(11:30 a.m. EDT) -- New ways of nickel and diming -- or, in British terms, penny-pinching -- are something we've all become used to on cruises. But charging for afternoon tea? Well, it's an initiative Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines reckons is going to work.
The idea is this: While ordinary afternoon tea will still be served on Fred. Olsen's ships in the main and self-service restaurants, a special tea will take place on certain afternoons in a cordoned-off area of the Observatory Lounge, with a supplementary charge.
For £5.95, passengers will be serenaded by classical musicians, served a variety of teas on fine bone china and offered a traditional English cream tea, complete with dainty cakes, finger sandwiches, scones, cream and jam.
The special teas have been trialled on Boudicca and have, according to a company statement, been such a success that the service is being rolled out across all four ships.
But will passengers be willing to pay? Fred. Olsen is not the first line to offer traditional English tea, although it is the first to charge for it. Cunard is famous for its white-glove teas and Crystal's Viennese-themed afternoon extravaganza is legendary among the line's fans (although Crystal is, admittedly, an ultra-luxury line, whereas Fred. Olsen is not). But even mass market Thomson offers free scones with cream in the afternoon -- and so does Fred. Olsen competitor P&O Cruises.
Cruise Critic members are of mixed opinion. Member Mattsuds commented:
"There is nothing in this 'offer' that I wouldn't routinely expect in a 'normal' afternoon tea. Every other major line offers free afternoon tea of some kind. It will make Fred look poor value."
London-based member Simonpjd added: "Let's be fair. £5.95 is not a 'nominal' fee. That's £12 a day which adds up very quickly."
But those who have tried the new tea are impressed. Member Marius, from West Sussex, said: "The quality of the tea, cakes, scones etc was superb and the white glove service made it a real occasion -- and this is the key. Do not think of it as paying extra for what you can get free elsewhere on board, it is an added and enhanced service which should be enjoyed and savoured."
Would you pay £5.95 for scones and cream in a posher setting? Or is this just a case of Fred. Olsen jumping on the supplementary charges bandwagon? Let us know!
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor
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Fred. Olsen Introduces Tea For Two -- For £5.95
June 8, 2010