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Another major cruise line to sharply hike onboard fees

The Points Guy 12/5/2022 Gene Sloan
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Are you booked on a Princess Cruises voyage in 2023? Brace yourself for sharply higher daily fees.

In the coming weeks, the world’s fifth-largest cruise line plans to hike the automatic gratuity fee it charges passengers by more than 10% to $16 per person per day for those staying in most cabins.

It also plans an unusually sharp hike to the amount it charges for onboard Wi-Fi, with the cost of single-device plans soaring by 50% to $15 a day.

Four-device plans at the line will rise to $40 a day — an astounding 167% price hike.

The price hikes for gratuity fees and Wi-Fi fees will take effect on Dec. 14 and Feb. 20, respectively.

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The current gratuity rate at Princess is $14.50 for passengers in standard cabins and $15.50 for passengers in mini-suites and Club Class cabins. Passengers in top suites currently pay $16.50.

The new rates taking effect on Dec. 14 will be $16 per person per day for standard cabins and $17 for passengers in mini-suites and Club Class cabins. Passengers in top suites will pay $18.

With the increase, a family of four in a typical cabin will pay nearly $450 in automatic gratuities on a seven-night cruise — one of the highest levies in the business.

Among other major lines, Carnival Cruise Line and Holland America add $14.50 and $15.50 per person per day in such gratuities to passenger bills, respectively.

Like Princess, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian recently raised their gratuity fees to $16 in recent months.

While steep on a percentage basis, the increase in the gratuity charge at Princess (which the line recently renamed a “crew appreciation” fee) is the first at the line in more than three years. Princess last raised its gratuity fee on May 21, 2019.

Related: TPG’s ultimate guide to cruise ship gratuity charges and tipping

The fee hikes at Princess come amid a surge in price hikes for all sorts of onboard items on ships.

Among the cruise operators sharply raising prices for onboard items include Carnival Cruise Line, which has pushed up the cost of some of its marquee restaurants on ships this year by as much as 26%. The cover charge for the line’s signature steakhouses, for instance, has jumped from $38 to $48 per person in two steps over the past seven months.

Carnival has also hiked the cost of its signature Chef’s Table experience this year by nearly 24% to $99 a person. The cost of drinks packages on Carnival ships is up significantly this year, too, in some cases by more than 15%.

Another line raising prices significantly this year for some onboard items is Norwegian Cruise Line. The brand will increase the cost of its Unlimited Open Beverage Bar Package on Jan. 1 by about 10%, to $109. The cost of a higher-end drinks package will soon be $138, up from $128.

Many Norwegian customers get a “free” drinks package as part of a booking promotion. However, the booking promotion does not include an automatic 20% bar gratuity on the theoretical cost of the packages. As the cost of Norwegian’s drinks packages rises, the cost of its automatic bar gratuity fees rises, too.

Related: The ultimate guide to Princess Cruises

Cruise lines have blamed the onboard price hikes on the soaring costs they are experiencing to buy food and fuel to operate their ships as high inflation takes hold in the economy, as well as ongoing supply chain challenges.

The Royal Princess in Glacier Bay, Alaska. PRINCESS CRUISES © The Points Guy The Royal Princess in Glacier Bay, Alaska. PRINCESS CRUISES

That said, in many cases, the prices that cruisers are finding at onboard venues such as restaurants and bars — and the amount they are spending on board ships — are rising much faster than the rate of inflation.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings president and CEO Frank Del Rio told Wall Street analysts last month that the company’s revenue per passenger per cruise day was approximately 30% higher in the third quarter of this year than the comparable 2019 period.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings is the parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

Related: The 3 classes of Princess ships, explained

In the United States, consumer prices over the past year have increased by 7.7%, as measured by the latest Consumer Price Index report from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Princess says customers with existing cruise reservations for the coming year and beyond can lock in the current, lower gratuity rates by prepaying gratuities before Dec. 13.

Note that, in some cases, passengers who are unhappy with the service they receive on Princess ships can adjust the amount of daily gratuities posted to their accounts while on board by visiting the Guest Services desk, according to the line.

An alternative option

In lieu of paying gratuity fees, Wi-Fi fees and a few other fees for onboard items separately, Princess recently introduced bundle pricing as an alternative.

The line’s new Princess Plus plan gives passengers pre-paid gratuities, a single-device Wi-Fi plan and a basic beverage package for a bundled price of $50 per person per day.

The line also recently launched an enhanced version of the above plan called Princess Premier, which adds two free meals at restaurants that normally have an extra charge and a photo package. The Princess Premier plan costs $75 per person per day.

Related: The 5 best destinations you can visit on a Princess ship

Effective for cruises departing on Feb. 20 and beyond, the line will add additional perks to the Princess Plus and Princess Premier plans while also increasing their daily cost.

The Princess Plus plan will include two premium crafted desserts and two fitness classes per day, as well as unlimited juices and free shipping for the Medallions that Princess passengers use on board.

The Princess Premier plan will include unlimited premium crafted desserts, unlimited smoothies or juices, unlimited fitness classes, reserved seating in the Princess Theater and a complimentary Medallion accessory.

With the additions, the cost of the plans will rise to $60 and $80, respectively.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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