This week I observed a good deal of buzz in the blog and online venues about Norwegian Cruise Line adding ala carte pricing to several speciality dining options on their ships. This on top of surcharges in the traditional main dining room for premium items and late night room service. The collective reaction has been to bemoan the perceived death of traditional cruising and the rise of nickel and diming passengers. However I think on balance the reaction is greatly overstated.
NCL made a name for itself over a decade ago, when the line was struggling to find an identity for itself amidst fierce competition from Royal Caribbean and the Carnival brands. Still owned by an asian cruise company that had failed miserably to manage NCL well, in 2000 “Freestyle Cruising” was introduced. A bold marketing move, it featured giving passengers the ability to book their meal times and locations in various shipboard restaurants. Naturally, the cruising establishment bemoaned the death of traditional main dining room meals-which did not and has yet to happen. This came a couple of years following Royal Caribbean introducing the first premium dining options aboard the Voyager Class of ships-which also were lamented as some harbinger of doom for main dining.