all the bars and wine purchases.

    52. Michaelb821
      December 21st, 2011 @ 10:14 am

      Added fee dining has done for cruising what Wall Street did for the housing industry. It is manipulating itself into a bubble and, as you can see, more and more people are going to refuse to cruise and just go DESTINATION instead. So sad the GREED has spread to yet another industry.

    53. Bill
      December 21st, 2011 @ 10:22 am

      If hardly anyone goes to the extra fee restaurants, then they would be discontinued. However, they are obviously flourishing because a decent number of people are willing to pay the extra fees.

    54. James Clausen
      December 21st, 2011 @ 10:32 am

      We just got off of the Liberty and were refused access to the Crown lounge from 5:00 to 9:00 when they turned it into an exclusive diamond lounge. We were fuming. We decided not to book two Royal cruises in January for this reason and chose another line. As for the charge for Tapas, why not, as Royal would say. You can choose to have them or not.

    55. Fran
      December 21st, 2011 @ 10:32 am

      Princess has just started charging for regular coffee at the Cafe Pastry Bar on deck 5 (Emerald) and they just announced they will only do brochure rates starting in 2012, not letting discounters reduce prices. The rate for the soda card just went up a bit. They raised the pre-charged tips a buck per person per night.

      What killed me on the recent (Dec8) trip on Emerald (Carib) was their docking at the far-away pier in St Thomas and then that costs you $4 p/p each way to get into town. If they are stuck with that distant port, then provide some kind of bus service into town. Yeah, I know, it costs them money. Costs me money this way!

      Water for shore visits is a charge. Seems to me that the cruise lines are getting as bad as the planes.

    56. Kendra
      December 21st, 2011 @ 10:37 am

      After just returning from an RCL where we booked a suite thinking it would be wonderful. I will pass on RCL for the future. We cruise at least twice a year and have found our two cruises out of 40 to be cheaply done and it reminds us of Carnival cruise line, which we cruised in the 80’s when we were in college. Just say NO to RCL and maybe they will get the message.

    57. Rich Corso
      December 21st, 2011 @ 10:37 am

      Basically, the cruiselines have not raised their base cabin rates and they have not brought back the fuel supplement fee. The lines still include the same basic food options. So, the cruisers have the option not buy anything extra. I do feel that the extras are sold at a very resonable price i.e. five course 22oz porterhouse steak dinner for $30-find that onshore. As their operating costs go up, they are finding optional ways to increase revenue without raising basic service.

    58. Wanda Harris
      December 21st, 2011 @ 10:41 am

      We have sailed on 42 cruises and seems like none of the cruise lines are what they use to be. Most cruise lines have raised their tipping policies, price of pictures, etc. And the cruises aren’t cheap either. Could this be why people aren’t so willingly to book a cruise and especially saty in the higher price cabins. The food has gone downhill for the most part as it is,unless you pay for the higher price resturants.

      We are Diamond Plus members on RCL and they offer less perks than some of the other cruise lines do without being at the top of the membership.

      Cruising use to be a treat, now it is just a way to get to some island or country you want to visit. They build bigger ships and expect the people to pay out alot more money to cruise on them. Stop nickel and diming the customers.

    59. Terry
      December 21st, 2011 @ 10:56 am

      Hey everyone – lighten up. Obviously, some of you do not know the definition of OPTIONAL! If paying extra for anything advertised as optional urns your stomach – induldge only what is included in yoru cruise rate and stop complaining.

    60. Joni
      December 21st, 2011 @ 10:56 am

      As a couple that spends 1-2 monthes on a ship I think choices are always a good thing. They are just that choices. The MDR is only as good as it’s head chef. Just got off the Celebrity Soltice for 24 days. Some of the best food we have had in years in the MDR. We tried all 3 specialty dining rooms. The asian one was amazing. Think what you pay on shore for a lunch then it is no big deal. They don’t force you to go people.

    61. Mark Spitzer
      December 21st, 2011 @ 11:31 am

      We, the passengers, are their Golden Goose (geese? goslings?).
      It would appear that their bean-counters have calculated the cost/benefit ratio of killing off a few geese, and simply severely wounding others, may actually improve their bottom line.
      Dumb it down, market it to the masses who are used to the local mall food-court, make more money.
      And lose my business… which they don’t care about, if they make it up in their hoped-for increased per-person spending.
      They don’t care if they lose my repeat business. I’m happy to travel with better companies.

    62. TravelSmith24
      December 21st, 2011 @ 12:07 pm

      I agree with those who state that the new for-fee locations are optional. That said, for anyone who has been cruising 10+ years, the gradual decline in the quality of the main dining room fare is quite evident. I believe the lines are making the free dining options far more pedestian so that it will drive passengers to go to the for-fee restaurants to get the same quality that used to be available every night without charge. Those new to cruising wouldn’t recognize the difference because they don’t know how wonderful the food used to be in the main dining rooms. We do the majority of our cruising on Princess and it sounds like we are lucky compared to RCCL. We generally go to the steak house and Sabatini’s once each during our cruises and we enjoy the experience. But overall there is absolutely a trend to add wonderful options–all at extra cost. The cruise lines will see how far they can push us until the public pushes back and quits cruising.

    63. Dana
      December 21st, 2011 @ 12:30 pm

      We just got back from a 12-day trip on Celebrity Silhouette. This was our first cruise on Celebrity and probably our last. In a word we were “disappointed”. That aside, we are firmly against the specialty restaurants. I remember one Princess cruise with a free pizzeria where we could get a pizza made especially for us. I think they had a free Mexican one too but we never got to eat there. Those were the days.

      Anyway, the specialty restaurants are getting out of hand. RCI is even charging $14.95 for a “high quality” steak in the MDR. On this cruise the specialty restaurants were mostly $40/pp. Apparently business was slow because we were harassed several times by employees offering a 25% discount. If business is slow then they are probably charging too much or menu is not appetizing. Prices should reflect an upgrade price and quality over the MDR food and we should not be harassed while dining in the included restaurant venues. Maybe then we wouldn’t be so against their specialty restaurants.

      A fellow passenger mentioned they were boycotting the specialty restaurants. I thought was a great idea! A little Internet searching shows this is not a new idea but I haven’t found a web site set up so we could compile a list of people that support or want to boycott specialty restaurants.

      From a practical standpoint the cruise industry is just following many other industries like hotels and airlines. As long as we succumb to their extra fee services they will continue to come up with new ones.

      As final note, the service was so bad in “open seating dining” that we asked to reduce the gratuity for the dining room. We were informed that could not be done on board the ship but they would ask HQ what could be done. Apparently nothing as we never heard back from passenger “no-“service. Princess let us adjust the cabin attendant gratuity on a previous cruise. We are happy to pay for good (even adequate) service but poor service should not be rewarded. We even ate for free in the Princess specialty restaurant because the food was so mediocre and again we had poor service.

    64. john Strong
      December 21st, 2011 @ 12:47 pm

      As the food in the main dining room gets worse (by design?) more people will opt for a for fee meal, eventually none will be included. Cruising became popular for one reason they seem to forget “All inclusive”. I’ve been very dissatisfied with many including ridiculous fees for attractions on the lines “islands”, many exceed the cost of disney for a day!

    65. buzzlightbeer
      December 21st, 2011 @ 1:04 pm

      That’s why their stock is so low, Didn’t they just install pay toilets in all the cabins?

    66. nonna5
      December 21st, 2011 @ 2:35 pm

      I do not like all the added fees at all. The nickel and diming as it is called is getting worse and worse. I have to agree with several posters the need to take Business101 again.

    67. Jess
      December 21st, 2011 @ 2:46 pm

      My wife and I have been exclusive to RCCL from our 1st cruise. I have to admit that now we are looking at other cruise lines as RCCL keeps adding on fees and increasing prices for cabins as well. They used to offer a lot of value for your money and loyalty but lately it seems they are more concerned with their profit margin than guest satisfaction. If they hope to get new cruisers to sail with them I think they are pricing themselves out of the realm and losing current loyal patrons as well. Enough is enough.

    68. idratherbesailing
      December 21st, 2011 @ 2:55 pm

      I really regret that the cruise line industry as a whole is seeking extra profits by adding more and more “for a fee” services, restaurants, entertainment, etc.. This is not why we became frequent cruisers (over 42 in all). All this trend is doing is pushing us away from the cruise vacation all together. As previously mentioned in other posts some cruise lines are worse than others (Norwegian is the worst in my opinion). However, they are all doing it and that includes the highend, so called “all inclusive” lines. Somehow the point needs to be made to the cruise line industry and for that matter the travel/vacation industry as a whole that it is not good to make guests feel like that have been fleeced.

    69. Sports Mike
      December 21st, 2011 @ 3:19 pm

      My wife and I used to cruise every year. We loved the relaxing \All-inclusive\ style AND quality. I know many people on this website say that the for-fee options shouldn’t matter since we have the option of saying no….but it does matter. When the quality of the \included\ options declined in order to drive you toward for-fee options, then I have a problem. Seriously, if you’re that cash-strapped, RCL, just up your ticket price. It’s worth it to me to keep things \all-inclusive\. If I seriously have to start keeping a budget and watching my expenses in order to have quality choices, then I’m going back to traditional vacations where I plan everything and know just what i’ll be spending. Can I do that on a cruise? sure..but what’s the point then? Let’s face it, there are far more places that are NOT accessible via cruise than are. Maybe it’s time to leave the ports and fees behind.

    70. Michael M.
      December 21st, 2011 @ 3:58 pm

      My last 3 cruises were on RCCL: Oasis, Explorer, Allure. We spent $0 on food and had wonderful cruises. We go to the best restaurants in NYC, so we have something to compare. The MDR food is excellent, with many choices, all always good, and as much as you want. Don’t listen to the belly-achers.

      December 21st, 2011 @ 4:24 pm

      Having just taken our 18th cruise with RCI, this one being on the Oasis of the Seas, I can honestly say that cruising isn’t what it used to be! The food on board was basic at best. Other cruisers told us the dining room was horrible! We didn’t even go there. We went to the windjammer buffet a few times for mediocre food.. Even the specialty restaurants which were always INCREDIBLE on their other ships, were fair at best on the Oasis. They have gotten rid of the class associated with cruising to appeal to the “masses”, while upcharging for everything! We have booked our next cruise on one of their smaller ships (Brilliance) to rid ourselves of the Disneyland atmosphere that is taking over the industry. Meals for millions as I call it–the quality has certainly gone down with the ship!

    72. Stephen C. Bishop
      December 21st, 2011 @ 4:46 pm

      We go cursing ten plus times every year and never had bad food, nor do we ever pay extra. Both the wife and I are on a salt restricted diet and the chefs cook our meals for us fresh each night. We have been on Carnival, Royal, N CL, Cunard, Princess, and Celebrity numerous times and the food is uniformly great on each ship–those who complain, go to a hotel and get some food to compare then pitch a bi**ch about the food if you can.

    73. gofeo
      December 21st, 2011 @ 4:52 pm

      I dont mind the fees for food. what I think is a little bit ridicules is the 19.95 for the photo that I dont even stop for any more.

    74. Marjorie Strain
      December 21st, 2011 @ 6:47 pm

      It’s true right now you have the option of where you eat ie pay for specialty items or the MDR. As the food in the included category declines in quality/service more people will go the pay route. It does not take a genius to see that over time the pay options will not be optional but the only place to eat. I was on two cruises last year, one RCCl and the food in the main dining room was mediocre but the service very good. The other on Princess where I found the food in MDR excellent but the service mediocre. I love to cruise but should there come a time where all food is for sale………..that will be the end for me. I do see the writing on the wall.

    75. Joe King
      December 21st, 2011 @ 9:08 pm

      Roy Carib will keep pushing the “fee envelope” as much as they can. It’s fine to say well it’s optional and you don’t have to go there but notice how every year fewer and fewer “free” choices and more “fee” choices.
      Make no mistake it is ALL about money and it is ALL about the RCL stock price. If the execs can figure a way to add more profits then their stock options are worth more and they can eventually retire multimillionaires.

      Longtime cruisers already see the trend and how it works. First up all the drink prices to astronomical levels. Then add in a couple of “fine dining” restaurants for a fee…next renovate a few old spaces and add in a few not so fine dining items and start charging a fee for that…if the customers go for it eventually add more and more and more until you get it to almost all fee and no free.

      And no doubt other cruise lines are watching to see if the More fee, Less Free model will work..if it does they will copy it and YOU will find fewer and fewer free places. The ONLY way to stop it is just do NOT eat in the for fee locations. Let them sit there empty for a year or two and they will disappear and the cruise line execs will look for other ways to squeeze revenues…expect to see a cut in travel agent commissions coming soon as that is a big expense and as cruisers need less and less hand holding and the internet gets better and better they will copy the airline models and further cut out the agents. They will likely encourage clients to book direct by offering you a “free” meal in one of the fee restaurants IF you book direct…and other incentives to tell your travel agent no thanks.

      Funny how Roy Carib has all this money to expand the fee otpions but didn’t seem to be able to find ANY money to help their CUSTOMERS who flew into a hurricane a few months ago? That tells you all you need to know about where the priortites of managment are and it isn’t about customer service but customer revenues.

      I love cruises but I will not be participating in for fee restaurants as I prefer not to sail on the SS K MART where every hour some idiot is on the PA system pushing yet another “fee” that you can buy on what you semi thought was an “all inclusive” vacation. The power is in the hands of the customer to send a signal to the cruise execs that enough is enough. But I seriously doubt it will happen and in another few years cruising will be more akin to staying in a hotel and paying extra for everything you do. Want a chair by the pool? $5. Want a burger by the pool? $9
      Want to ride the elevator? $25 for one week pass. It NEVER ends.

    76. Daniel
      December 21st, 2011 @ 10:04 pm

      The percentage of commission for Travel Agents never increases, but the cruise lines are raking in the $$.

      The world’s second largest cruise company reported a profit of $42.7 million for the quarter, or 20 cents per share — a sharp rise from the same period a year ago when the company made a profit of just $3.4 million.

    77. Carole Rosenthal
      December 22nd, 2011 @ 8:23 am

      Those of us that cruise a lot have seen lot’s of changes. Was on Oasis recently & have never had a bad or boring meal in main dining rm of Royal Carib until this one. Even the buffet was a boring! They’ve enlarged the ship, adding more cabins, but have not enlarged the free eating venues or elevators to accommodate the masses. Couldn’t ever get into J. Rockets or Seafood Shack-never open! Free donuts-ugh! Free seems to be a \dirty\ word cruising these days! I agree, when people with disposable income (repeat cruisers) stop coming or stop saving for these cruises, perhaps the ‘bean counters’ will realize what they have done. I guess they think one-timers will support the industry. I used to be excited about cruising. The excitement is gone especially if you are being ‘nickled & dimed!’

    78. Artsea
      December 22nd, 2011 @ 11:48 am

      I agree with those who think it’s okay for a cruise line to have a couple of special dining areas where they change extra to eat. I do see it as an evolving thing though. Eventually, only the buffet will be free. Dining rooms will all be available for an extra fee each time we use it. The cruise lines are getting very greedy. Beware!

    79. marcia
      December 22nd, 2011 @ 1:02 pm

      This is one of the reasons we love Carnival – they have limited for-fee restaurants and/or food. We have not sailed Norwegian because we don’t like all the extra nickle and diming. And if RC continues this way, we won’t sail them either.

    80. Bill
      December 22nd, 2011 @ 1:08 pm

      I think the cruise lines are missing one of the main attractions of a cruise, that you pay up front and then don’t worry about anything else. At every nickle and dime, it makes me wonder if what I paid for. At some point you are just getting a hotel room at sea. It also seems like most ships are letting the quality go in the remaining free choices to MAKE you NEED to go to an upcharge space. They have to feed you, they have paid for the help, I fail to see what extra costs are incurred?

    81. Janna
      December 23rd, 2011 @ 10:03 am

      Doesn’t matter to me. It’s a choice. If I don’t want to pay, I don’t have to pay. Big whoop. It’s still cheaper than most land vacations.

    82. kruz'n duo
      December 23rd, 2011 @ 11:16 pm

      the proliferation of the ‘fee added’ dining options is totally out of control! yes, additional choices are nice, but there is no reason that they can not add some new choices for free also. OBVIOUSLY, the lines are showing a profit, just look at the number of new ships being built! we will be boycotting the multitude of ‘fee added’ options.

    83. Rita lena
      December 25th, 2011 @ 1:38 pm

      As long as we, the passengers, are looking for \deals\ the cruise copanies are going to come up with ways to try and recover the discounts they’re offering. One rarely meets any passenger on board who doesn’t boast of some sort of \Special fare\. It has to come at some sort of cost, particularly in light of all the new security fees Govt’s are charging as well as fuel costs. Meals in the regular dining rooms are very ordinary.

    84. Aussie Dave
      December 26th, 2011 @ 9:40 pm

      We Australians can smell a rip-off miles away and lately the slogan of Princess cruises down under is “come forth and open your wallets”. Having said this, the Sterling Steakhouse extra $AUD20 surcharge is not too bad for a good celebration with friends etc. Usually once only per cruise. The steaks have always been top notch. However, object to $19.95 for a photo. I will avoid any cruise company that starts having more “add-ons”.

    85. Gary
      December 26th, 2011 @ 11:48 pm

      I think the time is coming that soon, R.C.C.L.will be an ala carte cruise line, with the only “free” meals, the breakfast some hotel offerings.
      Wait and, see…ever so slowly, they are getting the passengers to accept this style cruises.

    86. Brian
      December 28th, 2011 @ 8:52 am

      I don’t have a problem with a small fee being charged in order to offer more variety. What I am afraid is happening is that the quality of the free food is declining, making the “fee” choices almost imposible to avoid if you want to eat good food. My first and only experience on NCL was that the main dining room food was aweful, so we were forced to pay the upcharge to eat (better but not wonderful) food in the other restaraunts.

    87. Joe
      December 28th, 2011 @ 1:43 pm

      I want to know when all the complainers and whiners & criers will be charged a fee for their constant complaining!

    88. Roberto
      December 29th, 2011 @ 11:17 am

      I was thinking about taking my 5th cruise next summer(I was thinking either Carnival Valor or Oasis) but after reading all these comments, I can’t deny that now I am more confused than ever about deciding which cruise line should I choose. I am also not too happy about the for-fee restaurants and the food quality/service in the MDR going downhill. Maybe I will consider flying to a resort in some of these port of calls instead, eventhough it might be a little bit more expensive.

    89. Joe King
      December 30th, 2011 @ 10:16 pm

      One thing that is seldom discussed when talking about the value that a cruise provides is the fact that almost all passengers are staying in a little shoebox of a room…way way smaller than you would normally have at a hotel…and i would bet that many of the passengers bathroom at their home is larger than their cruise cabin…but it is a tradeoff stay in a shoebox but your food/entertainment/transport is mostly included. As less and less is included that shoe box starts to look more and more like a budget hotel room.

    90. Loren Ficca
      January 8th, 2012 @ 12:04 pm

      Stop bitching people. if you don’t like what the cruise lines are doing then don’t take a cruise. You have the “option” to go to a restaurant where you pay extra. No one is making you do it!!!! There are plenty of places to eat where the food is part of the cruise cost.

    91. Tom
      January 15th, 2012 @ 9:28 am

      Picture a not quite correct vision of the future. Will the toilet be the next frontier where basic items are dispensed “FOR FEE”?

      Sick of the RCCL nickel-and-dime. It’s is a big reason we don’t cruise them any more.

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