Carnival Cruise Line is testing out a new fee, one that would, among other things, allow priority seating at dinner. Sound familiar?
It should. While it may seem the airlines have cornered the market on fees, they may have a little competition from hotels and at least one cruise line.
Carnival's $49.95 Faster to the Fun fee is being tested on two ships starting later this month – the Imagination and the Liberty. The program is an industry first, according to cruise experts.
"We've never seen anything like this," said Dan Askin, senior editor at CruiseCritic.com. "There are a couple tangentially related fee-for-perks programs, but they focus on late debarkation."
The charge is per cabin, regardless of the number of passengers. It includes the aforementioned priority dinner seating, plus early embarkation and choice of debarkation time, cabin availability and access to the ships' guest services desk during the cruise.
"If the trials are successful, it wouldn't surprise me to see others experimenting with similar programs," said Askin. "Lines have shown time and again their penchant for sharing ideas."
Opinion on the site's popular message boards is mixed. Many wonder how Carnival will execute the plan and how it will impact tendering (how you board or leave the ship if it's too big to dock), embarkation and guest services for the rest of the passengers. Others seem to think it's much ado about nothing and will have no impact on the vast majority of cruisers' experiences.
The cruise line has not disclosed how many packages it will sell, possibly a key component, Askin said, in the impact on cruisers who choose not to pay the fee.
Hotels, on the other hand, have charged resort fees for ages, but those, while not included in the base price of your stay, are not optional. But there are small signs that change is in the air.