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Readers Upset About Carnival Charging for Steaks in Restaurant

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Okay – I’m going to say this right up front. This debate is nonsense. I don’t usually comment on other cruise web sites, but I just read an article from another site cruise which the editors deemed important enough to write up in a news format, “Readers Embroiled in For-Fee Steak Debate”.

If you do not already know, the article refers to a new plan from Carnival Cruise Lines to add a few “for fee” entrees typically sold in the line’s alternative dining restaurant, the Carnival Steakhouse, to the menu in the main dining room – for an added fee. The entrées are filet mignon and top quality lobster.

The ships the line has chosen for testing this new policy are Carnival Paradise, Carnival Triumph and Carnival Inspiration. These Carnival ships have no alternative dining restaurants and all, which is rather unusual for any mainstream cruise ships these days, and so rather than adding an entirely new restaurant they have merely added these entrées to the existing main dining room menus. The charge for these items is less than what you would pay to eat in the Carnival Steakhouse on other Carnival cruise ships – $30. The items added to the main dining room menu on the ships are priced at $18.

Nothing else about the main dining room menu has been changed. You get the same varying nightly menu plus the option of ordering a flat iron steak or a salmon filet any night of the week, at no extra charge,  instead of the daily menu options. Flatiron steaks are considered to be one of the best cuts available in terms of value. They are also known as “the butchers cut” because it is said the butcher takes this cut home to the family beacuse it is very tasty but does not generally fetch the premium price that it deserves. In other words, no one is denying any Carnival cruise line cruiser a fine steak at no additional cost any night of the week. But these readers are merely offended by the idea that some people may want to order an even finer steak and pay for it.

60% of the readers on this website voted that no Carnival cruise ship should have any items on the main dining room menu that include an extra fee – period. The website quotes one of his readers as saying, “I have no intention of paying extra- the  food I get now is perfectly adequate.”

Ummm, will somebody please tell this person that it is not mandatory to order these entrées? If you are offended by the mere presence of additional optional offerings then I can only wonder what other non-mandatory options in life are upsetting to you?  It appears it is not the presence of these menu items that offends, it is the mere idea that Carnival would even conceive of offering premium food at a reasonable price. Another reader asks, “what’s next? Will they charge for ice cream, burgers and midnight room service? Stop it NOW folks!”

In fact, only 17% of the readers on this particular website said that they were NOT offended by the presence of these optional menu items. Roughly ONLY one in every six people does not consider the idea of paying a reasonable price for a filet mignon or a Maine lobster offensive.

Cruise lines have been offering special meals in alternative dining restaurants since 1980, 30 years now, at least. I just learned that Cunard Ocean Liners were doing it in the early 1900s. In addition, cruise ships already charge for alcoholic beverages in the dining room.

I just don’t see the controversy. As a cruise line, Carnival has the fewest alternative extra charge dining options of all the cruise lines in the industry. They have but one alternative dining restaurant on most of their ships (but not all) where there are other cruise lines, such as NCL or Royal Caribbean, which have ships with as many as ten extra fee restaurants onboard.

I suppose the concern here is that Carnival is changing for anything at all, and the people who are most concerned are the regular Carnival cruisers who like everything that is normally included to remain included in the price of the cruise. The strange thing, however, is that nothing has been taken away from these cruisers. They have only been offered an additional option.

This is interesting; over 15% of the voters said they would prefer to see Carnival add the Carnival Steakhouse is to the ships rather than add the premium priced menu  items to the main dining room menu. Somehow these people entirely overlooked the fact that the$18 surcharge is a significant bargain over the $30 feeCarnival charges for the same entrée  in the steakhouses onboard its other ships. “Ah, but you get the experience” I heard as a counter argument to that theory. Something tells me these readers are not interested in experience.

For the record, Royal Caribbean started doing the same thing in 2008 – offering a better quality steak in the dining room for an added fee. That idea did not go over very well either at the same web site, but the items are still on the menu.

Bottom line – cruises are still the same price they were in roughly the 1970s, but they now have better entertainment, more efficient and comfortable staterooms, a wider selection of itineraries and much more efficient and varietal food offerings. Plus, when cruise lines add something for an added charge they never make it mandatory – it is an option for those who want it. That is a good thing.

So – what exactly is the complaint again?

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Comment from Bill Carlisle
Time October 13, 2010 at 8:08 pm

My son works in retail [a store that buys and sells used CD’s, DVD’s, etc. He experiences this lame-brained attitude every day. More and more, people do not get the distinction between voluntary and mandatory. If they cannot get what they want the way they want it for what they want to pay, they actually believe a crime has been committed against them.
I suppose it is just one more sign that our civilization is unraveling.

Comment from George
Time October 14, 2010 at 2:41 pm


I really like the ability to get the Main Diningroom Steakhouse option on the Adventure. All RCCL ship offer it, in many ways it is a better deal ($12) than the $30 dining charge.

This is NOT a point where people should whine, with their Wine.

Comment from Tim Butler
Time October 14, 2010 at 8:57 pm

I believe what is scaring people Paul is the old notion, give em an inch, they will take a mile! Cruisers don’t “even want to go there” when talking about being charged for food in the MDR.
I am sure most folks would understand that no one is forcing anyone to pay for the regular menu items and that this is just a way to serve a better quality lobster and steak in the MDR.


Comment from Rob
Time October 16, 2010 at 7:09 am

I think we are all getting frustrated at having to pay more and more on the cruises, and we worry the day is coming that more dining options will cost extra.. In a matter of words the main dining room is sacred, hands off…in many cruisers minds..keep your fees out..

Comment from Todd Parnell
Time October 21, 2010 at 5:32 am

Hi Paul,

Nice piece. When push comes to shove, I like the idea of having the for-fee meaty option (vs. not) … it’s all about choice … especially if the line delivers “the goods” in terms of the quality of steak. Would be great if you would provide a link to the article you keep referring to — I’d really love the read it! What’s the site in question?

Bon Voyage,


Comment from allison brown
Time October 30, 2010 at 8:04 pm

we did a 5 day cruise oct 22 for my birthday on the carvinal sprit we ate at the steak house 30 $ pp it was 8 of us it was the best food ever we order wine after wine bill was over 500$but it was worth every penny we had a blast we wantnt to eat there again before we left ship didnt have time my hubbybirthday is new yr trying to book cruise on same ship just to eat at the steak house people stop being cheap u only live once we also had a balcony for first time i loved it i would never go under we also payed extra for a perfect view it was worth every penny

Comment from irish dnl
Time January 9, 2011 at 2:50 pm

I agree! $500 for 8 people isn’t that much with wine. lkg fwd to our cruise this mo. Celebrating upcoming 12 years of marriage. hbd allison!

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