Whether it’s coffee and croissants on your balcony or pizza and a movie in your cabin after a long day on the beach, room service is the kind of we're-not-at-home luxury we cruise for. It's convenient on mornings with early shore excursions and decadent on days when wearing your jammies until dinner is your idea of a restful vacay. Families cruising with children rely on it to relieve the stress of mealtime in crowded dining rooms. And who doesn't need an afternoon pick-me-up of cookies or nachos?
While it used to be that most food delivered to your stateroom was included in your cruise fare, there are now exceptions. We've scoured the policies and menus for the details on room service fees and the extra charges of the major cruise lines to help you avoid surprises.
If you're wondering whether a cruise ship room service fee replaces a tip, the answer is no, it does not. Tips for room service waitstaff are generally expected at the time of delivery unless the menu specifies that a gratuity is being added automatically. The exception is a room service meal served by your butler, who should be tipped at the end of the cruise on lines where tips are not included.
Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival offers a variety of fee-free food on its room service menu, including continental breakfast, sandwiches and some desserts, along with juices, coffee, tea and milk from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. There are small charges from $2 to $6 during the day for things like quesadillas, pizza, fries and banana splits.
All late-night room service from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. comes with a price tag, but is $2 really too much to pay for a brownie at midnight if you need one? Beer, wine, bar drinks and soft drinks are all at regular bar prices, regardless of the time of day or night.
Between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m., Celebrity's free room service includes some hot foods, such as scrambled eggs and breakfast meats, in addition to cold foods like cereals and pastries, plus the beverages that would be included elsewhere on the ship. Menus are supplemented with specialty items that are priced individually. All orders received between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. incur a fee of $4.95 per order.
Suites and Concierge and Aqua Class staterooms do not incur the late-night fee. Those rooms also have an enhanced room service breakfast menu and specialty snack bites delivered each day. Suites have in-room specialty coffee and a variety of complimentary mini-bar beverages that are re-stocked daily, eliminating the need to order those from room service. (Complimentary mini-bar offerings vary by suite category.)
Disney Cruise Line
There is not a room service fee on Disney cruises, but some snacks, like M&Ms, popcorn and peanuts have upcharges, as do wine, beer and soft drinks. There are specially priced beverage packages among the room service offerings -- think six-packs of soda or beer. The free room service menu includes pizza, hamburgers, sandwiches and even grilled salmon. And don't forget cookies, ice cream and desserts (because you are on vacation).
Holland America Line
Holland America has a wide-ranging room service menu, featuring a combination of complimentary basic choices and charged items. Specialty breakfast items like steak and eggs or smoked salmon benedict incur a fee; later in the day, specialty restaurant options are available for an extra charge. Items include bento boxes from A Taste of Tamarind or lobster from the Pinnacle Grill for $20, both delivered between 5:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
The late-night complimentary menu, available from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., pares down the list of choices to eight options for snacks and sweets, but burgers from Dive In are available around the clock for $4.95. Holland America's room service is offered during breakfast hours on debarkation day -- a unique standout among the mainstream cruise lines.
MSC packages "experiences" that encompass the type and location of cabin you will occupy and the range of services that will be included in your cruise fare. A room service delivery fee of $4.99 per order is added for the lowest-priced Bella Experience. Sailing under the Fantastica or Aurea Experience eliminates the fee, but room service menus for all three experiences include both free items and paid choices. Cruisers staying in MSC Yacht Club suites incur no fee for room service and have in-suite mini-bars, eliminating the need for room service for their favorite beverages.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian adds a $9.95 room service fee to all orders other than continental breakfast and morning coffee. The breakfast menu includes omelets and French toast under the heading of "Specialty Selections" for which the $9.95 fee applies. The all-day menu is available from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and has an extensive selection, ranging from salads to grilled salmon. There are four choices of pizza, plus burgers, hot dogs and desserts. Passengers staying in The Haven do not incur the service charge.
There is no flat room service fee on Princess. The menu is divided between complimentary choices and those with upcharges, primarily snacks and beverages. Suite passengers have the added benefit of ordering room service from the Main Dining Room menu during its operating hours. Princess also offers a paid option called Ultimate Balcony Dining, involving a surf and turf dinner menu or a Champagne breakfast menu, both with flowers for the table and course-by-course service on your balcony.
Royal Caribbean International
Continental breakfast and breakfast beverages ordered for room service are complimentary on Royal Caribbean from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. All other room service orders incur a $7.95 fee plus 18% gratuity (which eliminates fumbling at the door for tip money). There are hot menu items like fried eggs or pancakes on the breakfast menu that incur the fee, as does the complete all-day menu (11 a.m. to 6 a.m.).
The general menu lets you refuel with everything from burgers and pizza to chicken fettuccini alfredo. Finish up with warm chocolate chip cookies or a slice of cheesecake. Cruisers sailing in Grand Suites and above will have the fee waived. Those same suite passengers have in-suite coffee and tea kettles, and they have the option of ordering from the main dining room menu when it is open.
Luxury and Upscale Cruise Lines
It has probably become apparent by now that, in general, the more you pay for your stateroom, the less likely you are to incur a room service fee. That holds true among the luxury lines, such as Crystal, Regent, Seabourn and Silversea, and upscale lines like Viking, Azamara, Oceania and Windstar, none of which charges a separate fee for room service.
Luxury lines typically make almost anything a passenger desires appear magically in the hands of a butler. Want buttered popcorn with your afternoon movie? Not a problem. Cheese plate every afternoon at 3 p.m.? Sure. All luxury lines offer extensive room service menus, as well as the option to order from the main dining room menu during its hours of operation. You may even request course-by-course service.