COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on nearly every segment of the travel industry, and cruises are no exception. As the situation has worsened, the cruise industry has been challenged to make big changes to its business model.
On Nov. 10, Celebrity Cruises, which is owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises, announced an update that will delight cruise goers who are sick of extra fees: Travelers will no longer have to worry about extra charges for Wi-Fi, gratuities and a wide selection of drinks, including many alcoholic beverages, on any itinerary except those to the Galapagos.
This means that you won’t come home with another big bill after paying to get on the ship in the first place.
How much can you save?
Given how much these amenities cost individually, a couple traveling together could save almost $1,200 in extra charges.
For example, a single Xcelerate Surf Internet package previously cost $129 for a seven-day cruise. An unlimited beverage package would start at $59 a day per person (over $800 for a couple on a seven-day trip), and the cost would be more for premium drinks. And don’t forget the tips. Gratuities were included at the fee rate of $15.50 a day per person (that's another $200+).
This generosity doesn’t come for free, though — the base price for cruise packages will likely go up. But we predict that the increase won’t be nearly as much as if you bought the items individually.
An important part of the new “Always Included” program is that it covers the basics that most passengers use already. If you want the fastest internet access or premium drinks, you’ll be able to get those, but they'll cost extra.
Let’s unpack what’s included in each of the Always Included cruise package tiers:
Classic: All eligible Always Included cruises are automatically booked as the Classic beverage package and include carbonated drinks, bottled water, juices, premium coffees and teas, as well as beer, spirits, cocktails and wines by the glass up to $9 per serving. Gratuities and the unlimited Surf Internet package for one to two guests are also part of this package.
Elevate: For an extra charge, additional amenities, like premium beverages and onboard credit, are available through the Elevate package. This package includes all carbonated drinks, premium bottled water, freshly squeezed juices, a variety of premium soft drinks, coffees and teas, as well as beer, spirits, cocktails and wines by the glass up to $15 per serving. Like the Classic package, gratuities and the unlimited Surf Internet package for one to two guests are included.
Indulge: For a larger additional fee, you can upgrade to the Indulge package. This offer is identical to the Elevate package except for two key differences: The value of your onboard credit doubles, and you’ll have access to the unlimited Stream Internet package — making your Netflix binge at sea entirely possible.
What’s not included
Keep in mind that regardless of your Always Included package level, certain amenities are never included. The Classic and premium beverage packages apply to only select drinks and don't include room service, in-stateroom purchases, minibar items, souvenir glasses or bottles of wine. There are also optional gratuities in place for certain onboard purchases, like spa treatments or specialty food and drinks.
It’s important to note that unless you upgrade to the Indulge package, you won’t be able to video chat, stream videos or send and receive photos. The basic Surf Internet package supports only browsing the web, sending emails and texting.
The bottom line
The biggest winners from this policy change will be those cruise goers who were already planning on paying for extra amenities and will now save as the fees get bundled into the trip cost at a reduced rate. Costs aside, many travelers can benefit from the simplicity. Now that one of the cruise industry leaders has started to move toward an all-inclusive business model, the value proposition of a cruise vacation has gotten more interesting. It’s possible that other cruise lines will follow suit and offer similar packages, but that's yet to be determined.
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