On the surface, cruises seem like all-inclusive vacations. The reality is that while some cruise lines do offer all-inclusive packages (Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) - Get Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Report most notably), Royal Caribbean International (RCL) - Get Royal Caribbean Group Report and Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL) - Get Carnival Corporation Report don't have a truly all-inclusive deal on their namesake cruise lines.
Currently, when you book a cruise on Royal Caribbean or Carnival, your fare includes your room, meals in the main dining room, the buffet, and select other free venues, as well as shows, access to most onboard venues, pools, and other amenities.
A basic cruise fare also includes coffee, water, and a few other basic drinks, but not soda or alcoholic beverages.
It's possible to cruise and have a lot of fun without paying a single extra dime. Many cruise passengers, however, opt to pay for specialty dining, internet plans, photo packages, and drink packages that range from soda and bottled water to all-you-can-drink alcoholic beverage deals.
Both Royal Caribbean and Carnival offer a variety of deals that will bundle some of those added-fee items. (The offers vary trip to trip.) Both have all-you-can-drink packages, although Carnival cuts you off after 15 alcoholic beverages. Carnival sells its package for a fixed per-day fee and Royal Caribbean varies it by each sailing. In many cases, it's possible to bundle a drinks package and internet service for less money than buying each one separately would cost.
Neither cruise line, however, at least with their namesake brands, offers an all-inclusive package. Now, Carnival has added an all-inclusive offer on one of its owned-and-operated cruise lines.
Princess Cruises Adds an All-Inclusive Option
Both Carnival and Royal Caribbean operate a number of cruise-line brands. Each one offers a different experience and caters to a different audience. One of these lines may well offer something that never makes its way to the parent brand. But either company also might use one of its owned-and-operated lines to test out something that may make its way to the namesake brand.
That could be what's happening with the new Princess Premier package Carnival has added on its Princess cruise line.
The company called Princess Premier "a new premium add-on package that offers guests unlimited WiFi for up to 4 devices, premium/top-shelf beverages, photos, specialty dining, and crew gratuities/appreciation."
It costs $75 a day per person and delivers savings of more than 50% when the same services are purchased separately, according to the company.
“Guests have overwhelmingly embraced the convenience and value offered in Princess Plus, so we are adding Princess Premier to take our inclusivity options to the next level,” said Princess Cruises President John Padgett.
“Princess Premier is our most inclusive package, offering guests sought-after on-board amenities at an incredible value. Whether a guest prefers a stand-alone cruise purchase or a fully inclusive vacation, Princess has hassle-free options for everyone."
The new offer goes on sale May 25 for cruises starting June 25 and beyond. It includes internet, drinks up $18 in value each, all gratuities, and two meals in specialty restaurants.
Will Carnival and Royal Caribbean Offer Similar Deals?
The $75 price point seems low for the core Carnival and Royal Caribbean brands. Carnival, for example, charges a pre-cruise price of $59.95 per person per day plus 18% service charge, and an onboard price will be $64.95 per person per day plus 18% service charge for its Cheers Beverage package alone.
Royal Caribbean uses variable prices on its sailings, but the drink package rarely falls below Carnival's per-day price and it can often cost more,
What's possible, however, is that either cruise line could consider a premium all-inclusive package at a higher price point, It comes down to balancing availability on ships -- only so many specialty dining slots are available and popular restaurants sell out on some sailings -- and whether offering a package deal gets customers to spend more.
Royal Caribbean, for example, offers Ultimate Dining, which includes unlimited specialty dining on some cruises but not others. That's likely due to a mix of availability and math, as not offering it likely produces more revenue on certain cruises.
Neither cruise company has suggested it will make an all-inclusive package offer, but Carnival has seemingly opened the door, at least a bit, with this Princess offer.