Princess Tries Room Service Charges

| Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Regal Princess added a $3.00 surcharge to ALL stateroom room service deliveries with no prior notice

The Princess Facebook page was lit up over the long weekend with complaints from Regal Princess passengers who learned for the first time of a $3.00 service charge for each delivery of room service. Now, it isn’t that $3.00 is a lot of money, but, according to many people who posted on the site, it is a matter of principle, and in fact there was no prior notice at all. Many cruisers were livid. However, within a matter of days Princess had already rescinded the policy - for the time being.

One blogger, Vickie of “Vickie and Bernie Travel” wrote a long blog posting about her experience, and the lengths to which Princess took this policy were somewhat surprising. It started with the couple’s regular replenishing of fresh fruit in the stateroom, something that many premium cruise lines offer as a courtesy. When the first one arrived, they were advised there was a $3.00 charge for the delivery. Although Vickie does not elaborate, I assume they were asked to sign a receipt, since that is now the most common room service tipping option, even when there is no charge for the room service.

At that point Vickie writes that she believed the server was saying that was only for the fruit, and so they canceled the rest of the deliveries, but the next day she ordered simple hot water for her own tea, and was once again advised there would be a $3.00 service charge. At this point she was notified that the service charge was made applicable to ALL room service deliveries.

Soon she also learned there was another new service charge for food delivery; $10 for the delivery of a freshly baked pizza from Alfredo’s Pizzeria – a dining option on board the ship.

Now – although the online protests lasted through the entire three-day weekend, Princess has now rescinded the service charges, but only with this somewhat vague statement which Vickie posted in her blog:

Hi Vickie, we apologize for the frustrating situation this weekend. We value your loyalty, and we take your concerns to heart. Based on the feedback we've received, for the time being both room service and Alfredo’s pizzeria charges being trialed on Regal Princess will be halted. We acknowledge we need to provide our guests prior notification of any such changes to our onboard experience, and we promise to do this in the future.

Vickie also quotes another frustrated poster who said he received an email from Princess that said they were taking off the charges, and refunding the charges that had already been imposed “due to the absence of pre-notification.” The whole event was apparently a trial done solely on the brand new Regal Princess, the ship that was just newly launched from the Fincantieri shipyard and was sailing on its inaugural cruise out of Venice, Italy.

As for the $10 service charge for the delivery of Alfredo’s Pizza to the stateroom; To Princess’ credit, this is an outstanding pizzeria onboard the two new sister ships. The pies are not average cruise ship pizza with thin and wobbly crust and just a dab of sauce and cheese. These are full gourmet pizzas with a dozen possible toppings that would easily fetch $25 on land. But while most cruise lines charge maybe $3 to $5 to deliver a hot pizza to your stateroom (NCL charges $5), Princess decided to charge of $10.

But even for this excellent pizza, with each pie crafted and cooked to specification, the cruisers would not stand for the $10 delivery charge, and honestly, I see their point.

A Little Helpful Background

I recall when “free” room service on cruise ships was an expected included service. Then suddenly in the early 2000’s we started seeing posts about people tipping the people who delivered it. Truthfully, I thought that was silly since cruise ships are a “cashless” society – everything is put on your final bill. But after a few years the forum cruise enthusiasts generally agreed that tipping for room service was mandatory, not even just an option. I have always felt this was wrong, but such decisions are not up to me and the cruise lines apparently saw it differently.

Without imposing a surcharge, many cruise lines started giving the server a slip for guests to sign upon receiving the free room service, and on the slip was a space to leave an “optional” gratuity.  This seemed somewhat pretentious to me, but since so many cruisers wanted to tip for room service, I accepted it as a practical way to formalize the process.


What the Future Will Bring

Princess Cruises is still an excellent cruise line with high value cruises for the price you pay. The two new sister ships are beautiful, but one of the main attractions is the food, and Alfredo’s was highly touted as a dining option - including the fact that you could get one of these delicious pizzas delivered to your stateroom. This was a big selling point presented to the media during our preview cruise and I don’t recall a mention of a service charge. Had they asked me, however, I would have said that pizza was good enough to merit a service charge. As I said, it is a true gourmet dinner.

Of course, you can still get the pizza for no added surcharge if you dine in the Alfredo’s restaurant; I assume you can even order and pick it up for no added fee. With the beautiful staterooms on these sister ships, with the huge, comfortable king-sized beds and the 40-inch television sets with free (!) recent movies ("in theaters now!") available, I would certainly relish staying in for a night of pizza and a movie.

But for now the room service surcharge has been rescinded, but only because people protested that there was no prior notice. I expect it will come as no surprise when Princess formally announces a surcharge for delivery of Alfredo’s pizza and on both Royal and Regal Princess in the future.

But will they bring back the $3.00 room service charge? My intellect says it is a bad idea. There are cruise lines that already charge for room service; such as Royal Caribbean charging $3.00 for any delivery made between the hours of midnight and 5:00 a.m.  MSC Cruises also charges around the clock, with different prices per item on an a la carte menu in the stateroom only when the ships are in Europe.

But no cruise line has ever had a 24-hour room service delivery fee and the Princess experiment left no wiggle room – they even charged to replenish the fruit bowl, something that is commonly done while the guests are out of the room. There was also the charge for mere hot water. This means morning coffee, which is mandatory for me, will also have a service charge. So any future cruise I take just went up by $3/day automatically.

Now, I am a cruiser who tries NOT to take advantage of free room service.  I feel the staff is busy and I do not want to bog them down. There are always people on a tour or with more limited mobility who need room service more than I do. Therefore, the only item I order regularly is morning coffee, and unlike some people, I never arbitrarily add eggs, toast, cereal and other complicated items to my breakfast order unless I am scheduled to go directly on a tour with this being my only chance to eat.

But with this news my first thought was “if they are going to charge me, I am not going to hold back on what I order.” In fact, I would order more food than usual, possibly enough to keep me in snacks for the full day.

In other words, I can easily see this idea backfiring on Princess.  Ask yourself why MSC has an a la carte menu for room service rather than a simple delivery charge?


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