7 Scariest Cruise Ship Added Fees

October 31, 2012 | By | 19 Comments

Alongside the staple at-sea fears — the demonic Caribbean sun, ocean squalls and the drunken passenger who mistakes your cabin for his — is a new at-sea terror: added fees. Cheekiness aside, we’ve rounded up seven surcharges representing the frightening new normal of cruise pricing. Are the charges optional? Sure. But that doesn’t lessen our dread upon spotting a $37 surf ‘n’ turf on the main dining room menu or seeing a $30 corkage fee applied to our novelty size bottle of wine.

Royal’s main dining room steak and lobster. Royal Caribbean’s recently updated MDR menus encourage passengers to celebrate their cravings with a $15 filet or $37.50 surf ‘n’ turf. (Picture here.) Since cruise time immemorial, these options were “free” on at least one night in the MDR, that former haven of included cuisine. The freebies are still there, but they’re shrinking in size and quality. RCI’s dining rooms have offered a la carte steaks since 2008, and in June, surf joined turf. While Royal is alone in offering up-charge steaks and seafood in the MDR, we wouldn’t be surprised to see others adding such “options.” But what might be more frightening than the food is the confusing 15 percent gratuity Royal levies. The food is certainly unique; the service and venue are not. There is no special presentation of the lobster, no dancing crustacean or earnest rendition of “Under the Sea.”
Celebrity’s Lawn Club cabanas. Celebrity’s five Solstice-class ships feature perhaps cruising’s most iconic sun deck space, the grassy Lawn Club. But the addition of added fee experiences — private cabanas, or Alcoves — on versions four (Celebrity Silhouette) and five (Celebrity Reflection) have transformed the public park into a more exclusive village green. The eight four-person Alcoves certainly are photogenic: white wicker chairs and chaises with thick striped cushions, potted shrubbery and a canvas roof that stretches sail-like over occupants, all set atop the signature soft carpet of grass. The added cost is $99 (port day) and $145 (sea day), which includes bottled water, fruit and use of a loaded iPad 2 (wine and picnic package start at $50). The issue of cost relates to our main gripe. Alcoves occupy prime real estate open to book-and-towel-toting passengers on Solstice, Equinox and Eclipse, who can plop down, surcharge-free, on sunny days.
Late-night room service fees. 3:33 a.m. can be scary enough without having to pay $3.95 for room service, the fee levied between midnight and 5 a.m. by Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line. Both argue that the fee is about reducing food waste. Passengers on the edge of sleep order food, then conk out before it arrives. We’ll buy that, but it also bears mentioning that a formerly “free” service now generates revenue, too. It’s a win-win for the line. Still, passengers with late-night cravings can get their fixes without any added fees, provided they’re alert enough to leave the cabin and head to one of NCL or RCI’s 24-hour dining venues.
Corkage fees. While most mainstream mega-ship lines officially forbid passengers from bringing liquor and beer onboard, wine is fine. Want to drink your bottle in the main dining room? You’ll pay anywhere from (a modest) $10 to a more dubious $30. This is a reasonably standard charge for a land-based restaurant with a wine list, but what really gets us are the cruise lines that charge the fee even if a waiter never gets anywhere near your cork. NCL, for instance, puts a levy on all wine brought onboard. Check out our comprehensive guide to cruise line alcohol policies for more.
Paying to cut in line. When Carnival introduced Faster to the Fun, a $49.95 program that gives a capacity-controlled number of passengers early boarding, early cabin check-in and a special line at Guest Services, many readers were miffed. The most loyal Carnival cruisers, the Diamonds and Platinums, already enjoyed those perks — would letting people opt in for $50 dilute what the elites’ loyalty had “earned”? “I think it devaluates the loyalty that people have, and were/are willing to show to any organization, when you start selling those perks for a fee,” Facebook follower Andi Scott posted, echoing a common sentiment. Still, not all are opposed. At the time of the announcement, a Cruise Critic poll found that 30 percent would pay for the perks. The debate continues on the message boards, with equal parts lauding and lambasting.
Ascending alternative restaurant surcharges. The price and number of alternative dining options have expanded like an overfilled soufflé. Where just over a decade ago, a $5 surcharge — a tip, lines called it — would appear in the one added-fee specialty venue, today’s newest mega-ships feature the $30-a-head steakhouse, the $39 Le Cirque-themed restaurant and, in Disney Cruise Line’s case, the $75 per person French venue, Remy. Jason Lasecki, DCL’s public relations director, addressed the fee in early 2011, when the restaurant debuted on Disney Dream. “This is not just a specialty restaurant, it’s an eight-to-nine-course culinary journey featuring dishes exquisitely crafted by two-star Michelin chef Arnaud Lallement and AAA five-diamond award winning chef Scott Hunnel.” Other explanations of up-charge dining focus on the intimacy and value — even at $40 a person sans wine. But the price creep has worried many cruisers. “They are making more and more venues available for a ‘small fee’ and it seems to be getting to the point where you’re not really getting the full experience unless you do try some of these out,” wrote Stags14.
For-fee … bathrobes. This is a new one for us. Many mega-ship lines, including Carnival and Celebrity, provide bathrobes to all passengers as an included perk. P&O Cruises Australia offers those icons of leisure to suite pax — and charges $29.95 AU for anyone else who wants a robe. The one benefit: It might diminish the chances of seeing a bathrobe-clad passenger in the buffet or casino. The horror.
Not chilled by any of our picks? Share your own in the comments or tell us where we went wrong.
Oh, you thought everything should be included in the fare? See 20 great fee-free options that still are.
If you’d rather pay for everything up front — even if it seems like quite a bit more — a luxury cruise might be for you.
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    19 Responses to “7 Scariest Cruise Ship Added Fees”

    1. Joe Reimers
      October 31st, 2012 @ 11:34 am

      I agree in large part with many of the ticky-tack restaurant surcharges, however, in the case of “extreme” specialty restaurants (such as DCL’s Remy), I can somewhat see it. In a vacuum, $75 per person is a huge upcharge. However, the intent is to offer a seaborne equivalent to Victoria & Albert’s, where they charge $135 per person. In that context, $75 seems like a bargain (although to me, it seems like a fantastic amount to spend on a meal.)

    2. Joyce Krewson
      November 1st, 2012 @ 9:14 pm

      Just back from Royal Carb. Independence of the seas, may I add, my first time on RC, and very much so the last. I always thought it was an upscale line, but Carnival & Celebrity & Princess have RC beat in so many ways. I was on Carnival Western Caribbean cruise last year and my Husband went with me. Only 7 days, & this one on RC was 14 days, after 7 days, I was ready to go home. They charge for almost everything extra. Carnival even let us bring one bottle of our favorite wine onboard, not RC. So—— go figure

    3. Jason
      November 5th, 2012 @ 8:48 am

      Carnival, the Wal-mart of cruise lines. They are so Gaudy and the crowds are straight from the Redneck Olympics. Celebrity, RCCL and Azamara Club for me. I avoid all cruise lines owned by Carnival Corporation.

    4. Robert Morley
      November 5th, 2012 @ 11:02 am

      The thing is, you’ve already “paid” for a MDR meal worth, say, $40, so to add another $ 40 is, to me, asking too nuch

    5. veronique
      November 5th, 2012 @ 11:34 am

      I woudl like to comment on the Surf n Turf you described above. We have just cruised on the Allure of the Seas, with the new menu in the MDR. It is true that there is a section with cost items, but we did still have our Free lobster night and had plenty to go around. We did have a steak, prime rib or other beef option every night as well. It is misleading to say that these free options are not there anymore. The food was terrific and we ate at the MDR every night without paying a cent extra.

    6. DAVE
      November 5th, 2012 @ 3:57 pm

      I only sail Carnival and I’m worth millions!! Carnival is more laid back, and you do not have to deal with all the snobbs!!

    7. Floretta
      November 5th, 2012 @ 4:40 pm

      Love your comment Dave!!

    8. Phil - aka Liat
      November 5th, 2012 @ 6:23 pm

      And then there is Oceania, which had no extra charges for most of their very nice alternative restaurants – except one very small venue on Marina and Riviera. And we never saw it used while on our Marina cruise.

    9. Dana
      November 5th, 2012 @ 7:10 pm

      I cruise fairly often (8 times in 2011, only 5 this year) and I am Platinum with Carnival. The fact that they now have a fast lane you can pay for demonstrates their lack of adoration of Platinum and Diamond. One reason why I am currently working on upping my status on NCL.

    10. Mary
      November 5th, 2012 @ 8:01 pm

      Princess has one semi & one formal night. They don’t exclude anyone who isn’t dressed properly. And its unfortunate in that……. backwards dirty baseball caps, t-shirts with questionable statements, dirty jeans etc. are allowed entry dining NO PROBLEM. I no longer take my “best clothes” but nice “resort wear”. Husband no longer takes suits, or sport coat. I appreciate presentable clothes (NOT formal) when dining in the MDR as its nice to be served in the manner they present. If you don’t want to “comply” hit the buffet, please.

    11. tonia
      November 5th, 2012 @ 8:03 pm

      Same here Floretta I feel more comfortable on Carnival.I have tried other cruise lines and don’t feel comfortable and at ease.

    12. Mary lou
      November 5th, 2012 @ 8:12 pm

      Im with you Dave on that one

    13. mari
      November 5th, 2012 @ 9:19 pm

      @Dave…It’s “snob” not “snobb’!

    14. Martha
      November 5th, 2012 @ 9:26 pm

      Looks like the cruise lines are taking a page out of the airlines’ books with all of the add-ons. It annoys me just as much when cruise lines do it. We moved from Princess a couple of years ago to Oceania, just to avoid the nickel and diming. I really don’t think it’s much more expensive if you do a $$ to $$ comparison. And the food is wonderful, no formal nights, and only 1250 passesngers on their two bigger ships. It’s definitely worth it.

    15. Wizard
      November 8th, 2012 @ 6:17 am

      WELL…seems everyone is in agreement and WE REALLY HIT THE WORST on our past Celebrity Constellation SH-SH Europe trip. FIRST:The ship at large had already been ‘hit’ with NORO VIRUS and NO ONE in advance was advised; IF we had been there was at LEAST some meds that could have been prescribed to a certain preventable level but NO ONE KNEW and THEY(SHIP) DID!! SECOND: the SERVICE was deplorable for the most part and ESPECIALLY in the ‘UPGRADED’ restaurants which we had 2 reservations each for in advance; after first one, we CANCELLED ALL! NEXT: Excursions were almost DOUBLE priced as in past,NOT worthy of hours of busriding OR the FOOD served at the one lunch that made several people ill,myself included!! It took HOURS & HOURS (with TOP Celebrity Status) to even begin to adjust or fight the issues! My husband MISSED tours after FIRST TIME EVER becoming ill and they QUARANTINED HIM!!! “I” missed FOUR days of cruise and was more sick than HE and NVER, EVR SICK AT SEA in ALL the years! We don’t know WHAT to say and the FACT they KNEW IT WAS THERE is even MORE MADDENING and 90% if major DR, crew staff knew us from ALL previous cruises were SHOCKED but knew’behind the scenes’ that WE weren’t TOLD and were always’fine’ cruising!! Most attitudes at front desk were fine but a couple were disinterested and it took time and time again to formulate in writing AND in discussion to get resolution!! NOT HAPPY and VERY DISAPPOINTED IN CELEBRITY as a whole!

    16. marelaine
      November 15th, 2012 @ 4:07 pm

      It’s simple. Don’t pay for any of these silly extras. The cruise lines will get the message when their alcoves are empty and no one orders the ‘special steak’ in the MDR.

    17. Brenda
      November 15th, 2012 @ 8:40 pm

      I agree with Dave and the others about Carnival. I have been on 12 cruises (13th booked for April) and all have been on Carnival. And, no, I am not in the party crowd-just several older people that enjoy cruising and with Carnival.

    18. Bernice beja
      December 16th, 2012 @ 11:38 pm

      I agree to beat extra charges in MDR don’t order those menu items

    19. Susanne
      September 2nd, 2013 @ 8:15 pm

      Carnival = Save A Lot.


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