Observed Onboard: Charging for Water?

April 28, 2014 | By | 31 Comments

The dream of ‘all-inclusive’ cruising has slowly eroded over the last two decades; few topics inspire as much passion as outrageous ‘nickel and diming’ charges on Cruise Critic message boards.
On my recent cruise through the Norwegian fjords on Hurtigruten Lofoten, however, I found one of the most unusual charge yet: water.
It wasn’t that I was charged for tap water. But the water dispenser/juice machine in the dining room was covered up immediately after breakfast and we weren’t allowed to be served any during lunch and dinner. That left us thirsty cruisers swiping our cards for bottled water at meals – which carried a typically high price tag for Norway of $4 for a small (half liter) bottle.

When I talked to Hurtigruten about the charge, they said they are, “investing a lot in improving its food and beverage offering on board, from local food and drink, to enhanced service standards.” They also added, “Norwegian bottled water is refreshing and pure, and will help enhance the dining experience.”
Onboard, however, crew struggled to explain the new policy so succinctly. When told by waiters that they couldn’t be served the same tap water at dinner that they drank at breakfast, passengers wondered if the house liquid was safe. And when they found out it was, they questioned why the dispensers were turned off.
Nothing prevented passengers from heading to the cafeteria – normally reserved for locals who hop on and off during the trip, and eat on a meal plan – from filling up a cup of water and carrying it into the dining room. I didn’t see anyone doing that, however.
There are a few exceptions where passengers can pretend they’re living in another, simpler time, back when water was, well, free. Fancy some wine with dinner? Hurtigruten throws in a free half liter of water. Water packages are also available.
The policy came up in a recent Cruise Critic Q and A with Hurtigruten Managing Director Kathryn Beadle. When asked, Beadle said, “I can confirm that a decision has been made to charge for all drinks served in the main restaurant on-board, unless a drinks package has been purchased.
We are in the process of advising customers, so they are aware of the policy and continue to offer free tap water in the bars, café and elsewhere on board. “
On the thread, CC members were not pleased with the policy – and reported their own workarounds. Said CC member digitl: “We took water from the Bistro area of Fram into the dining room each meal. A nuisance, but we will not pay for tap water.”
It makes us wonder, with trepidation, what the next charge could be.


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    31 Responses to “Observed Onboard: Charging for Water?”

    1. Mike Vee
      April 28th, 2014 @ 3:25 pm

      The next charge will be the ‘poop’ charge. Have more than one bowel movement in 24 hours – that will be an extra $7.

    2. Denise
      April 28th, 2014 @ 3:28 pm

      We had a similar experience on a recent Costa Cruise – dispensers were covered and at mealtime the waiter would give us tap water once but never refilled our glasses. We ended up buying a large bottle from our room mini bar and carrying it into the dining room. There were few free drink offered at all. This is a sad state for cruisers but something to plan for in your budget!

    3. ann alcazar
      April 28th, 2014 @ 3:31 pm

      During 3013 Norwegian Dawn…
      Upon arriving inboard we requested water for our room for mess etc. We were brought x2 bottles. Medium I would say. The next night we asked for more and along with the water came a bill for. $55. We asked the steward and told him it was excessive and we thought it was free. He agreed and told us to just order a pitcher be delivered to our room in the morn. They did. Free of charge. Why not tell people in the first place? Not a good memory. Everything else was super..

    4. Ed Gramauskas
      April 28th, 2014 @ 3:32 pm


    5. Michael Walsh
      April 28th, 2014 @ 3:53 pm

      Did you specifically ask for tap water with dinner? It is completely normal in European restaurants to get bottled water unless you ask for tap.

    6. Manya
      April 28th, 2014 @ 3:56 pm

      It is the norm in Europe that you buy bottled water in restaurants and only really in North America that water is served from the tap in restaurants as an automatic.

      This is not gouging but simply the price of traveling and eating in restaurants… It really baffles me that people think of this as gouging… If you want to travel, you must be aware of what you will need to pay for… whatever happened to ASKING… if you are new to that cruise line or are ordering something you have never ordered, ASK if there is a charge…

      In Europe, many restaurants place a bottle of red wine on the table. If you open it, and drink it, why would you be surprised when there is a charge for the wine when you get the bill? Is that gouging?

      Yes, cruise lines are in business to make money. How can you expect rock bottom prices and still expect extras included like free bottled water? (as did one of the people commenting)

      As a European company, Hurtigruten did what is normal and the only thing I can see that they could improve upon is spelling out their policies to North American travelers as they market to capture a greater North American client base

    7. inna
      April 28th, 2014 @ 3:58 pm

      i really understand the dissapointment of some of the guests regarding the services on board…i work for a cruise ship company , i hear every day special requests that we try to honour as much as we can but it seems that many of the guests forget that the ship is first of all a hotel…when booking a room at a hotel you pay the minibar and every drink you consume even in the restaurant … when travelling on a cruise a lot of people asume that a lot of services are free without checking with the travel agent or even reading the information received in board …and we do provide a lot of materials on board that people do not read . the problem with the water on board is that we do not recommend it for everyday drinking…it is not dirty..in fact it is so many times passed through the sistem that it will eventually lose all the minerals drinking water should contain and will have a rough formula too strong for some to digest.

    8. Fran Ota
      April 28th, 2014 @ 4:05 pm

      Interesting – Hurtigruten didn’t do that on the Finnmarken.

    9. Barb conrad
      April 28th, 2014 @ 4:06 pm

      Does this apply to Pride of America Hawaii Norwegian cruise line? Thanks

    10. Leigh
      April 28th, 2014 @ 4:29 pm

      Hmmm. Seems very non-Earth friendly. Maybe part of the charge is the fees for having to store all those full bottles and dispose of the empty ones!

    11. Susan faneuf
      April 28th, 2014 @ 4:47 pm

      This was the rule on our MSC cruise in Italy. I heard that when they cruise the Bahamas from the US that they do not do it but offer tap water. I don’t know if that is correct. Just what I heard.

    12. Karen
      April 28th, 2014 @ 4:53 pm

      Please CLARIFY your article that this was NOT Norwegian Cruise Line but you were referring to Norwegian as in COUNTRY. Facebook peeps are not getting that, lord help us…

    13. RobBar
      April 28th, 2014 @ 4:58 pm

      This is wrong period, nothing to do with customs of a country.
      A ship makes pure water so shutting down the dispense4rs is a money making scheme.

      Yes , in a hotel restaurant one asks for tap water only to ensure not bottled.
      The customer has a right not to be taken advantage of and should tell the cruise line front desk this is not valid and explain to the waiter I will not sign for that bottled water if you place on my table. A lot of cruise lines will try to place bottled water at your table on the first night and once you say NO , please give me tap water then that is the norm.
      To even suggest as some say it is better than the ships water assumes we are stupid. No cruise ship is allowed to sail if its ability to create pure clean water for consumption is effected.

    14. Kerry Drennan
      April 28th, 2014 @ 5:10 pm

      Our last cruise Panama Canal from Miami to LA on the Norwegian star we were never offered water with dinner even the specialty restaurants. In the buffet you counldn’t serve yourself coffe, milk, tea or water they had it roped off and had someone to serve you. No coffee or water on the Lido deck either, they said it was because of the nor-or virus or what ever….But no water at dinner??? no reason was ever given, so we took off the automatic tip at the end of the cruise…We’ll see this time on a pacific coastal in May if this happens again.

    15. Claudia Sedlmeir
      April 28th, 2014 @ 8:35 pm

      I was born in Germany. I moved to Canada 15 years ago. Being a new Canadian citizens nothing surprised me more than the fact of being served FREE water in restaurants. We as Germans had never heard of free coffee refills either. That’s a typical North American custom. My saying is: “when you are in Rome, do as the Romans do” – don’t expect what you are used from home, in foreign lands.

    16. Paula Lucey
      April 28th, 2014 @ 9:05 pm

      Free? No .. Included yes! Do they charge extra for coffee or tea?

    17. Tigerbay
      April 28th, 2014 @ 11:32 pm

      On a recent Norwegian Breakaway Bahamas cruise- water and otter included drinks flowed freely. Coffee always available.

    18. P. Hinds
      April 29th, 2014 @ 7:22 am

      This is not an extension of European resturant practices; this is a new policy and obviously an attempt to generate additional money.

      In USA waters, or flagged ships, US regulations apply; this means free water must be made available. I have never experienced where tap water was not available.

      I always travel, and recommend others also, with a water bottle so I can refill from the potable water tap in the room.

    19. P. Hinds
      April 29th, 2014 @ 7:29 am


      All powered ships generate distilled water. In steam powered warships the “lowest distilled quality” goes to the water tanks. Tested for bacteria, etc. (I used to do this).

      Distilled water is fine for consumption – does not “taste” right because it has no taste. Naval crews will be drinking distilled water for months on end. Trace minerals are replenished fine from your food.

      The only reason NOT to serve free ships water to the passengers is money. While generating fresh water requires power the cruise ships are generating much more per day for showers and washing.

    20. Raymond Shook
      April 29th, 2014 @ 11:40 am

      I will not cruise with any cruiseline that will not make easily available and or charges for tap water. That is wrong. This goes for any cruiseline. So far, I have only cruised with Carnival. I will shut my wallet and walk away so very quickly if I ever encounter that on a cruise…

    21. Priscila
      April 29th, 2014 @ 12:36 pm

      I live in Belgium and I can confirm being served tap water in a restaurant is not even an option. This idea just don’t exist. Mostly because tap water here, though considered safe, does not taste good due to excessive limescale.

    22. P. Hinds
      May 2nd, 2014 @ 9:45 am

      Now this company is offering a 30% discount on selected Antarctic cruises. Will they make up for discount by charging $6.00 a half-liter for water??

    23. Vivian Cain
      May 12th, 2014 @ 11:26 am

      In 2012, we sailed the Baltic Sea on the Norwegian Sun. It was wonderful. Most evenings we ate in one of the MDR. My husband only drinks water and they never hesitated to refill his glass. He travels all over the world for business so he knows to ask for it if it is not done by the waiter when he first greats you. On occasions we ate in the specialty restaurants. The food was very good (a step up from MDR)and the atmosphere made it worth every penny. They were small and intimate and they had great views. It’s nice to be able to get away from the crowd for a little while.

      We bought bottled water by the six pack in half liter bottles to take on our excursions and for in the room. Yes it was a little more expensive then at home but much more convenient to have before we left the ship then having to find a place to buy it on the tour. We never encountered the “no access” for drinks after meals and we never encountered any additional fees for things that you would expect to be free.

      Twelve years ago when we did our first cruise with our sons on board Carnival. They were already charging for drink cards. The drink cards were much more economical then buying per drink.

      In June we are cruising with Princess on a cruise/land tour package of Alaska. The only thing that has caught me off guard is that the land portion does not include meals since all meals are included on the ship;however they have made it clear up front. I’m not offended since I know up front.

      The key to any good trip is research.

      We can’t wait to go. Life is to short to let these things get you worked up.

    24. BPrescott
      June 15th, 2014 @ 7:06 pm

      In Norway as in the UK it is normal for most restaurants to serve free tap water on request. Hurtigruten did so until the beginning of March 2014 and then decided it could make money out of the fact that people are teapped aboard its ships for up to 12 days. So it’s not custom and practice: it’s a rip off unique in Norway

    25. Ian Ridpath
      November 2nd, 2014 @ 4:52 am

      BPrescott, above, is correct. Hurtigruten introduced the new water policy in March this year (2014). Whoever did so has no understanding of the market. Any respectable restaurant will serve tap water on request. Americans expect it as a matter of course, and they expect it iced! Taking in your own is not an option, as the restaurant managers are instructed to confiscate any glass or cups being taken in. They excuse this on the grounds that it might be alcohol. The policy has caused to much customer resentment that I fear Hurtigruten’s reputation for good, friendly service with no sneaky add-on charges (unlike traditional cruise lines) has been seriously damaged. Perhaps their new owners will change the policy if they wish to promote what they term their “world class” experience.

    26. Ed Collis
      December 24th, 2014 @ 3:41 pm

      I just refill my own 500ml water bottles every morning in the buffet. Those plastic disposable bottles can be reused MANY times, and they fit nicely in your pocket when going ashore.

      No problemo…Free water.

    27. Cindy Peete
      December 24th, 2014 @ 7:21 pm

      Removing the automatic tip at the end of your cruise punishes a wide variety of people who wait on you throughout the cruise for a policy over which the have no control. The appropriate response is to complain to the cruise line, the “hotel” manager, and your travel agent.

    28. Mel Spera
      December 24th, 2014 @ 7:42 pm

      I love to cruise and hate to pay for water:-) I usually buy a bottle of water at the airport and board with the bottle (empty or full) depending how long the flight is. Then every morning I refill my bottle from the ice bucket. Easy easy!

    29. Marilyn Z
      December 25th, 2014 @ 10:25 am

      I have been on ships where the tap water was totally undrinkable…smelled like it was taken from one of the pools.

      I understand cruise lines wanting to make money, but I have never been on one that restricted tap water like they say here.

      Norwegian needs to be very careful. Our favorite port is Houston, not Galveston, and when looking for cruises I have noticed that Norwegian usually has the cheapest and fastest dropping prices. Maybe that is because they are nickel and diming themselves out of business. I wouldn’t know firsthand since it has been many years since I was on one of their ships.

      Someone said they removed their gratuities. I would not favor punishing the hard-working crew for a cruise line’s policy. That doesn’t affect the line in the least.

    30. Dan
      January 5th, 2015 @ 2:30 pm

      As a Swiss I wanted to reafirm that there is a law in Switzerland that all restaurants must serve tap water free of charge upon request.

      Not many people know this but as a food and health inspector that’s one of the first things I learned.

    31. Martha
      June 8th, 2015 @ 9:30 am

      I have found in Europe that I always have to buy bottled water if I want water with my meal, so I was not surprised to have to do this on the ship. Water was provided in pitchers at breakfast, though. While I purchased a water card, others in my group chose to bring their own water bottles to meals. It really wasn’t a problem.

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