Cruise Dining: More than Extra Fees

Contents Show

Surely, how much one enjoys the food on a cruise is a matter of personal taste and so subjective by nature that we rarely mention it here more than in grand sweeping gestures and generalities.

For example, the price of every cruise available that we know of includes food. Some sort of food. Usually in a variety of venues.

Want to pay a little more? There are upscale options available that blow away a whole bunch of land-based fine dining venues at a fraction of the cost…sort of. This is where we hear comments dividing guests into three groups.

  1. The “Great, sign me up” people– they don’t care that it’s extra, buy into the “it would cost much more on land” notion and consider surcharges for alternative dining options fair. These people are happy campers.
  2. The “No thanks, don’t care to spend more, what is included is just fine with me” people. These people really want to believe in the all-inclusive nature of a cruise, are not bored with the menu, and see no reason to do anything other than what is included in the price they paid. These people are happy campers as well.
  3. The “I’m pissed that I have to spend more for the good stuff” people- Most often, these are long-time cruisers who date back to before alternative restaurants began popping up on ships about a decade ago. These people are not happy campers at all.

It’s the last group that gets the most attention as their wheel squeaks.

Often, someone told them wrong and didn’t really explain the “nearly” part of “nearly all-inclusive” that a cruise represents.

Faceless, voiceless, difficult-to-communicate-with Internet Cruise Brokers are often the culprit here. Many of these guests feel and comment “its a “rip off” or that the line is “nickel and diming us to death”. I hear this a lot from Norwegian Cruise Line guests pick on Norwegian for a bit to illustrate just exactly what is wrong with this thinking.

Norwegian’s whole “Freestyle Cruising” thing, by nature, opens the door for a bunch of different dining venues. At inception, it was brilliant. With no fixed time for dinner, the main dining room becomes really just another choice, albeit much bigger, than other venues.

A common comment is “you have to pay for the good food on Norwegian”.

Actually? That is absolutely right.

By leaving the formal wear at home and having the flexibility to eat whenever we want at a wide array of dining venues, we give up some of the historically all-inclusive nature of a cruise made possible by feeding thousands of people the same thing at two fixed dining times.

The cruise line has given up the economies of scale that go along with that fixed dining operation where they know almost exactly how many of any given menu item they will need on any given day, week after week, month after month.

Land-based restaurant owners would give their first-born child for stability like that. Stability that almost guarantees a food service operation’s profitability if priced right.

But cruise lines still have bills to pay and profits to make and more ships to build along the way.

That’s only fair. They are a business and entitled to make a profit.

We really don’t want cruise lines carrying thousands of people on ships that sail in what can be an angry ocean to be cutting corners operationally.

Chris Owen is a travel writer from Orlando Florida charged with sharing frank, inside information on cruise vacations with travelers. Certified a Master Cruise Counselor by the Cruise Lines International Association, Chris can be found via the popular travel blog, and on the long-running cruise information website,

 Photo John Althouse Cohen via Compfight

Related articles
  • Do cruise lines still use fixed dining?(

  • New Norwegian ship boasts slides, putt-putt, ropes course(

  • How Much Does A Cruise Cost?(

  • Cruising Solo(

Share this post