Cruise Ship “Shrinkflation” I Can Live With and Those That Are Just Irritating

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There is no question that cruising will be back with a vengeance in 2023 according to just about every survey you look at. Lots of exciting new ships, and class of ships, are setting sail at premium prices this year.

Another thing that is up for this year is the default daily tip that is charged to your cabin, per person, automatically. Depending on the cruise line, and whether or not you prepaid this fee before you came onboard, you may be able to request to have it refunded to you if you were not pleased with the service provided.

With costs up and fees up one would expect to get even more but that is not turning out to be the case as lines look to not just charge more but to offer less. Depending on customer reactions to these changes they may or may not stick. After all, cruise lines, unlike airlines, do tend to listen when loyal guests complain or make adjustments to their booking patterns.

Some changes lines are making I am OK with and some really not so much. Let’s look at a few and feel free to chime in with your favorite cruise line if you have noticed some changes or “enhancements” that surprised you.

How often do hotels, or even all-inclusive resorts for that matter, offer cleaning service for your room? Once a day maybe? Back in the SPG days, that is, Starwood Preferred Guest hotels (gosh, I miss those days) you could decline room service and either get a cash credit for whatever in the hotel or free points and I most times took the later because SPG points were so very valuable. That brings us to NCL’s latest change.

Unless you are in a “real” suite, that is not mini or club suite, or a Haven suite you are soon going to be downgraded to once a day room cleaning vs. two.

This bothers me not one bit at all. The ONLY thing I will miss from this is fresh towels if I shower twice in a day that I often do depending on the plans for the day. At home I only use a towel once a day then it goes into the laundry and I am the same way on ships or in hotels. Then again it is a minor thing to ask for extra towels day one from the room attendant (no longer to be called stateroom steward).

After all, turn down service is not really needed or required and towel animals have also gone away unless you request them so I applaud NCL for this switch as it helps them with staffing, an issue in our current environment, and it saves them money by having less staff onboard.

Now what does bug me a lot is the shrikflation of the offers included when you book a modest cabin on NCL. Before with the “free at sea” promotions you would have a number of free (well free other than mandatory tip charge) specialty restaurants during your voyage. Unless you book a higher end cabin that number is now greatly reduced.

This reminds me of the nasty downgrade Delta Air Lines recently did to their Diamond Medallion perk called Global Upgrade certs that used to let you upgrade from coach to business – now you have to book their version of Premium Economy to use the certs to go to business, that is, pay more to use the perk.

Another very recent NCL downgrade is the amount of entertainment we can expect to see onboard. As reported yesterday in our Sunday “Cruise News” post, Norwegian is cutting entertainment across all vessels! I expect to see more of these type of cuts and that makes the cruising less fun, and valuable, than it could be.

What would really drive me over the top would be if NCL were to implement a more confusing adult drink package like other lines that have 3 or more options to pick from (NCL has only 2). If they were to change what really is a simple plan or be like Carnival that only allows me to get one drink for myself vs. the current NCL one that lets me run and get drinks for both of us – I would be most irritated and look to book other cruise lines.

One thing is for sure that we should expect more negative changes in 2023 as cruise lines look for ways to earn back what was missed during COVID lock downs. – René


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René de Lambert
René de Lambert
René de Lambert has been a travel blogger for over 10 years covering the travel industry - including cruising.


  1. People complained about MSC going from the chocolate ship to the chocolate bar for Diamond guests. While the ship was cool, I understand the impracticality of giving out so many chocolate ships. And while entertainment cutbacks are sad, I understand when Carnival is down to an 8 singer crew for their entertainment shows that I observed on the Spirit and Conquest last year. While I’m somebody that goes to Broadway shows in NYC, a lot of Americans don’t and so I can see where staging a full musical is hard. I just hope the replacement doesn’t come across as cheap, as that is the real danger of shrinkflation in the cruise experience. And unfortunately, I think for Florida the cruise lines are going to be stuck with low fares as long as MSC is willing to charge low fares to get people to try the brand (And take advantage of their status match). Having a line dumping fares like $500 for a single person on a 7 night cruise on a 5 year old ship really puts the squeeze when it is competing with ships 15 years older.

  2. Cruise lines have been able to offer low priced die to the crap salaries they pay and the fact that they dodge US regulations by registering overseas. I think this is why they can’t attract staff (as we have seen in other industries too). In the case of NCL, look at the CEO’s bloated salary & bonuses. He sure hasn’t taken any cuts!

  3. The cut line for me is the availability of a thermal spa area or none. I typically book the cheapest inside cabin and buy a pass to the thermal spa. NCL never put one on its older ships. Those are the FL market ships, which means I head to other cruise lines now. How hard is it to retrofit a spa area to include a sauna and steam room?


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