Are Cruise Lines Getting Greedy?

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It’s one of the most common complaints among some cruisers, voiced every day on message boards, in Facebook groups and anywhere else that sea-faring folks gather to chat: Complaints that [insert cruise line name here] is nickle-and-diming customers to death. Whether it’s charging for room service or raising pre-paid gratuities, whenever an aspect of cruising sees its cost go up, the complaints rain down.

But is it a valid complaint?

According to, cruise lines made an average of $184 in profit per passenger between 2011 and 2014. The numbers take into account the average ticket price and amount of money spent by passengers while on board and compare it to the cost of providing those services. Interestingly, while the resulting average remained largely the same in 2012 ($182), 2013 ($185) and 2014 ($184). However, in 2015, the number jumps up to, on average, $226. And while that may seem like a big jump, it’s worth noting that even that is only a 12.7 percent profit which, for most big businesses, is not a particularly large number.

There are, of course, all kinds of mitigating factors which vary from not only line to line but also cruise to cruise. For example, while some might protest when the cost of dining in a specialty restaurant goes up, that might well be countered by the fact that on the same cruise, one books a package which entitles them to a free drink package.

Do more options mean more expenses?

Another thing to consider is the ways in which cruising has changed over the years. In the past, many lines offered little in the way of specialty dining, whereas now, most offer numerous options. And while enjoying those alternate dining venues usually comes at a price, they are also easily avoidable. Much of what people complain about being “nickle-and-dimed” on actually involves discretionary items which can be replaced by free options (or skipped entirely).

Without doubt, cruise lines are trying to make more money. They are, after all, a business. And like most businesses, they rather routinely push the envelope to see what they can — and can’t — get away with. The great news is that to a large degree, the power lies within the hands of the customer base, who can easily decide to try another line, despite years of having been loyal to their favorite, if they feel they’re being taken advantage of or under appreciated. And we’ve all seen examples of lines recognizing — whether quickly or eventually — that they’ve alienated the customers and taking action to correct the situation. Which could explain why, more than ever, cruise lines seem to be trying to expand their reach.

Newbies don’t know any better!

It’s possible that one reason cruise lines have worked so hard in recent years to attract new blood is that folks new to life on the high seas are less familiar with what was available for free in the past, and therefore less likely to think twice (let alone complain) about paying for something. If you don’t know that something was free last week, you also don’t know to be annoyed by the fact that this week, it will cost you a dollar. That being the case, new blood equals new money which equates to a higher profit margin.

In the end, those of us who love cruising — and after all, that’s why we’re all here — are going to continue doing it no matter what. We might occasionally complain about price increases, but it’s likely that instead of seek out a new way to spend our hard-earned vacation days, we’ll instead work harder at searching out deals which will help stretch our equally hard-earned dollars. But in the meantime, let’s hear your thoughts on the matter…

Do you think the lines are guilty of “nickel-and-diming” consumers? If so, in what way? Is the problem prices being raised, or being asked to pay for things which were complimentary in the past?

Featured photo courtesy of Nicholas D. on flickr.

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