Sunday, September 28, 2008

Could Cruise Lines Go Ala Carte?

Pretty much everything is ala carte when flying with most major airlines now. But would this work with the cruise line industry? In Europe there is a cruise line that has been around since 2005 called EasyCruise that works this way that seems to be doing okay. However, one cruise line is not an industry breaker. Its hard to see cruising following the ways of the airlines if only because the airline industry has not proven to be the best judgement makers on decisions. Cruising is far from all inclusive to begin with except when it comes to a select few luxury lines. Alcohol flows freely on board but is in no way free. Many ships now have alternative restaurants that require a surcharge and a few activities on board will also require a fee such as many of the offerings at the spa. But for the most part meals are included in the price of your cruise unless you choose the specialty restaurants.

Well not so fast. Royal Caribbean is now trying something new and its getting mixed reviews. In the main dining room on their ships they are offering a "special" cut of steak that if ordered will carry a surcharge (currently under $15) if ordered. If it goes over well, it could lead to more "special" items on the dinner menu. Like I stated before, it has been getting mixed reviews. There are some that welcome the addition to the menu and feel that the fee is still far less than what they would pay at a land based restaurant for an equivalent meal. But of course there are many that see this as a predecessor to complete pay as you go menus. its hard to see the latter happening, but I can easily see a "surcharge required" section on future menus for a few reasons. The first being that as long as there are people willing to pay its going to be profitable for the cruise line. The second, being that it gets the cruise line a way to offer items that are normally only offered in the specialty restaurants to passengers that may not want to dress up as much as is required at the more upscale dining options require.

Right now its only a few ships on one cruise line, but if it starts to expand, then we can really start to inquire to just how far this will go. With the other options available, I don't think I will be interested in paying extra when I know there is plenty of good food available that I wont have to pay extra for.

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