Royal Caribbean wants you to pay a $15 surcharge for red meat

Black Angus Motel
In great news for cows but another blow for vacationers, the cruise vacation giant Royal Caribbean has elected to charge $14.95 to anyone who orders New York strip steak in the main dining room. Eat all you want, the line says. Just not that.

Much of the fun of taking a cruise has been that everything's included in your fare. You can swim, pig out on the buffet, dance, splurge on lobster, and get somewhere interesting all for the same price, which on the major lines pans out to be between $100 and $200 a day. Here we have a cruise line deciding that your $150 doesn't include steak. So much for feeling like you can indulge.

If serving steak is such trouble, you have to wonder why Royal Caribbean doesn't just raise the price up the cruise by $10 or so. (Or better yet, ease up on the mountains of uneaten food at the afternoon buffets.) Then everyone can have their steak and eat it, too. The cruise line collects money from people who would never order a cruise line steak, and customers will come away with the illusion of value rather than with the bitter taste of nickeling-and-diming in their mouths.

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    To deal with the rising cost of food, Royal Caribbean is adding a surcharge for steaks served in its dining rooms.

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The trend toward paying more for "better" food is nothing new to the majors, although this is a new foray into the main dining room. The only free drinks choices on most cruises nowadays are water or horrible juices from boxed concentrates. Anything fancier is charged, although Disney Cruise Line grants free soda only on the pool deck.

Most of the big cruise lines also offer reservations-only, added-fee (at least $25 per meal) restaurants to serve as alternatives to the hubbub of the main dining room that everyone automatically eats in. From a marketing standpoint, I have always been a little suspicious of this concept in general.

The addition of an exclusive dining room implies that the main dining room's food isn't acceptable and is something you'll want to escape. In essence, it acknowledges that the fare that you paid for with your ticket isn't all it could be, a nuance that seems to have escaped the Princesses and the Royal Caribbeans of the world. To its credit, Cunard has two added dining rooms (on the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Victoria) that are curated by celeb chef Todd English, so you do feel like your added expense is buying something special that can't be done for the masses.

These added fees are also bad for your wallet. When you pay another $25 for that dinner at the niche kitchen, the money you laid out for the main dinner you're skipping goes straight to the coffers; you are paying twice for the same meal. And vacations are supposed to be no-stress, aren't they?

Between the added food charges and the already notoriously outrageous fees for shore excursions that could be done for much less independently, it's getting to where customers now have to school themselves in ways to protect themselves from the major cruise lines' price tricks. One recent vacationer bemoaned the new flurry of opportunistic charges, such as paying $20 if you misplace your towel on the pool deck. That's no fun.

Then again, the major lines may get more savage at this game. Facing piles of debt payments after years of crazed shipbuilding, managers may only be able to seek resolution by turning their vessels into seagoing motels that are propelled by extra fees. Already, a slowdown is in the cards; for the first time in years, Princess doesn't have a new ship currently under construction, and Carnival is taking it easy, too.

During a recession, entertainment is a great industry to be in, but don't count on lots of people booking ships when the perception is that they don't buy as much as they used to. And woe to the vacation seller whose product is seen as more stressful than it needs to be.

Update: A Royal Caribbean press rep wrote to tell us that only its New York Strip Steak will be charged at $14.95, a fee that is currently being tested on two of its biggest ships. Black Angus beef remains available as part of the standard fare. If the charge is rolled out fleet-wide, it will serve as a way for passengers to access food from the exclusive, added-fee restaurants without having to leave the main dining room. That still makes it an optional extra fee, and it still makes you wonder what's so wrong with the main menu that passengers would want an out, but the nuance is duly noted.

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Longtooth

So let me get this straight... they don't want our cars or beef, but they glady accept our troops and military equipment to protect them from the moron to their north, is that about it Kim Dip Sit? Here's an idea, you keep your Hyundais and DVD players in your country, and we'll keep our Humvees and troops in ours, deal?

December 06 2010 at 12:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dterraman

oops, the word police are here....what is that Perot saying? lolhahaha

December 05 2010 at 6:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dterraman

what is that "*******" sound? lol

December 05 2010 at 6:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
napajack

This is LONG overdue. We continue to defend South Korea with 20,000+ US troops on their northern border while they dump their products ( Kia, Hyundai, Samsung, LG, etc. ) on us with virtually no sales to them of U.S. manufactured goods.

December 05 2010 at 10:55 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to napajack's comment
bfpowersjr

I agree.

December 05 2010 at 2:44 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
jesterfuul

Well, it's time to rally against the President again. How dare he conclude a deal to create jobs? Must be some kinda trick the Communists and Maxists and Europeans and the Devil, himself, is trying to pull over our eyes. Well, we don't want the jobs or exports, first because he's black (and you know blacks are the wretched of the earth) and because it might halp America rebound -- and God knows we don't want him to succeed because then, America would succeed. How terrible! ACORN must be behind this and Jessie Jackson and the NAACP and it must be reparations for slavery. Besides, Obama only wants to help white folks so he can win again. The President is BLACK, remember, so it MUST be a trick! Be afraid! Be afraid!

December 05 2010 at 1:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jesterfuul's comment
dterraman

silly child

December 05 2010 at 6:56 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to dterraman's comment