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Is It Nickel & Diming, Or Is It Math?

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In recent years a very common complaint is that the cruise lines are “nickel and diming” their customers.

People generally just aren’t happy when they find there are so many “extras” to be paid for in addition to their cruise fare.

The philosophy of businesses, and even governments, to user pay practices is not a new one. Sales taxes were in fact designed specifically so those making a purchase of choice would automatically pay more than those who bypassed choosing to purchase those same goods ( or purchased less of them).

In fact what are commonly known around the world as “sin taxes”, i.e. alcohol, tobacco, etc. are always a frequent target for governments to raise funds through further add on charges (taxes), because it is an area where they can do so while facing the least resistance from the general population.

More recently, what was a struggling airline industry  has increased their revenues by Billions of dollars by charging for checked luggage. And, as that practice has been shown to be so affective, they’ve gone further, adding extra charges for drinks and food, which used to be included in the price of your ticket.

As those additional fees proved increasingly effective in affecting their bottom lines, the airlines, have continued to find all variety of things they could implement add on charges for; “premium seating”, early boarding, etc.

It was a trend the cruise industry had difficulty ignoring because of it’s success. Should we really be all that surprised that they’ve followed suit? In some ways, purely for fiscal reasons, the cruise industry has been forced into following suit.

After Sept. 11/2001 the pricing models for the cruise industry changed dramatically.

Much of the world suddenly halted travel. And leisure travel level dropped drastically. The inevitable reaction to combat the public’s hesitancy to cruise was to slash prices to historical lows. Simply, they had to make it so cheap to cruise people would hopefully set aside their hesitancy, and once again fill their ships.

Since that time pricing has rebounded to some degree; on some ships and itineraries more than others.

Yet, including  the rate of inflation since that time, today’s cruise fare pricing, remains much lower than it was prior to 9/11/01.

While many experienced cruisers will claim they would rather see the rates raised to adequately reflect the actual final costs of the cruise, most everyone is still out there searching for the $599 balcony cabin when booking their next cruise.

Because of the continued public demand for that type of pricing, the cruise lines, in many ways, have been forced to provide them, in order to keep their ships sailing at near capacity.

Along the way the lower base pricing on cruises has drawn in a new and significant number of potential passengers, increasing the size and type of audience the cruise industry can target.

This has also led to the development of new and different sectors within the industry. Whereas there used to really be three sectors within the industry (budget, mass market, and luxury), there are now several new categories, attempting to fill the “in between needs”. They are targeting the parts of the cruise population who are truly willing to pay the rate required for those cruise lines to be more all-inclusive, yet still make money. It is a small, but quickly growing niche market.

But, for the “major cruise lines”, with the largest number of ships, and the larger ships the mass market still remains their primary target; they have to fill those beds!

On those ships it is still quite possible to cruise while spending very little over and above the cost of your cruise fare. You just have to have the discipline to ignore the add on (extra charge) amenities the cruise lines make available. Or, you budget and plan to participate and consume in just enough of those extra charge choices to satisfy your needs and your budget.

I’m not sure it’s fair to complain, and expect the cruise line to supply what was a $2000 + cruise experience for $599.

– A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising –










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Comment from Adam Toruno
Time August 21, 2013 at 5:49 am

So I have been an off and on member of this site for a little bit now, and I do like your writing in most cases. I’m not gonna lie this one kinda left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t know if this was the tone that you ment to take but it sound like you have been soured on discount cruising. Now I will be the first one to admit that I have not experienced really anything other than a CCL cruise. So I’m not aware much else. One big reason why I have been able to travel at all out of the country is thanks to the affordable nature that the cruise industry has put forward. Now I have also like others as well that prices has gone up since I started cruising. Which happens with time. Now I have not seen any real swing to try and charge for things that had been once included. Again only speaking from one and only the last 10 years or so. I have seen prices being offered as more of a discount if you buy or buy in bulk. Such as The cheers program, Wine packs, Specialty coffee drinks, ect. Which if you are on a budget like I am, you tend to forgo those little things. The other trend that I have seen is like you said paying for the early boarding. Which seems to me like a good thing if you are willing to spend the money. Cruising for what it is today is simply put the greatest value for your money to travel to exotic ports call. I have priced out vacations in which I would travel to Mexico, Jamaica, Grand Cayman. Hotel as of yesterday $1,000 US for 7 days. If air far goes for cheap lets say 600 and I will spend another 2 to 3 hundred on food with taxes it’s still going to be a 2,000 dollar trip before you know it. I feel like your article is one looking negatively at the price reduction and getting a cheap cruise is wrong, that the cruise companies should be charging more and giving more. I just don’t see whats so wrong with going al carte with your vacation and paying for things that I just really wouldn’t need or use.

Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time August 21, 2013 at 6:58 am

I remember way back, I took my first cruise in 1969 as a teen, independent from parents thankfully NOT traveling with me, the high price that 16 day cruise was on the Queen Elizabeth 2, high for a kid, but, priced where many cruises of that length are today, believe it or not. Granted, it was an inside cabin with upper and lower berths, teeny space, teenier bath, BUT, it was on the QE2 during her maiden season. Those accommodations were ripped out after a few years, as they were not popular.

Move on to the 1970’s, I sailed many times with Norwegian America Line and Paquet, as well as other lines, and as I look at the brochures for those cruises, and the price paid, they are the same prices paid for similar cruises TODAY.

Now, move into the 1980’s, Royal Viking Line, Home Lines – and many other, guess what, SAME PRICING for similar cruises TODAY.

Now, lets get real – today – huge ships, and some smaller new builds, with décor and public spaces that one could not even venture to dream about way back. Today balconies galore, queen/king beds, jetted tubs, free booze on some lines, flat screens and the list goes on, never were these even ideas back in the day.

Entertainment? Back in the day over the hill dance team, old farts with toupees, hoisting muffin topped ladies in tattered sequined dresses and a drunk magician. There was nothing state of the art for lighting or audio. The ballroom served all purposes for all entertainment. Compare that to today with high end top notch entertainment, better than most of the “talent shows” on TV today.

Then, the FOOD – Yeah, menus back then were huge, with tons of wonderful choices, and multiple courses, but, that was it – the main dining room. Did we know any better? No, most ships never heard of a buffet by the pool then, quite different today with the myriad of choices, be they included in the fair, or al la carte.

This could go on and on, comparing – like diamonds to plastic, Bergdorf’s to Kohl’s, Walmart to Dollar General – its all out there today, all good, depending on the passenger needs, and will pay.

So what if the photographers are aggressive, passenger’s stop buying pix, then, it would stop.

If alternate dining at a fee was not popular, it would vanish overnight like a zit.

Don’t like art – stop complaining about the art auctions. Its that simple.

Dollar for dollar, maybe Euro for Euro, the cruise IS the best for the money. Prices have not changed really, and it is the best deal going.

Comment from Mitch
Time August 28, 2013 at 9:26 am

I am in full agreement with you Kuki. I just got back from a Royal Caribbean Alaska cruise. We booked this early; and we got an outside on the recently refurbed Rhapsody of the Seas..7 days for around $620! The ship was beautiful, and rooms high tech..entertainment very good, dining room food varied and (mostly) delicious; organized events like our favorite “Trivia” plentiful….ALL of this for a little over $600 per person?? Yep, we took advantage of a per fee specialty restaurant one evening (at about 20% of what the same 5 star meal would be on land), and voluntary paid for some photos. But that was our choice, and not partaking would have not taken away from the joys of that ship significantly. I say bring on those photographers, “jewelry by the yard” sales, bingo announcements, etc. Anything optional that will help the bottom line, and keep cruising hands down the best vacation value hands down.

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