Are Cruise Lines The Next Frontier for Lucrative Ancillary Fees?

Ordering room service aboard a cruise ship used to be included with the cost of a cruise — but now some cruise lines have been charging as much as $7.95 for room service; and other cruise lines are considering implementing a charge.

Are Cruise Lines The Next Frontier for Lucrative Ancillary Fees?

Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International both already charge $7.95 for room service — other than for orders for continental breakfast, which are still included with the cost of the cruise — as of 2015 and March 2017 respectively.

According to an announcement from Carnival Cruise Line — which is based in Miami — on Monday, December 31, 2018 passengers who order room service prior to 10:00 in the evening would be charged between $2.00 and $5.00 per food item “to reduce food waste”; but that proposal was delayed after a substantial amount of mostly negative feedback was posted in this discussion at CruiseCritic. The result of the thousands of comments posted caused the cruise line to delay the implementation of its new policy to revise it with “some adjustments to that plan to balance the interests of our guests with our efforts to reduce food waste costs. For the time being, there will be no changes until we finalize a plan that will be communicated to guests and travel agency partners alike.”

Passengers are already charged for a number of items on the room service menu of Carnival Cruise Line during the day; and on all items during late-night hours. The aforementioned new policy would affect salads, sandwiches and desserts which have been available for free from room service during the day.

The parent company of Carnival Cruise Line — which is Carnival Corporation & plc — owns the following cruise lines and could be affected by a similar policy change:

  • AIDA Cruises, which is headquartered in Germany
  • Carnival Cruise Line, which is headquartered in the Americas
  • Carnival Australia, which is headquartered in Australia
  • Costa Cruises, which is headquartered in Italy
  • Cunard Line, which is headquartered in the United Kingdom
  • Fathom, which is headquartered in the Americas
  • Holland America Line, which is headquartered in the Americas
  • P&O Cruises, which is headquartered in the United Kingdom
  • P&O Cruises Australia, which is headquartered in Australia
  • Princess Cruises, which is headquartered in the Americas
  • Seabourn Cruise Line, which is headquartered in the Americas

Not the First Time

Effective as of Friday, July 1, 2016, for sailings as of Friday, July 15, 2016 and beyond, guests were prohibited from bringing any beverages either as carry-on or checked luggage of cruises aboard vessels operated by Norwegian Cruise Line — including liquor, beer and non-alcoholic drinks such as water, soda and juices — as open beverages of any kind must be consumed or discarded at the security check-point, on embarkation day and at any port of call.

Exceptions to that policy include:

  • Purified or distilled water in factory-sealed containers for use in conjunction with medical devices or for the reconstitution of infant formula
  • Fully sealed or corked wine bottles for personal consumption aboard the vessel which is subject to screening and a corkage fee — which applies to guests who are 21 years of age or older


“If one initiates room service charges, you can bet these will become as ubiquitous as airline baggage fees and the like, and imagine other items currently considered included in cruise charges will become monetized”, opined FlyerTalk member JDiver, who brought this to my attention. “The unbundling of cruise fees will not be welcome, but they offer lots of revenue to cruise ship companies now left with over capacity due to their ship building binge.”

FlyerTalk member YVR Cockroach responded by posting “Seems it’ll be no better than European ferries eventually: Pay for a seat, or a berth, pay for food and drink. All that’ll be included is transportation.”

Believe it or not, I have never been on a cruise ship — so I cannot offer a substantive opinion.

Are cruise lines following the lucrative ancillary fee frontier that airlines seemingly conquered in recent years?

Photograph ©2010 by Brian Cohen.

4 thoughts on “Are Cruise Lines The Next Frontier for Lucrative Ancillary Fees?”

  1. Christian says:

    I fear that the cruise lines are salivating at this prospect. If it does happen, it would certainly make me less likely to cruise, and I’ve taken around a dozen cruises over the years. Sometimes, value is the best draw.

  2. DaninMCI says:

    Cruise lines have long been the business of making most of their revenue from extras. I love to cruise and do several times a year but it is a nickel and dime business. The people that really come out good on cruises are people that book a gratuity included fare, don’t drink soda or liquor and don’t book shore excursions or eat in special restaurants/order room service.

    1. Christian says:

      You’re completely right that ancillary revenue is a huge thing for the cruise lines. The thing is, there’s always been two advantages to cruising: you get to see multiple places while only unpacking once, and that everything but booze, excursions, and tips were covered. This made for a good value proposition. If cruises are changing this premise, the value drops. That will drive some customers away. Just my opinion.

  3. Stephanie Woods says:

    It depends which line you sail and what your habits are. I primarily sail on Holland America, which still has absolutely free room service. There are a few items that cost money, but very, very few, and it’s easy to work around. They allow you to bring your own water and soda aboard as well as one bottle of wine each.

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