This subject has been beaten to death not only in this string but for years and years on this and other cruise sites.
Bottom line: It is axiomatic that cruise lines strive to keep their base prices as low as possible in order to drive bookings and compete effectively. Airlines do the same thing, which is why you now pay to check bags, eat food, and rest your weary head on a pillow. If they throw those things in like they used to, they must necessarily raise fares, and if they do that two things will happen:
1) There will be endless strings on boards like this about how the airfares to get to cruises are usuriously high, some of them started by the moderators.
2) More importantly, the airline that raises its base fares will show up last on the list on all the search engines like Orbitz. They will lose business as a result.
Same thing with ships. People compare base fares, even if they aren't apples to apples. If a line wants to compete, they've got to hold the base fares down. Period.
Which means they've got to set up a bunch of serious profit centers for those who want to partake of them, and they do. You've just got to cope with that, and it's really easy to do: if you don't want to spend extra, just don't.
As far as specialty restaurants are concerned, on Celebrity we eat in all of them at least once, sometimes more. We leave on a TA in a few weeks and have already prebooked all of them once. We're really looking forward to trying Qsine. It looks like a lot of fun. Overall we're very much in the camp of 2katz3fsh.
The argument that the specialties should be included in the fare has another problem beyond just the concept of holding the base fare down. . .
Do the bloody math!
If you're on a 3,000-passenger ship and everyone has free access to the specialties, how's that going to work out in terms of accommodating everyone? Naturally, if they're "free" they'll become the most in-demand places on the ship, and like night follows day they won't have nearly enough room for everybody. And then the screaming will really start--both onboard and online! Cruising is now a mass-market commoditized business. If you make the specialties free, they will then become the equivalent of the MDR. By definition.
So the surcharge drives away those who do not consider it a value proposition and leaves the nicely-spaced, quiet tables, personal service, and at least marginally better food for those who value those things and are willing to pay for them. Lots of things on ships are not birthrights. Massages aren't free, drinks aren't free, Cokes aren't free, the casino isn't free, bingo isn't free, shore excursions aren't free, and specialty restaurants aren't free.
You just have to decide where you are on that continuum. If you feel you can't afford specialties or they don't represent value for money, just head for the MDR. Most people do, and I've never heard of anyone starving there.