Royal Caribbean cruisers will have to ponder that question on their next vacations. According to Cruise Critic member Elizanessie, Royal Caribbean will charge $3.95 per room service order delivered between midnight and 5 a.m. The new policy will be rolled out, fleetwide, on all cruises departing on or after January 1, 2009.
Royal Caribbean could not be reached for comment or confirmation, but its Web site does reflect the change. Its FAQ on room service states, "Room service is available onboard any time of the day or night -- simply order from the room service menu located in your stateroom/suite (late night service charge applies)."
Cruising -- long considered a mostly inclusive vacation, with many services included in the base price -- has been seeing more and more instances of extra fees in recent months. Passengers had to pay additional fuel surcharges on most 2008 cruises, and in September, Royal Caribbean riled Cruise Critic readers with a $14.95 surcharge on a steak served in the main dining room.
The new room service surcharge has created quite a discussion on an 18-page thread on the Cruise Critic Message Boards. Speculation on why Royal Caribbean instituted the new charge ranges from discouraging late-night room service to modifying staffing and ensuring that room service attendants get tipped appropriately. Many readers see this new charge as yet another sign of onboard nickel and diming. Member kidless says, "They want to keep the price of the cruise low to get you on the ship... then nickel and dime you once onboard! And they know most people will say 'it is only $3.95 it won't break me.' Unfortunately, $3.95 here, $5 there -- it all starts to add up!"
And cruisingator2 says, "I see this becoming more of what the future holds for mass-market cruising -- almost going to an a la carte type of experience. You pay one price for your accommodations and then extra for everything else onboard." Others aren't bothered so much by the charge. NanciRDH comments, "And a $3.95 charge for late night munchies isn't much. We usually tipped about that anyway."
Dougp26364 brings up the positive side of the new fee: "The one thing I hate about room service is trying to tip the person who brings it, when everything else on the ship is cashless. I just don't carry a lot of small bills around, and having the charge, which includes tip, for room service would eliminate that concern… In a weird sort of way, this might actually increase how often I use room service."
But the fee does raise some interesting questions, such as mheeren's: "I wonder how much of that is the tip... If the waiter only gets a pittance, and we need to pay the $3.95 PLUS add a bit, that's a problem." And jman_in_minnesota asks, "Do we still have to pay it if the food delivery takes longer than a freaking hour?"
We will continue to reach out to Royal Caribbean for answers to all of these questions. Stay tuned.
--by Erica Silverstein, Associate Editor
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