Princess Cruises has announced a revamping of its dining offerings. But while the news seems purely positive on the surface, it has left cruise passengers confused and upset. 

The changes involved Princess expanding the offerings for its Princess Plus and Princess Premier Packages. But that comes at a price. The Princess package has apparently reduced the value available to those who are just paying the base fare.

Many are now raising questions, with some asking if Princess is ‘nickel and diming’ those on the ordinary fare.  

Incentivising passengers to trade up is a common way for travel operators to persuade clients into more premium fares. It’s common among no-frills airlines, and many cruise lines have a huge variety of fare structures they can deploy.

Princess has introduced a new ‘casual’ dining category, that will serve three-course, fixed-price menus, for a fee of USD$14.99. These casual dining options include onboard venues 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’. 

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Why are customers upset? 

Alfredo’s no longer free

Beloved former-complimentary restaurant Alfredo’s will now incur the USD$14.99 fee. as it’s part of ‘casual dining’. Pizza out on the deck will still be complimentary, but pizza from Gigi’s will no longer will be complimentary. 

Princess Cruises’ social media forums have erupted, with hundreds of comments debating the new changes. 

Terri Fromm wrote: “We have a cruise booked to Alaska next June on Majestic. My son loves Alfredos. I’m not going to pay for something that used to be free. If Princess is going to start nickel and diming me and urging me to upgrade, this will be my last cruise with the line.”

A long-time cruiser like Russell Benton sees it as another step in the slow morphing of cruising towards non-inclusive. 

“When I first started cruising back in 1997 I had the run of the ship. No specialty restaurants, and no decks for only suite guests. We were all equal and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

“Even now, I am all for specialty restaurants where if someone wants something special you can pay and enjoy. But Alfredo’s and the Salty Dog pub are not specialty dining and should be included in the fare.

“This is simply another Princess scheme to extract money from you. It’s not about increasing perks or enhancing experience. Don’t be fooled.”

Changes to room service under Princess package

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Passengers who haven’t purchased Princess Plus or Princess Premier packages will now have to pay a one-time activation fee for OceanNow on-demand food. The fee of USD$14.99 has to be paid once for guests to be able to order food to wherever they are on the ship.

Furthermore, room service will incur a USD$5 delivery fee per order. However, complimentary breakfast room service remains. 

Those who have Princess Plus or Princess Premier will not have to pay the OceanNow activation fee. They will also not have to pay the delivery fee for room service. 

Cruiser Michael Trapp wrote: “Cruising will end up being the airlines of the sea. Base charge for a room and fees for everything else.”

Longer cruisers feel left out

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There are also complaints over the offerings of Princess Plus. Per the Princess Plus inclusions, guests receive two casual dining meals. 

However, this two-meal rule applies regardless of the length of your voyage. 

Cruiser Mark Anderson purchased Princess Plus felt it didn’t advantage him, as someone going on a longer cruise.

“What’s frustrating to me is that with the Plus package, I get two “free” ala carte meals at Alfredos regardless of the length of my cruise. It’s penalizing those who travel on longer voyages. 

“Those longer voyages with lots of sea days are when I want to enjoy something different. There should be some type of a “reset” after 7 days.”

The move towards non-inclusive 

For many cruisers, their concerns extend beyond the particular issue of Alfredo’s and room service. Rather, they are worried about the general transition of cruising towards being a less-inclusive type of holiday. They view the Princess’s changes as symbolic of this shift.

“Cruising used to be an all-inclusive vacation minus alcohol. They start by charging extra for one little thing, no biggie. Then they charge extra for something else, ok still a deal. 

“Then they charge extra for more and more and more and all of a sudden one day you’re paying extra for everything. I for one am tired of getting nickeled and dimed to death. Every time you go to a store, restaurant etc, they have their hand out trying to empty your wallet.

Not everyone agrees 

There are also many passengers who are saying the uproar is unnecessary. Many other cruisers feel that other lines are much worse offenders than Princess. 

Linda Skirving Ashdown wrote: “Just my two cents but Princess doesn’t nickel and dime as much as other lines. We were on RCI and the drink package alone was over $90. Per day. Wifi was $20 a day and Gratuities were $16.50 per day.

“Everything is more expensive these days and companies are trying to make back the money they lost. Unfortunately, this is the way it is no point in getting worked up about it.”

Other cruises like Cheri Dubois see anything that keeps fares down as a positive.

“If Princess had to choose between raising fares for everybody or this, this is definitely the better choice!”

A Princess spokesperson told Cruise Passenger:

“Princess Cruises have introduced exciting new 3-course prix fixe meals to our popular casual dining venues. These vary by ship, but include O’Malley’s, Ocean Terrace, Vines, Alfredo’s Pizzeria, Gigi’s Pizzeria, Kai Sushi, Planks, BBQ, Steamers and Salty Dog Gastropub.

“Guests on Princess Premier and Princess Plus can now enjoy these new 3-course prix fixe meals at no additional cost. For Princess Standard guests, the casual prix fixe dining will be AU$22.45, and individual selections will be a la carte, including pizzas.”

The spokesperson added: “Don’t worry, all guests can still savor top-quality complimentary culinary options around the ship, like Slice Pizza on the Lido deck.”