OpinionThings That Should Remain Free on Cruises

Things That Should Remain Free on Cruises

Cruise lines are beginning to add more and more fees to things that were normally included in your cruise fare just a few years ago.  There are some things on cruises that I do not mind paying extra for and others that I want to be included in my cruise fare.

Here are a few things that should be free on cruises.  When I say free, I am talking about being included in my cruise fare without a surcharge.

Food in the main dining rooms should always be included in your fare.  While I do not mind paying extra for a specialty dining restaurant, extra charges and fees do not belong in the main dining rooms.

Many mainstream cruise lines have begun offering certain entrees (filet mignon, lobster) in the main dining room that come with a surcharge.  Now that they got their foot in the door charging extra for a few entrees, where does it end?  Will we soon have one half of the menu included and the other half comes with a fee?  Will that eventually lead to a fee for any meal in the main dining room and leave the buffet as the only free choice?  Dear Royal Caribbean, Carnival,  and every other cruise line, keep extra charges OUT of the main dining rooms.  This also includes room service. (Norwegian and Carnival are now charging for select items ordered through room service).

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Another thing that should be remain free on cruises is entertainment.  This is one area where cruise lines have yet to try extra fees.  If cruise lines can currently offer Broadway entertainment without fees, then there is absolutely no reason for any lines to add extra charges for shows.

Soft drinks should also be included in your cruise fare.  All cruise lines except for Disney charge extra for soda, usually around $2 a glass or $7 a day for unlimited soft drinks.  I don’t see this surcharge going away since cruise lines have a healthy profit margin selling soda on board.

Activities on the Lido and Sports Decks should also come without any charges.  Cruise lines offer everything from mini-golf, rock climbing walls, waterparks, Flowrider surf simulators, basketball and volleyball courts, shuffleboard, ping pong, cornhole and other activities.  All of these are currently free and I honestly do not see that changing anytime soon.

There are a few things on cruises that I do not mind paying extra for, one being Internet access. I once saw someone saying how Internet should be included, however I don’t mind paying extra for it.  After all, you are on vacation.  Is checking Facebook & Twitter 24/7 really that important while you are in the middle of the Caribbean or cruising by glaciers in Alaska?  Some passengers need to get on for a few minutes because of work back home.  If it was free, the network would be even slower than it already is from everyone taking up bandwidth.

Cruise Fever would love to hear what you feel should be included in your cruise fare.  What do you mind paying extra for?  What don’t you  like paying extra for?  Leave us a comment below with your opinions.

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Ben Souza
Ben Souza
Ben is a world traveler who has visited 40+ countries, taken over 70 cruises. He is one of USA TODAY's experts for their 10Best Readers' Choice Awards. His writings have appeared and been cited in various media outlets such as Yahoo News, MSN, NPR, CNN, Fox, and ABC News. Ben currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio. Follow Ben on Instagram. Visit Ben Souza on Linkedin. You may email Ben at [email protected].
OpinionThings That Should Remain Free on Cruises


  1. I am on a Royal Caribbean Mediterranean Cruise now and they charge $7.95 for room service and extra $16.95 for filet and $39 for surf and turf in the main dining room. I’m so angry over this. I paid big money for this cruise and now they are charging me for any nice food. Shame on them. Raise the total cost of the cruise to cover food costs and stop this idiotic charging of food while in the dining room. I’ve already paid for it….right? I’ve cruised on Celebrity, Princess, Holland America and now Royal Caribbean and this is the 1st time I have been charged for room service and in the dining room. I’m not happy either

  2. The way they are charging is by making the free food and related service if poorer quality so that you are forced to pay for specialty meals.

    We have cruised much, but will reduce as the value is no longer there in comparison to other travel options. Also, the Caribbean has become a routine like a merry go round.

    Many years ago, the cruise ships overnighted at Caribbean ports (real ones not cruise owned fake ports) giving several days to enjoy the areas. Now, you can hardly do anything for fear of missing the departure.

  3. I have been on a few cruises and just booked another on the Carnival Magic in May 2017, from my first cruise 15 yrs ago to now, its really changed, Love that there adding a lot of fun stuff, but now we are paying the price. Things like Steak and Lobster at Formal night events, were included in the cost, so was special coffee’s after dinner. I’m ok with being charged for Soda, but having to pay for Water, is just Ridiculous. The price of a cruise to me personally, everything should be included, except for Spa service, Alcohol and Gambling,. and of course Shore Excursions and Tips, and for the Tipping, you get tips at the end of the cruise for all things they do for you, Paying upfront, means shitty service, in my opinion.

  4. I love cruising compare to flying but soon I worry that the cruiseliners will be like airline carriers and charges for everything and then going on any holidays will cost you a fortune

  5. I’m 63 and only been on 3 cruises. However what really bothers me is the tips. I don’t mind the prepaid tips, but if you get the bottomless bubbles or the booze package you pay the price plus 18 percent tip. Then when you get a drink or soda, you get charged 18 percent tip again, plus there’s a line for additional tips. Enough of the additional tips already.

    • Sorry Joe but your wrong. If you buy an Unlimited drink package, the 18% service fee is already included in the price of the package, you don’t pay another 18% ! You can choose to add the additional tip if you like but it is not forced. When someone without a package (pay as you go) buy a drink, ANY drink they get an additional 18% added to the bill yet still have an option to add more tip. I get a drink package and always give an extra $1.00 tip. It ensures I get immediate attention at the bar. It’s sad it works that way but I figure I’m on vacation…so what if it costs me an extra $30 by the end of the cruise.

  6. I have no problem with Carnival offering steak or lobster in the MDR for a surcharge, especially since not all their ships have a Steakhouse. It makes good business sense and offers their customers more choice. As long as there are good things to eat on the regular menu then I agree with offering more fancy dishes that costs extra.

  7. Cruise lines are growing at a huge pace. With brand new ships launching almost every year, they key now seems to be bigger and better and pack them full of stuff for people to keep themselves busy. Having said that, cruise lines are not hurting for profits. In fact, most ship sail at 95% or better capacity if not 100% and are booked months and some itineraries a year or more in advance. I’m a huge fan of cruising. Been at it since I was 7 years old as my father was a cruise director for Costa Cruise lines back in the 70s. I have seen many changes throughout the years, and in a similar way to airliners, cruise lines are developing a way to increase profits little by little to increase their profits even more. I will agree that some things should carry an extra charge, after all you do pay more for the upgrades anywhere, but those charges should remain for specialty restaurants, the spa, and I would even go as far a saying room service, but only after maybe a certain hour. Everything else is part of the attraction to that particular vessel that you might be on. It is part of the reason why you booked in the first place. I feel soft drinks and water should also be included with your purchase just like food is on the main dinning room(s) and lido deck buffets. Soda and water should be included. With as big as some of these companies are, heck I would be happy if the would even brand their our drinks. Carnival already does it with beer, so why not soft drinks??
    But I do have a feeling that little by little, more and more fees are to be expected on many things that once where included. You do have choices, so choose cruises that still cater to their customers more than their chairholders.

  8. I have been cruising since the mid 80’s and prices have not gone up as much as other things. If cruise lines charged what the real cost is, no one would go on a cruise. So they charge a nominal fee and nickle and dime you to death while on board. Be honest with yourself and figure what the real cost of a 7 day cruise is. The average outside cabin lists for around $800 per person. The real cost when you finally step off the ship is closer to $1500 per person after tips, shore excursions, drinks, specialty restaurants, casino, bingo and others. I have quit cruising and now go to All inclusive resorts. They cost me less and no big credit card bills when I get home.

    • Not really sure how you come up with a $800 cruise finally costing $1500 ! ALL of the additional amenities you mentioned are optional. With a bit of planning, you can pay for your cruise and get your entertainment free, ALL of your food PLUS free and your cabin without paying anything extra. And with a cruise, you get to visit more than one place during your cruise. To each their own I guess…

  9. As cruise lines have dropped their relative prices since we first started cruising, it is no longer quite the super-luxury holiday it was. As they have to make their money some-how, in come the extra charges.
    I would prefer the old system – yes you paid more up front, but so much more was included. I love the all-inclusive model, with just trips & souvenirs to pay for.

  10. This is my second cruise.Ive enjoyed the first tremendously.I agree that cruising is value for money.I feel that their charge for sodas are way to high.l personally have no problem with their high liqour prices because lm not a drinker.

  11. The people complaining about prices and being charged for ‘extras’ clearly do not understand the concept of cruising or the fact that cruise lines do not get the items free so why would they give it for free. You don’t go to a hotel on land and expect x/y/z for free. If you compare daily price of cruising with daily price of vacation on land taking into account all meals/entertainment etc there is no contest. Cruising is the best value. Mostly you forget the price of fuel. And people need to get paid! And of course cruise lines are out to make profit-it is a business…noone would deliberately sabotage profits-that doesn’t make any sense. I say stop being so cheap and stay at home or go camping if you dont appreciate all that cruising has to offer

  12. I have cruised for almost 20 years now. Over the years a lot has changed. One thing has not, the companies that sail these ship are in business to really do 1 thing, Make Money$$$$ We sail Carnival a lot, base price is sometimes better. Over the years basic prices have gone up, service has gone down, and food quality has really gone down. The new concept idea is if we can charge $15/20/25/30 or more for a “Special” dinner, and still get your regular fair, Cha-Ching, more money. Room attendants have more rooms, with less help, seems like the same in the MDR. It seems that most of the activities sometimes during the day are only money generators. Bingo, and plenty of it, at $10 or $20 a card, Really. Anyway, they will continue to add extra fees as long as they can.

  13. Totally agree. Main dining room food should be free. Entertainment should be free. Lido deck activities, sodas (and I don’t drink soda often) should be free. The MAIN reason I started cruising is that it’s an all-inclusive package except for excursions and gratuities. If I’m going to be charged for every single activity/food item, then I will go back to going to a destination and paying for a hotel and my activities. Hotels are MUCH nicer than cruise cabins and I will get to choose my activities. IMO, cruising only wins as a vacation for me because I can control costs while having a good time.

  14. Just got off a 14 day cruise on Norweigan Breakaway. They charge for everything. $8 for room service. Gratuities $13.50n per person as of Feb 1 all special dinning rooms a la carte. We were fortunate to get the beverage package and dinning package. We left on Jan31 so we were okay but the others with us (8) had no choice but to eat in the Garden Cafe (lido) Savor or Taste Manhhatten. I have been cruising for 25 years and have the quality and quanity of ammenites deminish greatly . Have to ask for soap, lotions, refill body wash and shampoo/conditioner. Towels to be replaces along with washcloths. This cabin is paying $27.50 a day times 14. I am silver so I get a chocolate mint on my pillow.Getting of a ship with 4,000 passengers isn’t pleasant nor is the unsupervised disembarkation. Won’t be on another one for sure. Will stick with Princess for the British Isles in May

  15. This is becoming like the airline industry charging for everything, pretty soon they will be charging for your luggage too ,This is sad because cruising was fun with all inclusive but these cruise company’s are getting greedy they make billions in profit how else would they be making more bigger and better cruise ships

  16. I think it’s ridiculous that they tried to sneak in a charge of gratuity on us and our account the way I see it as you get gratuity as you perform I actually paid the room service guy while cleaning guy to stay away I figured out of the average say there’s 200 people on one floor the amount of gratuity that charge equals out to $36,000 it’s ridiculous

    • I so agree. I think gratuity should be like any restaurant. If you have good service they get tipped. Especially in main dining room. We had awful service for 4 of our 7 days. The supervisor kept trying to make it right but it took 4 days. The new waiter was amazing. I knew if I let gratuities stay the first guy would get it so I slipped new waiter cash.

    • Just remember anyone you give a tip to has to put it in the pool or they are fired. Therefore, your first waiter got part of the tip.

  17. NCL’s Epic charges for some of shows. I don’t have a problem with charging for soda or adult drinks. I will have to admit I don’t drink or drink soda but if I did I could go a week without it. My Husband gets the wine package.

  18. Your gonna love this, I took a header on the deck of a Carnival Cruise, I was ok at first but the next day my wrist started to bark, not horrible, hyper extension trying to break my fall (done it before at work and play) went to service deck told them what had happened the day before and in as nice a way as possible was told I could be provided a wrist band and it would cost me $13, that should not be an additional charge

    • if the request would have been made on the spot and having a Security Dept injury file paper attached than you might request a free medical consultation… since you requested several hours after the incident is impossible to prove the cause of the accident… it’s logical…

  19. I have cruised on Celebrity, Disney and Royal Caribbean. I received a refund from Celebrity because their internet connection was terrible. My last cruise was with Disney. They charge for room service with the hidden fee as a “TIP”. Our favorite cruise line is Royal Caribbean. Celebrity charges for an UPGRADE in the dining room. My next cruise will be on Celebrity for spring break 2017. I love cruising but I wish the cruise lines didn’t nickel and dime you for everything.

  20. I agree with these comments! the one thing they should change is the soda fee….we love our cruises and don’t mind paying extra for specialty dining or the other extra things but soda should be free to all….

    • Why would you expect free soda? You think it is free for the cruiseline? The maintenance of the machines is ridiculously expensive, the product is expensive, the souvenir cups are expensive…cruise lines do not make much profit off soda, they make profit off liquor. beer wine and soda have high costs for low profit margins

    • actually, having grown up in the bar industry i can tell you soda pop from a fountain is 99.4% profit. including ice, cup, straw, employee and maintainance. it’s just water and a little flavored sugar.

  21. I am 65 and have never been on a cruise…..my husband and I have been looking at Facebook and you tube videos and it really excites us about booking a cruise. I have seen (and heard) about extra charges for drinks that could be as high as $$$$ per DAY…..wonder if you are on a 7-10 day cruise…..this can really add up. I always thought cruises were like all inclusives vacations….where everything was included. Would not mind paying to do extra excursions and such, but I wish food and drinks should all be included in the price of the cruise.

  22. I hadn’t realized Carnival and Royal Caribbean started charging for Filrt Mignon and Lobster in the main dining room. As an experienced cruiser of 14 cruises, that is very disheartening. The major selling point for cruising is ALL INCLUSIVE. If that changes too much, people will start looking elsewhere for their vacation needs.

    • My understanding is that Carnival offers steakhouse items in the MDR on those ships that don’t have a steakhouse I think that that is OK since that allows those who want a better steak to have one. There is still the same steak on the menu that has been there for years for free.

    • I agree- the draw to cruising is that its ALL INCLUSIVE, except for the extra perks (massages, specialty coffee,flower, etc..). I don’t like the charging for food in the dining room- that is why they have the Specialty Dining Room.

    • Cruising has never been All Inclusive. You have always had to pay for alcoholic beverages or soda on the ship but a cappuccino at the end of your meal used to be free.

  23. Absolutely sick of cruising charging extra for everything. The biggest enjoyment of cruising was you pay one fee and everything is included. That is the appeal and what made cruising so popular. If the industry continues on this profit searching ways it will kill the industry as the fun is taken away. Celebrity won’t even give you water for free, the discriminate by having separate quality of water too for different paying customers. Just ridiculous.

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