The hated nickel and dime game.

What exactly is the difference between the nickel and dime cruise experience and the all-inclusive type; which is better for you?

My opinion is that this all stems from the bottom line and the profit margin which investors in the cruise line business have a sole interest in. In my opinion the best way to understand it all is to recognize that the industry confronted a situation years ago wherein it faced the dilemma of how to increase volume, if not, stagnate on Wall Street.

Problem was, most folks could not afford to cruise, simple as that. So the answer to getting them on board was to charge them only one low basic fee which gave them passage, a simple cabin, food in a common dining room or buffet and freedom to roam about the ship taking in a show or two, but not much else unless they wanted to pay extra. In addition, were shore days, shore sightseeing adventures were expensive so during the port days they could get by with taking a free shuttle into the nearby town or walking there. That was pretty much it, bottom line, they love/loved it. To the point the industry has introduced gigantic ships to compensate for the demand brought on by those who desire a simple affordable cruise on the sea. Today we have nine of these lines classified as majors (Those with 10 ships or more). Some label these as "Mainstream".

However, for the days of yore crowd and for the all-inclusive cruise lovers, there were problems. Except for a few very expensive all-inclusive lines or a couple or more trying to squeeze in between by offering an on board experience a notch above mainstream, all of which offered smaller vessels but more extravagant on board ambience, amenities and service, those voyagers were being left out of cruising boom.

So, the big boys compensated for that too. On board the giants they came up with all sorts of extra charge venues, in particular, extra charge specialty restaurants which blew away the ever increasing degradation of service and cuisine quality in the free main dining rooms by offering exquisite gourmet meals and super service. Commensurate with not only the addition of decent extra charge eateries, almost everything else in the form of service and on board programs capable of being extra charged were enhanced in quality.

Actually, those marketing tactics might be irritating but are pretty ingenious, as one can pay for all the extras desired, cuisine, better cabins, balconies, deluxe shore excursions, top quality booze, spa treatments and on and on but still rubbing elbows on the main deck with those paying for a lesser class of cruise on a bare bones budget. However, at the same time beating the expense of a similar itinerary with like or better service, meal quality and cabin size as to what one gets on the so called “luxury lines” for about one half to two thirds the total cost.

As far as the all inclusive's, ever been on one? We have, a lot. Free booze?--Except many who don't drink (as much as I do anyway) constantly complain they are subsidizing alcoholics. Lobster, Steak, escargot and caviar?---You constantly hear complaints from those on restricted diets etc. that they don't like these extravagances included in the overall price of the cruise. Shore excursions are included--Except many don't want to take those and suggest extra charges for shore excursions would be appropriate. Evening entertainment---Many don't like the theatre shows so prefer to not pay for such up front. Anyway, you get the drift.

But oh wait, haven't we heard this before? Yet some still wonder why the industry has gravitated to an extra charge policy on most stuff! Enjoy your nickel and dime cruise folks.

8 Answers

Well, from my son's first cruise to our first and his short cruise last year and our family on a while ago, The base price has actually dropped, but the day to day cost for time on board has gone up. From the gratuities, to dining, excursions, wi fi and room service, all these extra charges do not all have a high cost associated with them, so the profit is higher. And that's the bottom line.

It's all a matter of choice. You choose what you are willing to pay, just the basics or all inclusive, and be happy with your choice. Of course some people want all of it for the price of the basics and or will complain no matter what. The old saying "you get what you pay for" is true and relevant.

Thanks for a well thought out synopsis of the situation.

I am quite content with the setup as is. Anymore tampering and the set up of more fees or cuts and I may ponder different vacation modes.

I will try to keep an open mind. I haven't been happy with a lot of the changes over the years, but I have managed to adapt to them. I still find cruising enjoyable and a fun way to spend vacations. When it stops being that, then I'll start looking elsewhere.

Well said Kennicott. They can't please everyone no matter which way they do it so might as well please the share holders. Besides .. we peasants need something to complain about from time to time.

I love the model personally. If I want, I can go on a cruise for very cheap and not spend much. I can eat well and enjoy the ocean and sun pretty cheaply.

I like the ability to choose my cabin type and paying accordingly. I also like the option of choosing restaurants if I want to go pay. The MDR, from our recent experience, still puts out really good food.

Some things aren't worth it to us. For example the all you can drink package would require multiple naps a day for us as we are pretty light drinkers.

I also like the fact we have a credit card that helps compensate for some of the extra's we buy. We get onboard credits and it works pretty well through Carnival.

As usual KENN has nailed the "analysis" of the thing. We have been platinum with NCL for quite awhile, and get all kinds of "freebies" thrown in when booking a balcony or higher. Some of them we have absolutely no use for. The last time I complained direct re the 250 minutes of internet we get "for free", (included in the fare), I bypassed the phone answerers in Customer Service, and went much higher in the organization. (I tend to save those things.) We have no use for it. I only wanted to swap it for something reasonable..say $100 extra OBC...absolutely no way. There was a time back in the day when almost all of the "included" items were negotiable. We have done it. But no more.

What this tells me is that they can "include" virtually anything, bump up the fare, and the thing they included costs them absolutely NOTHING. What it costs YOU is a trade secret. Its time for me to take my own advice. We're talking about what many folks consider the ultimate luxury item, a cruise...and a well done cruise at that. By that I mean I don't NICKEL AND DIME MYSELF TO BOOT, TRYING TO SAVE $$. I don't like it, but it won't stop me.

Agreed, the balcony room price should include the balcony room amenities!

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