Some call it a creative way to improve revenue for cruise lines. Some call it bean counters at work. Some call it a sign of the times.
It's the dreaded extra charge.
The question now is this: Do cruise lines use airlines as the model?
Anybody remember flying when you could check pretty much all the luggage you had to take on a flight, at no extra charge…when you ate full-course meals, at no extra charge (Is this revenge for complaining about "airline food" the way we complain about "hospital food"?)…when drinks of all kinds were available, at no extra charge…and when the price of your airline ticket was all-inclusive with minimum or no tax?
Airlines now charge for all that, and more. Are cruise lines moving in the same direction?
Today we pay for checked luggage on most flights on most airlines. There are no charges for taking luggage on cruise ships…is that coming?
Today airlines charge for food. Is the parallel that cruise lines charge for "specialty" restaurants, in increasing numbers, and on occasion for room service?
There are no drinks of any kind on some airlines without paying. While cruise lines got the jump on that one with booze and soda, will bottled water, juice and coffee be next?
Airlines charge more if you want priority seating. Cruise lines are starting to charge for priority boarding.
Do you want that bulkhead seat on the plane, or the more spacious emergency exit aisle? Ante up. Will cruise lines structure the price of staterooms according to location, if they don't already?
Many airlines charge extra for headphones to enable you to be entertained by the in-house TVs. Is it thinkable that cruise lines would levy a cover charge for on-board shows?
It is wrong, by the way, to call anything on either vessel "free" because you've already paid for being on the plane or ship. It is right to say that the corporate giants are looking for additional revenue to keep shareholders happy, and you can be sure it caught the attention of the cruise industry when airlines revealed the enormous profits that come from extra charges just for luggage.
So far, in cruising the extra charges are for non-essentials. Nobody has to go to the specialty restaurant, or drink wine or soda pop, or get on the ship quickly. So far, cruises are still close to being all-inclusive.
If that changes, it may lead to another question…something about killing the golden goose.
Windstar's Wind Star
December 8, 2012
Colon, San Blas Islands, Panama Canal, Coiba Island, Golfito, Drake Bay, Puerto Caldera
Cost per day: $285