A good article has appeared in the NYT by Michelle Higgins, one of their better travel writers. It's about saving money on cruises, and I recommend it to you.
Here's one cutting from Michelle's piece. . .
Many of the new [extra charge] offerings reflect the changing tastes of passengers as cruise ships replace outdated casinos or less frequented theaters.
“What we’re offering, the consumer is saying ‘yes’ to,” said Dan Hanrahan, chief executive of Celebrity Cruises, who pointed out that passengers still have plenty of onboard dining and entertainment options with no fees attached. “That hasn’t changed since the day we started.”
I was struck by this, having just returned from a TA on Celebrity, because my observations correspond so closely with the article. Note that we sailed on an essentially full Solstice class ship, the Eclipse.
--We slogged through the casino fairly often to get from one end of the ship to the other. On average there were far
fewer gamblers there than on previous cruises we've taken, TA or otherwise. We both commented on this during the cruise. It was very obvious.
--Similar experience in the large theater. There was never a problem finding a seat for any show, and sometimes the audience was so sparse that I actually felt sorry for the performers, especially the comedians. The production shows drew a somewhat larger crowd, but again, if you wanted a seat there were plenty, even if you came late. It appeared that the cooking demonstrations and other "enrichment" events in the large theater generally drew bigger crowds than most of the standard "shows."
--Despite all the moaning on this site and elsewhere about specialty restaurants and their cost, they were doing a brisk business. We went to Qsine the first night and had a ball. We were surprised that there weren't many people there, but it was obvious that business picked up as word-of-mouth spread. When we went again late in the cruise it was hammered. We also ate at all the other specialties, which were doing well. Other "extra cost" venues were also doing well: the bars, the spa, the specialty coffee bar and the internet cafe were all hopping, and generating significant revenue in addition to the base fares. The auction of a half dozen pieces from the Corning glass blowers brought thousands of dollars for charity.
--And, I was surprised to see that the art auctions are HISTORY on this ship. No sign of them anywhere.
The times, they are a' changin'. The cruise lines aren't stupid. They're obviously continuously tailoring their offerings to the things people are willing to spend for, and these days it seems to be specialty restaurants, good coffee, and decent saloons. It was surprising to see how many people had purchased the soda, coffee and "drink till you drop" cards, the latter costing something like $700 per person.
And so it goes.