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Other Cruise News - Is Complimentary Dining Being OBE ?


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I came across an article today dated July 13 on a new a la carte dining program being implemented by NCL (I tried inserting the article, but it would not allow me to paste it...and of course, I have lost the URL by now). Now, instead of paying a flat fee for specialty dining options on NCL they are going to begin charging just like any ol' restaurant on land does.

 

This concerns me very much. I see the handwriting on the wall. The transition has been slow but very deliberate. Cruise ships had, historically, been All Inclusive when it comes to food. Then in the early 2000's NCL introduced the "specialty dining" option to cruising where all of your food was included EXCEPT when you wanted a little something "special" where you could pay a modest surcharge and eat at a number of "specialty" restaurants. That concept was quickly adopted by the other cruise lines b/c it meant that they could start charging extra for something they had always been "giving away" (of course, you were already paying for the food in the cruise fare price...nothing is FREE). Next was the introduction of certain "premium" selections that you would pay a little bit MORE for - specialty steaks or adding a lobster tail to your main dining room option.

 

Now with this newest announcement from NCL they are just going all the way. This new pricing will charge a la carte for most of their specialty dining restaurants (to be fair, they are still offering some specialty restaurant packages...not sure how that's going to work with the a al carte options). Presumably they will still offer the "free" food in the complimentary restaurants but I foresee a day when those complimentary restaurants will begin disappearing and we will be left with nothing but "pay as you go" dining on board ship. Perhaps that last assumption is a giant leap. I hope I'm wrong.

 

Also, with this new a la carte pricing, gone are the days when you can order whatever you want, and as much as you want (even in the specialty restaurants !), from the menus. With a la carte pricing you will be paying for every item you order.

 

Of course, I recognize that RCI has been experimenting with this plot for a while with Izumi...but it seems that RCI does nothing original so I look for them to follow NCL on this as they have with most other NCL "innovations".

 

I am very distressed with the cruise industry, all around, for this kind of subtrefuge. The worst part of it is they try and make you think that they're giving you something NEW and WONDERFUL, when, in reality, they are trying to find new ways to extract ever more money from you for less.

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I'll be very disappointed if this catches on and it is getting a lot of bad publicity. However, many cruise lines have had this for some time. For example, Carnival has a bar that offers bar grub at a la carte pricing. In the end, though, I think revenue will go down as I personally would more likely split entrees and starters with my wife instead.

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This is disturbing news. The ability to board a ship and have the all-inclusive experience for the duration of your cruise is one of the hallmarks of cruising for me. I'm ok with the specialty restaurant concept, but if they go all the way as WAAYTOOO speculates... that would be devastating to the whole concept of cruising.

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Trying NCL for the first time next year and as a a "non-specialty" person it looks like there are enough free options where it wont be a problem for me for now, will see how it works out.

 

In general though one of the attractions for me of cruising is the MDR experience. No figuring out what we feel like eating tonight, what time, etc, etc. so continued movement towards a multi-restaurant system (aka DD on RCL) didn't interest me to start with, now if you throw on top having to pay extra for almost all the choices, I don't think I like it at all.

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Seeing Royal Caribbean rowing back on the whole Dynamic Dining rubbish would say to me that they are trying to keep the dining simple. Didn't they also change one of the specialties back from a la carte last week to a pay at the door- was it Jamies Italian?- I could be completely off the wall here?

 

Cruising in itself, I would have thought, was supposed to be a full board experience- one of the fundamentals, If that was to change I would envisage a mass exodus from the concept.   

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While they are doing A La Carte pricing for some places (and actually they have done this on
their newest ships already so its not "new" they are also going to implement in 6 days, August 7th

Specialty Dining Packages, that are from 3 days to length of cruise for a flat fee

starting at $59 per person to eat 3 nights in 3 specialty restaurants

I think this was their answer to compete with Dynamic Dining but I think it will do well
and you get a discount for pre-booking and can pre-book places to eat 90 days out

We will see - I don't think Dynamic will last long with RCI 

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While they are doing A La Carte pricing for some places (and actually they have done this on

their newest ships already so its not "new" they are also going to implement in 6 days, August 7th

Specialty Dining Packages, that are from 3 days to length of cruise for a flat fee

starting at $59 per person to eat 3 nights in 3 specialty restaurants

I think this was their answer to compete with Dynamic Dining but I think it will do well

and you get a discount for pre-booking and can pre-book places to eat 90 days out

We will see - I don't think Dynamic will last long with RCI

 

I agree Michelle - I think they messed with mother nature!

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The fact that they changed Jamies back to flat rate leads me to think that at worst Royal might try this with each specialty and keep or change back as they find what restaurants people are willing to pay a la carte for. So far only Izumi has managed this. Honestly because of Jamies I'm not terribly worried the fad will catch on with Royal, but I guess only time will tell.

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I think the Jamie's thing was more about the audience.  In UK, Jamie Oliver is a big celeb whereas in the USA, he is not as well known.  I had heard RC indicated it was Jamie's people that insisted on the a la carte pricing in UK to capitalize on the folks going there.  

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  • 2 weeks later...

Matt, you could be correct regarding catering to the UK market.  I just got back from the Brilliance and half the passengers were from the UK, with the next largest group (25%) from the US, followed by Spain (200 or so), and a mixture making up the rest.  Thus, the entertainment and menus were geared towards the UK market, which I really enjoyed.  For example, there were at least two Indian dishes every night on the menu (you would have been in heaven), a meat pie of some time, and at least one other UK dish.  Also, the beef dishes were all served with Yorkshire pudding.

 

 

Regarding a la carte in general, obviously Rita's and Izumi have been this way.  We did try Rita's--it was fine, but we couldn't justify going to Izumi as the rolls were nearly twice the price of what I can get at home.  However, being in California, our sushi prices may not reflect the rest of the country because of competition.

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Matt, I thought of you almost every night knowing your love of the cuisine.  In fact, one night in the Windjammer the theme was Indian and they were rolling out and cooking Naan (sp?) bread to order and making your choice of a beef or chicken dish with two types of sauces.  It was exceptional and the senior crew were clamoring for it when they were dining there.  It was a big hit and exceptional.

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