Thursday, April 9, 2015

What does the Room Service Charge mean for Cruise Passengers?

Good Morning America's Genevieve Shaw Brown asked the question: "are the cruise lines going the way of the airlines?" with regards to their new fees for room service. The short answer to Brown's question is "yes." Carnival is only the first to follow NCL's move to charge fees related to room service. Assuming Carnival has some level of success with the new pricing, other lines will follow.

There are a few reasons why room service is a good testing ground for the a la carte cruise fees. Unlike the main dining options on a ship, room service does have slightly higher cost to the cruise companies. They don't get the mass efficiency that they would in large dining areas accommodating hundreds of passengers at once. Testing fees and special pricing is also easier to implement at the room service level. Cruise ships don't want to bog down service in big dining areas with special pricing or their related systems (hence why beverages service is a separate team in many dining areas). Room service -- with its one-on-one and room specific element -- enables easier pricing and price tracking without slowing service. Like the airlines, it also encourages behaviors the companies want. The cruise companies want you out of your room spending money somewhere. If you stay in your room, they are going to get money from you some way. Think of it as a penalty for staying in your room.

It is also interesting that Carnival's fee structure is different from NCL. Instead of a straight service charge, they are charging different prices for select menu items. Expect other lines to add their own twists too, especially in an effort to make the customers feel like they are not getting fees.

In the end this will creep into other formerly free areas of cruises. Perhaps certain entertainment or areas of the ship will now come with more premium or a la carte pricing. It is only natural as the cruise lines look for new revenue streams. But even with the new fees, cruises remain an incredible vacation value.

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