(5:10 p.m. EDT) -- The dollar-per-swallow index just went up in Carnival Cruise Lines' for-fee steakhouses, which are found on 13 of the operator's mega-ships.
The line has raised its steakhouse fees from $30 to $35 per person. Carnival spokesperson Vance Gulliksen blamed higher food costs for the price hike and said that the recently upped tariff is "consistent with other alterative restaurant charges within the cruise industry." Indeed, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization's bovine meat index has been hovering at an all time high.
Gulliksen maintained that the steakhouse dinners, which include appetizers, a main course and a dessert for $35, "continue to remain an outstanding value." (Alcohol is extra.)
While this is the first price hike in nearly a decade, it's not the only recent example of Carnival trimming its steakhouse-related overhead. In January, the line unveiled a new steakhouse menu, which was notable for one conspicuous absence -- the long-available 24-ounce porterhouse, a cut of beef that rolls New York strip and filet mignon into one. In its place was an 18-ounce prime rib chop, a significantly lower cost cut of beef.
Gulliksen says that Carnival will honor the $30-per-head surcharge for those who had pre-reserved meals online by June 1, for upcoming cruises sailing in June and July. Carnival's online booking program allows passengers to pre-reserve seats at dinner -- but they ultimately pay for the meals onboard.
In related added-fee news, Carnival has begun charging for specialty coffees -- $2 for espressos, $2.95 for lattes and cappuccinos -- during lunch and dinner in Carnival Miracle's main dining room. The line has long offered these coffee drinks at no extra cost, but plans eventually to roll out the new fees fleetwide.
In an e-mail, Gulliksen said that the type of coffee served in [Miracle's] main dining rooms has been upgraded to the same level of quality as the coffee served in the line's fleetwide, for-fee coffee bars, and noted that the upcharge is "consistent with the practices of other cruise lines." He added that American-style coffee and hot and iced tea are available on a complimentary basis during lunch and dinner.
Now it's your turn: What do you think of the new fees? Weigh in below or on the Carnival Cruise Lines Forum.
--by Dan Askin, Senior Editor