Carnival Cruise Line Now Charging Fee For Good Steak

There once was a time where the price of a ticket on a cruise ship included on-board food. Eventually, cruise operators began adding specialty restaurants, where passengers paid more for foods not on the menu in the main restaurant. And then in 2008 we brought you the story about Royal Caribbean charging passengers a $14.95 surcharge for an “organic” NY strip steak that may not have been organic after all. Now comes a report that Carnival Cruise Line thinks its best steak and lobster dishes merit an $18 fee.

According to, Carnival has begun adding upcharges to certain menu items in the main dining rooms on three ships — Carnival Paradise, Carnival Triumph and Carnival Inspiration — that don’t currently house a separate for-fee steakhouse:

The four entrees include a nine-ounce filet mignon, an 18-ounce grilled prime rib chop, a broiled Maine lobster tail and a surf-and-turf combo (a half lobster tail and petite filet mignon).

“This is the first test in the main dining room that incorporates an additional charge,” explained a Carnival rep. “We initially tested steakhouse entrees on a few full-ship charters but needed more testing to fully evaluate it.”

Carnival tells Cruise Critic that the test will run approximately three months and that the company won’t speculate on longer-term plans. If the Royal Caribbean upcharge — still in place two years later — is any sort of barometer, you can probably expect these fees to stick around.

The big question is: Should cruise lines be charging extra for any menu items in the main dining room? Could this ultimately lead to most or all of the better menu items being elevated to for-fee status?

Is Carnival Cruise Line Charging for Steaks in the Main Dining Room? []


Edit Your Comment

  1. Alvis says:

    All steaks are organic.

    • Liam Kinkaid says:

      Well done!

    • ilovemom says:

      Oh, please. Definition 3(a)(2) of ‘organic’ from Merriam Websters: of, relating to, yielding, or involving the use of food produced with the use of feed or fertilizer of plant or animal origin without employment of chemically formulated fertilizers, growth stimulants, antibiotics, or pesticides.

    • AnthonyC says:

      Both uses of the word organic (chemical and agricultural) originated at about the same time, historically. It’s because the original source of organic chemicals was from living things, just like the original farming practices that didn’t use chemicals derived from non-living things. They both have equal claim to being legitimate uses of the word organic.

      And if you’re really going to insist on this, I have to assume you have some scientific training. If that is the case, then you *KNOW* that different fields use the same words to describe very different concepts *ALL THE TIME.* Do you tell chemists they aren’t allowed to talk about different chemical “species” in a system because the biologists don’t use “species” that way? Didn’t think so.

      • Alvis says:

        Oh, please. This organic = nebulous non-processed healthier crap is all the doing of J. I. Rodale.

        • ilovemom says:

          If you wanted to debate the claim that organic food is healthier (or in some other way) better than the alternative why didn’t you just say that in the first place? it’s a lot more interesting topic than playing semantics.

          • Alvis says:

            I’m just offended by the hijacking of the word.

            • Gulliver says:

              So I guess any word that has multiple meanings “offend” you? At the end of the Flinstones when they say “we’ll have a GAY old time” were you thinking Fred and Barney were getting it on? When you add spices to your food do you season it, but everything is a season, either summer, fall, winter, spring. Is the meaning of mean the same all the time? Is it average, definition or nasty?
              It is not “hijacking” a word. It is an anal retentive ass trying to think he is too cool.

            • AnthonyC says:

              Again, “hijacking” is not an accurate term here. Organic chemistry got it’s name in the `19th century from the (mistaken) belief that the compounds being studied were to complex to be synthesized chemically. At the time it was believed that only systems with a “vital force” could create them. Chemically-derived fertilizers were invented shortly thereafter, and a few decades later there was resistance by some farmers to the adoption of industrial farming methods. They called this “organic” agriculture to distance themselves from the inorganically-derived fertilizers and pesticides, etc. that were becoming increasingly common.

              I am making no claims about the healthiness or quality of organic vs. conventional produce. The *value* of organic farming is a long and sometimes interesting discussion, but as separate one. I’m just pointing out that your insistence that a term can only have exactly one meaning, no matter the context in which it is used, is flat-out wrong. Get over it.

  2. digital0verdose says:

    Considering how cheap Carnival already is, $18 for a GOOD steak is a steal.

    I don’t see the problem with this as long as there is a suitable selection of food that still falls under the all inclusive category.

    • vastrightwing says:

      Sure, it’s a steal if you haven’t already paid for your cruise with meals. The $18 up charge will cover all the meals at the table. The upcharge should be about $2.00 at most. Even that will cover your entire meal, you already bought. Paaaleeeeessse!

      (ps) Outback sells the Victoria Fillet for about the same price. So you’re paying twice?

      • digital0verdose says:

        Remember that it is an option. You don’t have to buy it. It is there for those of us who wouldn’t mind paying for it.

        • mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

          “In the main dining hall, we’ll be serving your choice of chicken nuggets, hot dogs, bologna sandwiches, or grilled cheese. Or… If you’d rather… We have sirloin steak, lobster tail, braised quail, prime rib, duck a la orange, and filet mignon in our premium restaurant.”

          • digital0verdose says:

            Unfortunately extremist analogies are not going to provide you with any evidence to support your view point.

            • FrugalFreak says:

              Thier view is truth that is most likely to become reality, you just don’t wanna dine with less than l33t. premium surcharge should GO AWAY

            • SkreanAme says:

              Are you new here? Let me use the airlines as an analogy. My last two hour flight to SFO didn’t even include peanuts or pretzels, but the cheese plate was a veritable bargain! Swipe your card here.

    • william says:

      I think it’s naive that think that once they see people can accept this kind of charge, more won’t show up.

      And it’s even more naive to think the smart asses in the company will not come up “ways” to promote up-sale food by making free food crappier.

  3. corker says:

    norwegian cruise lines does the same thing. i would never go on another cruise with them.

  4. Ilo says:

    This is happening throughout the travel industry. Aggregator web sites allow consumers to easily compare prices between competitors. Each competitor will start to report a lower ticket price to be competitive, but hide much of the actual cost in fees and other charges that aren’t apparent on the Orbitz, Travelocity, etc. web site. The airline industry is already a classic example.

    • william says:

      it always sickens me when I find airline “ticket price” 50% less that all the “additional fees and taxes”.

      • Gulliver says:

        Taxes are not the airlines money, so take it up with your airport. Flying to some airports cost more money.
        I also wonder why people complain about ala carte pricing on airlines, but want it for cable tv?

        • SacraBos says:

          Because having a seat that hasn’t been peed in, a working restroom for a three hour+ flight, being able to take at least a carry-on are a pretty basic travel service, whereas 900+ channels of bad content that you never watch would be worth going a-la-carte for the probably couple of dozen channels most people watch.

      • SkreanAme says:

        No kidding! Try renting a car in San Diego! The taxes literally run higher than the rental fee.

  5. therealchriss says:

    man… last time I was on a Carnival ship, I ordered like… 3 surf and turfs one night. With this surcharge… maaaaaaaan that would’ve been an expensive meal.

    • rdldr1 says:

      Cause you can!! I guess shame was what held me back.

      • therealchriss says:

        I was an 18 year old high school student.

        Shame? Screw that. That night, I did the worm on the lido deck and slept on top of a pile of deck chairs.

        I don’t think I was supposed to be able to drink on the boat… DIDN’T STOP ME!

  6. theblackdog says:

    The worst part is enough idiots will pay the upcharge to where Carnival starts charging for all of their food.

  7. D0rk says:

    While I don’t like it, I don’t mind as long as suitable options were still available free of charge. I’ve been on 2 Royal Caribbean cruises in the past 3 years and both times, a decent sirloin was available as a backup option every night, and they served a good filet on the formal night as a standard option, no up charge.

    • Blackadar says:

      A sirloin is NOT a substitute for a decent steak. That’s like saying a hamburger is a substitute for a decent steak. Ug…

      • Gulliver says:

        Maybe in YOUR world, but many people prefer a sirloin. A properly cooked piece of sirloin has MORE flavor than a filet. Obviously you know nothing about food or flavor.

  8. SPOON - now with Forkin attitude says:

    this is the baggage surcharge for the airlines translated into cruise ships.

  9. vastrightwing says:

    If I were a betting man, this is how I see things going on the Cruise ships: exactly like the airlines. The only difference is that the cruise lines will slowly deploy these and watch their numbers in case too many potential customers revolt.

    I only request truth in advertising that “all inclusive” be completely removed from the brochures. Because now that these “up charges” are being deployed, you are no longer buying an all inclusive cruise. You are buying a somewhat inclusive* cruise.

    *Drinks, some meals and shore excursions are extra.

    • Gulliver says:

      Based on that model, wouldn’t any excursions you take be free as well? What about the money you spend on shopping? I guess to be truthful that would need to be included. IT is an EXTRA, that you can pay for if you want something ABOVE AND BEYOND. Let’s say the cruise ship does not have Patron tequilla. They get off at the port and you are forced to buy a bottle because YOU want something specific. YOU should pay for that What the cruise line is saying is
      , these are some things people may want. They are not included, but they are available to those who want to pay extra (kind of like the person who wants the larger room.

  10. Geekybiker says:

    If this becomes common, I’ll probably be taking less cruises. Either all the “good” dishes are going to be up charges, or they will simply low the quality of standard fare to sub-sizzler level.

  11. 44 in a Row says:

    According to the article, it doesn’t seem that bad.

    “Those who prefer their cow included in the cost of the cruise will still be able to opt for a ‘flat-iron steak,’ which is offered nightly on the line’s always-available menu, along with the prime rib and broiled Caribbean lobster tails that are served at least once every voyage.”

    So if I’m reading this right, the four new entrees are exactly that — new. They’re items that are available in addition to the regular menu, and my guess is that they’re available every night, so if you want to pay for it, you can get steak and lobster whenever you want (for a fee), as opposed to just when the main dining room menu offers it. Assuming the new entrees are actually of better quality, then this doesn’t sound like a terrible thing, especially on ships that don’t have their own steakhouse.

  12. nybiker says:

    As others have alluded to, this is the start of the construction for the slippery slope ride on the poop deck.

  13. corkdork says:

    These entrees are the same as the ones served for $30 a seat in the steakhouse on board (half of Carnival’s ships have steakhouse). So, $18 for the meal is a comparative bargain. Carnival still will offer their normal main dining room fare for the price included in the ticket; both options are quite tasty (my wife and I were on a Carnival cruise earlier this summer, and ate in the steakhouse and the MDR).

    • Alvis says:

      Not when you already paid for the meal as part of your cruise. This is $18 ABOVE the packaged dinner price.

      • conswirloo says:

        If this is the same steak as in the “for charge” dining room, its probably worth it. The steaks in the main dining room that I’ve had are underwhelming. The $30 steak in the separate restaurant, is probably in the top 5 or 10 steaks I’ve ever had. I’d rather eat a waffle house steak than the main dining room steak.

  14. humphrmi says:

    Went on a Princess cruise this summer; the scheduled dining restaurant served steak a couple nights during the cruise without any surcharge, but the steakhouse charged a $20 fee. So you could wait until a steak was served in the traditional dining room, or go to a steakhouse if you had a hankerin’. I tried it once – it was quite frankly the best steak I’ve ever had.

  15. oldwiz65 says:

    This is most likely an attempt by Carnival and the other cruise lines to start charging extra for anything above spaghetti and meatballs or macaroni and cheese.

    They advertise the cruises as being all inclusive, then tack on extra charges right and left.

    • Geekybiker says:

      Exactly. It’ll eventually turn into “You can eat at the POS buffet for free. Plated meals are extra”

  16. thebullfrog says:

    Face: Uh, Nose, we need to talk.
    Nose: What’s up?
    Face: I have to cut you off.
    Nose: What? Why?!? It’s only gonna hurt YOU.
    Face: Exactly. And you can’t argue with results.

    Idiots. At least HALF the appeal of cruising is the all-inclusive nature. It’s the All-U-Can-Eat of vacations, literally and figuratively.

  17. sirwired says:

    I don’t understand the whole Brouhaha. In return for the fee, they are offering entrees that are not currently available at any price on the ship. If you want a filet or lobster right now on those ships, you are out of luck; they are not available at any price. The steak and seafood that was available before is still available, and you can now purchase this other offering. On ships that have a premium restaurant available, you pay extra there instead.

  18. KTK1990 says:

    This is why I like Disney.

    $15 per person for unlimited food (Awesome steaks), all you can eat at Special restraunt 1. (For people 18 and up)
    $75 per person on Ship 3 and 4 (Not on 1 and 2) at Speical restraunt 2. Supposidly its a 5 course meal, made by some famous chef.

    3 restraunts, and a bunch of other places to eat for free, and free sodas.

  19. dolemite says:

    Here we go with cruise ships trying to cash in on airline fees.

  20. HogwartsProfessor says:

    What will passengers end up doing to get a square meal, sneaking out at night and fishing?

  21. TehLlama says:

    As much as every nickel-and-dime policy Carnival has infuriates me and makes me want to spend more on other cruise lines which frankly suck less, I’m usually quite happy to waste all day eating their breakfast nova samon, and the odd pair of steaks I decide to get are more than absorbed in the cost savings of choosing a worse cruise line.

    I’m not the least bit surprised this is getting rolled out on the Paradise and Insipration

  22. amuro98 says:

    We went on an Alaskan cruise this past summer on Princess, and they too had a couple of upsell restaurants on board, including a steak house. We were considering it for one night (just to say we tried it) but after seeing how poorly they did steak for the main restaurant, not to mention the steakhouse didn’t offer anything different, we skipped it. I wouldn’t mind paying extra for an extra special experience but only IF the food was actually worth the money. $18 for the same filet and strip steaks served on the same rice or potatoes we could get from the main restaurant just didn’t make sense.

    Still enjoyed the cruise though.

  23. sopmodm14 says:

    if they can upcharge, the customer should be able to downcharge if they feel their experience wasn’t worth what was charged

    thats like extortion, here’s $50 ticket to get on-board this cruise, oh yea, another $5000 for “departure” fee

  24. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    I’ve always wanted to go on a cruise and the food is an important part of the vacation. My bro took a cruise to AK and said the food was great. I love food.(a little too much) I hope that by the time I get to take a cruise they have not changed it to a low grade buffet.

  25. UlaniMosquito says:

    Yuck, am I the only one that thinks cruise ship food is NASTY??? I spent 7 days on a cruise and the only thing I liked was the reuben sandwich on the room service menu. Everything else looked delicious but was a big disappointment taste wise. Even the desserts were bad. I spent those 7 days eating nothing but sandwiches and self serve ice cream. Not my idea of fun.

  26. JonStewartMill says:

    I’ve never been on a cruise, and now I guess I never will. I’m okay with that.

  27. Clyde Barrow says:

    “This is the first test in the main dining room that incorporates an additional charge,” explained a Carnival rep. “We initially tested steakhouse entrees on a few full-ship charters but needed more testing to fully evaluate it.”

    At least they’re honest. However this is another reason for me not to go on a cruise,,,ever. Never been, never will. I’d rather spend my money on a nice European vacation.

  28. aaron8301 says:

    For the price of a couple of nice cruise tickets, you can buy a decent used Bayliner and go out on it anytime you want.

    Of course, you would indeed have to pay extra for a good NY steak. Or do what I do: order pizza via cell phone, meet the delivery driver at the dock.

  29. sadolakced says:

    I’ve talked to some cruise line workers before, and there was one thing they all said.

    NEVER go on a princess cruise.

    Anyways, I need to try to talk my family into going on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

  30. PsiCop says:

    I went on a Carnival cruise, on a different ship (the Miracle) which had a separate “paid” steakhouse. We never went to that “paid” steakhouse, and for a very simple reason: We never wanted to! The selections in the regular dining room and at the buffet were more than satisfactory. The “free” food that was available, was fantastic. (OK, so some things were better than others … I just mean that the overall quality was excellent.)

    And one evening (or was it 2?) I had the “flatiron steak” as my entree in the dining room. It was terrific, if a little small (but then, you get fed plenty anyway). Believe me, I was not about to pay $30 for a seating in the “paid” steakhouse, over that. Not worth it.

    Unless Carnival ratchets down the quality of its “free” dining options, I just can’t see this as a huge problem.

  31. SkreanAme says:

    I’m going to come off snobbish here, but people who vacation on a cruise ship always hit me as the type, when asked what their favorite Italian restaurant is, answers The Olive Garden.


  32. woolygator says:

    Carnival is for kid’s. Why would you want up scale food around them?

  33. trixare4kids says:

    I’m not a cruiser, but I spent about the best 2 weeks of my life on a cruise with Seabourn cruise lines a few years ago. I’m very, very lucky because I didn’t have to pay for it. My friend’s husband couldn’t go at the last minute because of a work issue, so they asked me to go instead. They made it my Xmas/Birthday/New Year/Valentine/etc present for life!

    It’s a so-called luxury line and so it’s super expensive, but totally worth it if you are rich!
    The service blew me over! All the cabins were suites with lots of room, double sinks, shower AND tub, and all of them had ocean views or mini balconies. All food and all drinks, including alcohol are included. They weren’t stingy with it either. You could pay for an upgrade of fancy wines, but there wasn’t any need for it.

    They keep your mini-bar full of whatever kind of drinks or alcohol you like. The food was superb. The service was highly, highly attentive. We were treated like royalty. The food options were endless – from casual buffet, to a 10 course tasting menu for dinner — and all of it incredible. I know I’ll never get that level of service again because $5,000 per week for a cruise ship will always be out of my budget, but boy.. that was such an incredible trip.

  34. do-it-myself says:

    As long as room service remains “Tip” only, I’m fine with them adding additional foods to the already extravagent menu, and as long as the usual stays the same quality (or better). I’ve been on 2 Carnival cruises and 1 Royal Carribean within the past 3 years, I was surprised to find that Carnival’s entrees were of much higher quality. I heard Carnival has stepped it up over the past few years, but I would think RC would have given a retort by now.

  35. Galium says:

    I can not wait until the working class starts charging surcharges. The local plumber will be able to charge for using a pipe wrench. “Professionals” have been doing it for years. Lawyers charge for phone calls, copies etc. Doctors charge for bandages, aspirin etc. So if a carpenter or mechanic wishes to charge for their tools of trade it is only fair.