Norwegian Cruise Line to hike service charges to levels never before seen in cruising — see how much you'll pay
Bad news, Norwegian Cruise Line fans: You're about to pay enormously higher daily fees.
The world's fourth largest cruise line on Tuesday announced it would hike the daily service charge it levies on customers by an unprecedented 25% for most cabins, effective Jan. 1.
The new rate for passengers staying in most cabins will be $20 per person per day — a $4 increase. Passengers staying in The Haven suite area on Norwegian ships and in other suites will face a $25 per person per day service fee — a $5 increase.
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With the increase, a family of four staying in a suite will pay a cool $700 in service fees during a typical seven-night cruise — a level never before seen in the cruise business.
Other major lines such as Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America and Royal Caribbean add far less in service charges to customer bills, ranging from $14.50 per person per day to $16 per person per day.
Princess Cruises just raised its service charge significantly this week, from $14.50 to $16 per person per day, but even with the increase, the line's levy still doesn't come close to what Norwegian plans to start charging.
The rate hike for Norwegian's service charge is, notably, the line's second such increase in just nine months. On April 1, Norwegian boosted service charges by 50 cents to $1.50 per person per day, depending on cabin category.
The net result is that Norwegian service charges are up as much as 35% in less than a year for some cabin categories.
Related: See how much you'll pay in service charges at every major line
The fee hike at Norwegian comes amid a surge in price hikes for all sorts of onboard items at the line.
The brand also recently announced it would increase the cost of its Unlimited Open Bar Beverage 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 8 classes of Norwegian ships, explained
Norwegian in recent days has also begun charging a room service delivery fee for continental breakfast on some ships — something that until now has not come with a fee.
Other major lines including Carnival and Princess also have been increasing fees sharply this year for everything from service charges to restaurant cover charges, drinks and Wi-Fi.
Cruise lines this year have blamed such onboard price hikes and added fees 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.
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.
Related: The ultimate guide to Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings president and CEO Frank Del Rio told Wall Street analysts last month that the company's onboard 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.
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.
Norwegian says customers with existing cruise reservations for 2023 and beyond can lock in the current, lower service charge rates by prepaying gratuities before Jan. 1.
In addition, passengers who are unhappy with the service they receive on Norwegian 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.
Related: Why we love the new Norwegian Prima
Passengers also can sometimes get their service charge fees bundled into their cruise fares for "free" when booking through one of Norwegian's frequent "free at sea" promotions that include service charges as part of the bundle. That said, service fees aren't always included in such promotions.
Norwegian's current "free at sea" promotion includes a complimentary drinks package, two dinners at an extra-charge onboard restaurant (for sailings of seven nights), a $50-per-tour credit toward excursions and 150 minutes of Wi-Fi access — but not service fees.
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