Guests are rebelling against the creeping package charges being imposed by cruise lines as they try and recoup Covid losses and stay ahead of inflation.

The take-up from passengers has been low, with guests suggesting that it’s more economical to pay-as-you-go.

Lines like Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Princess Cruises are now packaging items like WiFi, drinks packages, onboard credit, and specialty dining options.

Princess announced the changes in August to its Princess Plus and Princess Premier Packages, which raised questions if the line was ‘nickel and diming’ those on the ordinary fare.

Princess Medallion package cruise
Access to the OceanNow delivery service will come at a charge for some guests

What are the changes for Princess cruise packages?

One passenger posted to Facebook that the line will charge guests for the OceanNow Delivery service as well as room service.

“OceanNow® delivery: A nominal one-time access fee of AU $22.99 per guest per voyage will now apply to access unlimited OceanNow delivery.

“Room service fee: An AU $7.50 delivery fee per order will be charged for all room service orders (except complimentary stateroom breakfast orders).

“While you currently are booked on a package that does not include these new benefits, in light of these changes, Princess Cruises is providing an onboard “AU/NZ regional spending credit” of AU $25~ to those on Standard cruise fare or Plus/Premier bundles purchased before 14 December 2022.

But savvy cruisers have crunched the numbers and suggest different ways to get around the fees. Particularly for guests who won’t utilise all the inclusions.

Once cruiser posted, “I have been doing the sums around this too. We definitely want WiFi so that appears to be $21.70(AUD) a day, $304 (AUD) each for our 14-night New Zealand cruise. The plus package is $910 each.

“We are pretty much non-drinkers but may have an occasional cocktail. We both prefer can soft drinks rather than post mix (we will bring our own). As a diabetic the ‘premium’ desserts and the juice bar is a no-go for me too!

“My sailing partner does like the mocktails. I do love the specialty coffees and would have one to two a day at around $5 each. We are thinking just to load some money into our onboard accounts and see how we go.”

The line introduced a new ‘casual’ dining category that will serve a three-course fixed-price menu in August. These dining options included onboard venues like Vines, Salty Dog Gastropub, O’Malleys, Ocean Terrace and more.

While regular passengers will pay the fee, Princess Plus members will get two ‘casual dining’ meals for free. Princess Premier members will receive unlimited ‘casual dining’.

But customers were in uproar when the beloved former-complimentary restaurant Alfredo’s was no longer included as part of the cruise fare.

Passengers on upcoming Australian, New Zealand and South Pacific sailings have received emails on the new changes.

What are the cruise lines’ package charges for dining?

“New charges for Alfredo’s and Gigi’s by Alfredo’s: We’ve introduced new prix fixe casual dining options at some of our favourite restaurants like Planks, Steamers, Alfredo’s, Gigi’s by Alfredo, Ocean Terrace and Kai Sushi (availability may vary by ship).

“Alfredo’s and Gigi’s by Alfredo join these other locations in adding a nominal cover charge of AU $22.99 per guest for the prix fixe meals, with a la carte items also available for purchase.”

Others though, have argued the Princess changes are reasonable compared to other lines like Royal Caribbean.

Another Princess cruiser said, “We never drink at home. Maybe one or two drinks a year but used to have one cocktail a day before plus package.

“Tried it on our cruise around Australia earlier this year. Was happy with it.

Princess took away our free internet minutes so glad got that also the juice bar only got one for breakfast.

“Of course, we never got near the alcohol limit but with our coffees and some mocktails amongst the alcohol drinks.

“With the added room service charges and the ocean now charge think it is worthwhile.

“To compare with Royal Caribbean (I have a family one in December for the first time).

“They do not have fixed prices but my cruise today prices: Alcohol/drink package $132.41 per day; WiFi $39.70 per day; Non-alcohol drink package $53.52 per day.

“Our next cruise on Princess we booked standard as is 35 days, so price added up. But compared to Royal Caribbean we decided to upgrade to plus package.”

Alfredo's on Princess is now charging $22.99
Alfredo’s on Princess is now charging $22.99

A Royal Caribbean passenger saves $1000

One Royal Caribbean cruiser though, worked out a way to save $1000 from her booze bill.

Sue Shaw said, “Glad I cancelled our drink package, it worked out better for us. We put the equivalent amount on our Wise travel card.

One a seven-night cruise, Shaw said for a beverage package for $125 (on special) for seven nights for two people worked out to be $1750.

How did she do it?

Instead of paying for the beverage package, she took:

  • Two bottles of wine onboard
  • Cans of soft drinks
  • Cappuccino sachets
  • Had free drinks from the buffet
  • Purchased buckets of beer/cider (pay for four and get one free) for USD$33
  • Purchased an alcoholic drinks card (10 drinks) for $107

Though Shaw’s word of warning is the drinks card is not available on all cruises.