No Free Lunch! Carnival Cruise Lines To Start Charging For Room Service

When I first started hopping on cruise ships over a decade ago there just wasn’t much in the way of upgrades, at least when it came to foodservice.  Sure, you could ring up a bill with specialty drinks or bottles of wine.  But, back then there weren’t even that many specialty restaurants onboard cruise ships.  Nowadays, things have changed dramatically.  You’ll find tons of restaurants on many ships and plenty of ways to spend a few extra dollars here and there.

One of the areas where you could traditionally still find free grub was room service.  The first time I cruised as an adult, I found this odd.  I can just pick up the phone and order a bunch of food and you’ll bring it to me for free?  What’s the catch?  Royal Caribbean was the cruise line I focused on most frequently.  Our family has just gotten back into cruising, so I asked my buddy and cruise expert Richard Kerr (he of Award Travel 101 fame) if room service was still free.  He told me that other than a $7.95 service charge, the menu is still essentially free.  And, there’s no service charge for continental breakfast if you need a quick meal in the morning.

Carnival Introduces Menu Prices For Room Service

Carnival has decided to go in a different direction.  A big thanks to Jay for sending along a link to a story on Carnival’s new changes.  Carnival is keeping free continental breakfast and charging for everything else.  Here’s a look at the menu:

None of the prices on the menu offend me too much on their own, but it does seem like a bit more nickel and diming than I think the situation warrants.  Cruises are expensive propositions for families, though Carnival can be more affordable on some ships than Royal Caribbean and a whole lot less than Disney.  Maybe this is how they feel they can stay competitive in their pricing?

The Final Two Pennies

Am I making a peanut butter & jelly mountain out of a mole hill?  Is it a big deal to walk upstairs and get a free PB&J instead of paying $4 to have it brought to our room (or vice versa, frankly)?  In the end, it’s not the money for me.  It’s the erosion of the ability to pay for your cruise, walk on the ship and avoid a bunch of add-on charges.    Free room service was a surprise to me the first time I encountered it.  I loved the idea of the cruise line telling me to keep my wallet in my pocket if I needed a small snack for my kids one evening.  Carnival is still telling you to keep the wallet in your pocket, they’ll just charge you a bit later.

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  1. You asked if you were making a pb&j sandwich out of a molehill. Cruising is about the experience. Different lines and even different ships are marketed to different consumers looking for different experiences. If consumers are expecting an all inclusive voyage, they will have to sail elsewhere. As long as there are enough choices, the meal charges should not be a big picture deal. Time will tell if Carnival made a bad decision, or merely one that still has enough customers to help the line achieve it’s objectives. What would be good to learn: Is the change Carniva’ls way of not raising rates or keep the rate hike lower, but still but adding margin?. Or is Carnival trying to get money from both ends?

    1. Jay, my general impression of cruise pricing is that the lines to seem to keep an eye on what their competitors charge for similar itineraries. There’s so much more capacity now. I’m just not sure how much more the cruise lines can twist the dials for higher profitability before scaring people off. It’s awful hard to mothball a cruise ship.

  2. Years ago a travel agent friend told me: your best travel deal is always cruises, because they are all inclusive.

    It does not matter if they are only going to charge one penny for the room service menu, once cruise ships start charging for extras on an all inclusive cruise, the proposition of cruising to the Caribbean instead of flying there quickly erodes.

    I think Carnival will find they are driving repeat customers to the competition.

  3. Carnival has a free menu that includes breakfast , lunch sandwiches etc… from 6-10PM everyday, so your heading is very misleading.

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