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Hold the lobster: Two major cruise lines to charge extra for some once-free dinner items

Hold the lobster: Two major cruise lines to charge extra for some once-free dinner items

One of the most longstanding cruise traditions is lobster on formal night in the main dining room — an onboard eatery that’s supposed to be free. But, with two of the industry’s largest cruise lines making changes to their policies, you could find yourself paying an additional fee for lobster tail, among other dishes.

Royal Caribbean is experimenting with changes to its main dining room menu on one of its largest ships, Symphony of the Seas, with the possibility that it will roll out the changes fleetwide. As part of those changes — which also include simplifying and streamlining the menu to cut down on dining times — passengers who request more than one lobster tail on formal night will incur a $16.99 charge (plus 18% gratuity) for each additional order.

Currently, all other Royal Caribbean ships allow unlimited free lobster tail on formal nights. (Cruisers can order lobster during any night of their cruise, but it comes with the $16.99-per-order surcharge when it’s not formal night.)

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Lobster on formal night. ALLISON CHERRY/ISTOCK VIA GETTY IMAGES

“Using a combination of comments from guests and data-driven findings after each sailing, across the fleet, the team developed a new set of menus that offer a different selection every night with the same variety to choose from — beef, chicken, fish and vegan options,” said a Royal Caribbean spokesperson in a statement to The Points Guy. “Each night, the … menus celebrate a different cuisine, such as Caribbean, Italian, French, Mediterranean and American, alongside ‘Royal Night,’ when cold-water lobster is the featured entree with the additional options of beef, chicken and vegan dishes.”

“We are testing the new theme night menus … and every day reviewing feedback from guests and crew. We expect to make modifications over the next few weeks. Based on comments so far, [the new offerings are] being very well received.”

In addition to menu changes, the line is also testing flash mob-style entertainment on formal nights on Symphony of the Seas, similar to what Carnival Cruise Line has presented in its dining rooms for years with its dancing, costumed waiters.

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Members of Carnival Conquest’s waitstaff dance in the dining room on formal night. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

Speaking of Carnival, as TPG reported earlier this month, the line will be making dining changes of its own. One of the most significant is that passengers will no longer be able to order unlimited free entrees in the main dining rooms. Under the new policy, the first two main courses will be free; each additional one will come with a $5 charge. (Appetizers and desserts are still unlimited with no extra fee.)

Carnival only serves lobster on one formal night on cruises of six nights or more. It used to be unlimited on those nights, but now each lobster tail after the first two will cost $5, per the new policy.

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