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Should Speciality Restaurants Cost Extra?


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On the vast majority of ships the 'Speciality Restaurants' cost extra even on the top luxury ships such as the new Silver Muse I was on a couple of months ago. You pay a fare that is alleged by most companies to give you quality dining but in truth, the reality is in many cases the meals do not live up to the hype.

I have just returned from a another land based trip, this time in Morocco where the hotel apart from the main restaurant serving international cuisine  boasted 2 speciality restaurants at no extra charge, one being Moroccan, the other Italian. After sampling both and discovering the quality to be as good as most 4 star ships I wondered why it is the ships charge extra on a cruise that costs substantially more in the first place. Is it time they included them in the cost. Forgot to mention the hotel restaurants included wine.

What do you think.

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Most cruise lines - particularly the mass-market ones - keep the base prices so low by having a number of 'on-board revenue centres' to part pax and their pennies.  No-one is forced to use them and without them, the base price would undoubtedly rise.  When I started cruising in 1995, food in the main mdr was significantly better than it is now but the fare was (comparatively) at least twice what it is now.

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I would think it all depends on the cruise ship. If P&O were to serve better quality meals they would have to put up their prices I think. As is pointed out so often they are catering for the masses. Depending on which cruise we've done the food has varied. On our Oceana cruise last year the food was a vast improvement to that on the Aurora World cruise. If however I were to be on a 6* ship I would certainly not expect to pay for a speciality restaurant.

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We always like to try the specialty restaurants. The table is yours for the evening so you are never rushed. The service is much better than in the main restaurants and there are always extra "treats". These restaurants are also much quieter and there are plenty of tables for two.

Guess that is why we have to pay extra .  .  

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1 hour ago, Oldworldtraveller said:

So if hotels that are catering for the masses can do it why can't ships. A week at this "All Inclusive" hotel including flights from London and transfers is £450. 

I don't think you can really compare the two.  A ship is moving from place to place, using up thousands of litres of fuel for one thing.  A ship will also need much more maintenance than a hotel and consequently require a much higher level of staffing.

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27 minutes ago, afcandrew said:

I don't think you can really compare the two.  A ship is moving from place to place, using up thousands of litres of fuel for one thing.  A ship will also need much more maintenance than a hotel and consequently require a much higher level of staffing.

In fairness afcandrew I think you can compare. A cruise costs in most cases at least double the cost of a land based holiday so the extra 50% should be more than enough for ship running costs. Take also into account that on ships the staff are in some cases on a lower pay rate than those on shore. Therefore out of the £450 you still have to subtract wages, flights, transfers etc but they are still able to provide free specialty restaurants out of what is left. 

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9 hours ago, Oldworldtraveller said:

So if hotels that are catering for the masses can do it why can't ships. A week at this "All Inclusive" hotel including flights from London and transfers is £450. 

Do not know of many hotels that serve 2000+ meals in the evening and on some of the newer ships it is considerably more.

 

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in a way i think this is the effect of the "benidorm" all inclusive being moved on to cruise ships less and less is a cruise something special. theres almost a rush to the lowest common denominator. more and more "all inclusive" drinks packages. i have rarely seen people abuse alcohol etc on a cruise but it seems to be coming more of an issue over the last few years. the pressure to reduce costs has seen a down grading of the standard fare in main dining areas and the cruiselines have seen a way of gaining revenue by offering "upgrades".

but in a sense driven by demand on the cruise in oct many of the residents of deck 9 buffet/pool area effectively spent nothing on the cruise never went to the main dining etc and their goal was a nil onboard account. and they all claimed to have paid less and less for the cruise in the first place. many do the same cruise or v similar every year.it was practically a pensioners annual get together. so i dont think the entire blame can be put at the cruiselines door. the customers have to take some of the blame too.

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Hi  As usual OWT has opened an interesting topic for debate.  I have no doubts that the standard of dining on most cruise lines has declined in recent years directly in response to the low boarding fares offered by the majority of operators and this has certainly led to a greater increase in number of passengers taking this form of vacation.  However, most of these passengers don't have the  knowledge to know what type of quality product in the past.  I used to have the majority of my vacations on ocean cruise ships but I now take the majority of my breaks on river cruises and land based hotels.  I may be an exception but I find that most ocean cruise lines these days only offer an acceptable product but rarely visit ports I haven't been to many times, maybe I have been spoilt in the past.

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Mitch and Land Ahoy make some very salient points.  Cruising has, for the last 3 - 5 years, been the fasting growing sector of the holiday market - especially in Europe.  The cruise lines have therefore offered many 'cheap deals' to claim their share of the market.  This coupled with so many people wanting the 'cheapest possible deal' has driven round after round of cost-cutting.

If I wanted to experience the standards I did on QE2 in 1995 and P&O Victoria in 1997, I would need to sail on someone like Oceania, which would cost me more than double what I currently pay on P&O for instance.

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in part they are victims of  the technology now enables them to commission bigger and bigger ships meaning they need far more bums on seats.

in my opinion bigger is not better.

some ships are now heading towards being disneyland on water. not my idea of fun and i wont be going there anytime soon.

i will happily cruise less often on a mid sized ship with an interesting itinery. it will no doubt cost more.

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14 hours ago, Oldworldtraveller said:

I am not sure sinbad10 the point you are making unless it is that by selling more meals the costs are cheaper. 

no I was thinking along the lines of comparing quality of cruise lines with hotels as the thread is stating and think mass market have a good case for charging extra for speciality restaurants and think the food served in mass market MDR is of a good standard as high as a lot of hotels who do not serve over 2000 evening meals a day.

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On 16/11/2017 at 10:07 AM, Oldworldtraveller said:

So if hotels that are catering for the masses can do it why can't ships. A week at this "All Inclusive" hotel including flights from London and transfers is £450. 

But how many breakfasts and evening dinners were they serving at this hotel nowhere near 2000+ and can be many more sois easier when it is a lower number to serve better quality.

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14 hours ago, Oldworldtraveller said:

I am not sure sinbad10 the point you are making unless it is that by selling more meals the costs are cheaper. 

Actually thinking the number of staff needed to prepare and cook meals and maintaining a high standard. You would need a lot more staff to prepare and cook equivalent number of meals served on a cruise than in a hotel more and larger machines in kitchens to prepare/cook and keep warm and this would increase costs so therefore would increase the cost of staying at the hotel.

Edited by sinbad10
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3 hours ago, sinbad10 said:

Actually thinking the number of staff needed to prepare and cook meals and maintaining a high standard. You would need a lot more staff to prepare and cook equivalent number of meals served on a cruise than in a hotel more and larger machines in kitchens to prepare/cook and keep warm and this would increase costs so therefore would increase the cost of staying at the hotel.

Surely it is all relative. More people to serve yes, but more money coming in to compensate hence the reason large ships are cheaper to run than smaller ones. As always, just my opinion.

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7 minutes ago, Oldworldtraveller said:

Surely it is all relative. More people to serve yes, but more money coming in to compensate hence the reason large ships are cheaper to run than smaller ones. As always, just my opinion.

i see both sides, but i think as cruises are percieved of and advertised as a 'luxury' product, even though you get variations to the standard of 'luxury' that you get, i dont think a cruise and an all inclusive land hotel are comparable due to the perceptions people have of the two.

i also think you get a hell of a lot more on a cruise than you do an all inclusive hotel, its not just about the food, you get more destinations, better entertainment, more choices included in the price, more dedicated staff (i could tell you about my cabin stweard from my last cruise but not my maid from my last hotel) a competely different experience just being at sea, in my opinion its worth paying that extra just for that indescriabable feeling of being at sea, looking out and seeing nothing between you and the horizon you dont get that in a hotel and thats why i would lean more toward the 2 not being comparable.

Edited by Furby
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5 minutes ago, Oldworldtraveller said:

Surely it is all relative. More people to serve yes, but more money coming in to compensate hence the reason large ships are cheaper to run than smaller ones. As always, just my opinion.

Yes I quiet agree but I am comparing cruise ships of 2000+ passengers to hotels as you did in your comment " So if hotels that are catering for the masses can do it why can't ships. A week at this "All Inclusive" hotel including flights from London and transfers is £450." that no doubt that the hotel in Morocco or many have 2000+ diners every day so unfair to compare.

 

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Furby, you make some good points as always. However 'All Inclusive' hotels have certainly upped their game in the last few years and I have to admit at being surprised by the level of service and the facilities. Certainly as good as most 4 star ships with a lovely spa, huge selection of food, open dinner dining from 6.30 - 10pm, breakfast 6.30 - 11am. I did however miss some things, formal nights, full waiter service, waking up in a new port every day and having to get up at 7am to get a sun bed.

sinbad10, I can see some of your points but the numbers I personally think are irrelevant as the more passengers or guests you have the more waiters you will have to cover them. How many guests at this hotel, I don't know but trying to work out the number of rooms which is difficult as the blocks were set out out in enormous gardens etc. I would think possibly around the 1,200.

We do however seem to have gone off topic as my original question was "Should Speciality Restaurants Cost Extra" which I would suggest has little to do with the number of guests and facilities. As always, just my opinion.

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Last spring we spent a week at an all inclusive in the Dominican Republic.  This was rated as a 5* resort and the service was excellent.  We had a butler to make reservations and provide extra services, including running a bubble bath with candles and rose petals on Valentine's Day.  The food was of a high standard and the three specialty restaurants required reservations but no extra charge.  The cost, including air fare and drinks was about 75% of a Celebrity Caribbean cruise in a balcony cabin without air fare or a drinks package.

I think specialty restaurants on board are just revenue generators, which are used to keep the head line cost down.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I recent years, we have sailed with various lines, including Azamara Club Cruises, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, and most recently, P&O Cruises. 

The main Compass Rose restaurant on three Regent Seven Seas ships, Mariner, Navigator and Voyager was excellent, so there was no need to look elsewhere.  Even so, we dined in Signatures (French restaurant), Prime 7 (the steakhouse) and Sette Marina (Italian restaurant) at no extra charge.  Regent's all-inclusive fares are much higher than any of the mass market cruise lines, but we were more than happy that we received value for money - and the alternative restaurants were really wonderful.

Food in the main restaurants on Azamara is usually very good, so we were not tempted to pay extra for either of the speciality restaurants (although we have used them in the past).

We have sailed with Princess many times, most recently in May 2017 on Crown Princess from Southampton.  Princess have cut back on the number of menu choices and quality in the MDRs.  We were amazed to discover that Princess had even replaced steak medallions (which used to feature as an "always available" option) with a burger, if you didn't fancy anything from the day's menu.  I am sorry, but I do not expect them to offer burgers for dinner in the evening.  We did not dine in any of the speciality restaurants, so I cannot comment on quality or value for money.  However, we shall be less likely to choose Princess for another cruise.

Our last cruise on P&O's Aurora in August 2017 was a revelation.  Food quality and service had improved significantly since our previous P&O cruises (in 2011 and 2014) and we were particularly impressed by the range of gluten-free options.  There was no need to patronise any of the speciality restaurants, but  we wanted to spend some of our on-board credit in Atul Kochhar's Sindhu Indian restaurant.  That was very disappointing and my wife's Akkha Gosht (spiced roast lamb rump) was so tough that it was virtually inedible.  She should have sent it back!  They charged £20 per person for the meal and following our our return to the UK, I discovered that the cover charge should have been £16.  I raised the issue with P&O, who refunded the amount of the over-charge.  Our cruise fare already included all meals in the MDR, so any cover charge should merely cover the extra cost of any speciality options. 

Value for money is very important.  £16 per person was too much for what we received - and £20 per person would have been really excessive.  For that amount, we could enjoy a complete, top quality Indian meal, in our home city of Leicester.  Following our experience of Sindhu, we shall not bother with any of the speciality restaurants on P&O.

Edited by BobTroll
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Sorry to hear about your experience in Sindhu.  I tried it on Aurora for the first time in May, when I actually went twice.  On both occasions the food and service were excellent and well worth the supplement I thought.  I had previously avoided it as I do not eat spicy food but will be very happy to try it again when I sail P&O for more than a week.  A week or less and I am quite happy to stay with the mdr.

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3 hours ago, BobTroll said:

I recent years, we have sailed with various lines, including Azamara Club Cruises, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, and most recently, P&O Cruises. 

The main Compass Rose restaurant on three Regent Seven Seas ships, Mariner, Navigator and Voyager was excellent, so there was no need to look elsewhere.  Even so, we dined in Signatures (French restaurant), Prime 7 (the steakhouse) and Sette Marina (Italian restaurant) at no extra charge.  Regent's all-inclusive fares are much higher than any of the mass market cruise lines, but we were more than happy that we received value for money - and the alternative restaurants were really wonderful.

Food in the main restaurants on Azamara is usually very good, so we were not tempted to pay extra for either of the speciality restaurants (although we have used them in the past).

We have sailed with Princess many times, most recently in May 2017 on Crown Princess from Southampton.  Princess have cut back on the number of menu choices and quality in the MDRs.  We were amazed to discover that Princess had even replaced steak medallions (which used to feature as an "always available" option) with a burger, if you didn't fancy anything from the day's menu.  I am sorry, but I do not expect them to offer burgers for dinner in the evening.  We did not dine in any of the speciality restaurants, so I cannot comment on quality or value for money.  However, we shall be less likely to choose Princess for another cruise.

Our last cruise on P&O's Aurora in August 2017 was a revelation.  Food quality and service had improved significantly since our previous P&O cruises (in 2011 and 2014) and we were particularly impressed by the range of gluten-free options.  There was no need to patronise any of the speciality restaurants, but  we wanted to spend some of our on-board credit in Atul Kochhar's Sindhu Indian restaurant.  That was very disappointing and my wife's Akkha Gosht (spiced roast lamb rump) was so tough that it was virtually inedible.  She should have sent it back!  They charged £20 per person for the meal and following our our return to the UK, I discovered that the cover charge should have been £16.  I raised the issue with P&O, who refunded the amount of the over-charge.  Our cruise fare already included all meals in the MDR, so any cover charge should merely cover the extra cost of any speciality options. 

Value for money is very important.  £16 per person was too much for what we received - and £20 per person would have been really excessive.  For that amount, we could enjoy a complete, top quality Indian meal, in our home city of Leicester.  Following our experience of Sindhu, we shall not bother with any of the speciality restaurants on P&O.

We have dined in Crown Grill every time we have cruised with Princess and have always had excellent and value for money steaks and always found even on our last cruise in June 2017 for the food in MDR  to be of a higher standard than on P&O. With regards to a burger for dinner have experienced liver and cottage pie on menu for MDR on P&O and do not expect to eat them as part of a 5 course meal on a cruise.

Edited by sinbad10
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