Food: Royal Caribbean, Carnival Both Make Unpopular Dining Change

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The two cruise lines are using each other to end a beloved, main dining room practice.

People don't like change especially when the change in no way benefits them. If a cruise line switched coffee brands, for example, that would anger some people and delight others. If it decided that coffee -- even the basic black kind -- now comes with a surcharge, well, then everybody would be angry.

One way to minimize that anger is for more than one cruise line to make the same change at the same time. If Carnival Cruise Line (CCL) - Get Free Report and Royal Caribbean (RCL) - Get Free Report simultaneously make a similar change, it gives neither company an advantage.

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A particularly egregious change might push people toward land vacations, but if both major family-friendly cruise lines make similar policy changes, they seem more valid and may make passengers less angry.

Recently, both cruise lines made major dining room changes that impact a favorite of many cruise fans -- lobster night in the Main Dining Room.

Image source: Carnival © Provided by TheStreet Image source: Carnival

Royal Caribbean, Carnival Balance Old, New Traditions

Cruise lines deal with balancing tradition and changing tastes all the time. Spend time on any Carnival or Royal Caribbean ship and you will hear people lament things not being like they used to be. Some people hate that many people no longer dress for dinner while others lament the loss of menu items that few people remember.

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Cruising has a bit of ritual to it. Many things are as they were simply because they always have been that way. Royal Caribbean and Carnival have tweaked the formula and tried to serve their classic audience and cruisers who want something different.

That's why "formal night" is now "dress your best" on Royal Caribbean cruises. It leaves more room for interpretation. Some people still treat the night like a formal night while others put on nicer-than-usual outfits, and some people simply opt for comfort.

Me wearing jeans, or even a nice pair of shorts, while you wear a tuxedo or a cocktail dress does not actually impact your experience, but some people don't see it that way. They simply don't like change and want their experience to be like their memory rather than something new.

Royal Caribbean, Carnival Make a Big Change

Eating in the Main Dining Room (MDR) is a core part of cruising for many passengers. The MDR is usually actually multiple grand rooms, perhaps with different names, but all serving the same menu, which changes nightly. It's a 90-minute to two-hour affair that involves multiple courses and a bit of pageantry.

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On longer cruises (6 nights or longer) both cruise lines traditionally offer a lobster night. On those cruises, Royal Caribbean and Carnival offer lobster (generally lobster tails) as an included option. That's a big deal because lobster is usually a premium item offered only at added-fee restaurants or in the MDR with an upcharge.

The other piece of this tradition is that neither cruise line limited passengers to a single lobster. You could order more, really as many as you wanted, as long as you ate them. Royal Caribbean has been testing a change to that policy, while Carnival has changed its rules.

"A charge of $16.99 plus an 18% gratuity will be added to a guest's account for ordering a second lobster tail. While not explicitly stated, it is likely the surcharge will also apply to a third, fourth, or any other additional lobster tails a single guest may order. The first lobster tail remains free of charge," CruiseHive wrote about lobster changes Royal Caribbean has been testing on Symphony of the seas.

The cruise line has also been testing a more limited MDR menu on that ship.

Carnival has actually enacted a new policy for entrees in the MDR that will impact lobster night.

"We want you to enjoy your favorites and sample offerings you haven’t tried before while dining with us in the main dining room, but we encourage you to follow the golden rule of dining: take what you want but eat what you take. And remember, you can always ask for a half-portion if something looks too enticing to pass up. Guests may continue to order a second complimentary entrée if they choose; however, effective immediately, a third entrée will incur a US $5 charge (AU$7)," the company shared.

That's still cheap for an added lobster, especially because the second one is included.

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