Cruise ships are notorious for adding unwanted fees and surcharges to their guest folios, but one stands above them all: The mysterious minibar charges in Peter Hoagland’s cabin.
It’s mysterious because Hoagland’s cabin didn’t have a minibar.
That’s right, Royal Caribbean charged a guest for an “amenity” that wasn’t even in his room. And wait until you read its explanation.
Hoagland’s New England and Canada itinerary on the Grandeur of the Seas was, by his account, otherwise positive.
“It was an older ship — a really nice cruise, right down to remarkable weather and calm seas,” he says.
Except for one thing.
“Beginning the first night of the cruise, I got a minibar charge,” he says. “It then happened twice again during the course of the nine days. OK, no big deal, it happens in hotels where they are trying to tempt you with goodies in their room. Only problem was, our cabin had no minibar and nothing for sale.”
The problem was easily fixed.
“On three separate occasions, I brought this to their attention on the ship and they removed the charges,” he says. “One agent, who didn’t seem to understand, kept asking me, ‘So you didn’t use anything from the minibar?’ On those three occasions, I offered to meet someone from the ship in my cabin to show them that there is no minibar. Each time they said that wouldn’t be necessary.”
After the third incident, Hoagland called the ship’s revenue manager, who quickly removed the charge.
“I asked her how I could be charged for items that were not even in my cabin and she speculated that the attendant must have keyed in the wrong cabin number,” he says.
Wait, three times? That just doesn’t add up.
The revenue manager agreed to speak with the department that handles the minibar charges.
“After we left the ship, I had an uneasy feeling,” Hoagland says. So he checked his credit card. Sure enough, there was yet another mystery charge on his bill. He phoned Royal Caribbean, and it removed that minibar charge as well.
Maybe there’s a perfectly good explanation for this. I mean, it’s possible that there’s another Hoagland on that cruise. It’s such a common name.
I was curious to hear what Royal Caribbean had to say about the minibar charge. Why was it billing guests for amenities that weren’t even in the cabin?
So I asked. The cruise line didn’t respond. I asked again. Still, no response.
“It leads me to believe that this is an established business practice they use to generate additional revenue,” Hoagland told me. “If customers question the charges, they will remove them. But my sense is the majority of passengers simply don’t notice or don’t want to bother arguing them, and that is what Royal Caribbean is counting on. Absent a reasonable explanation from RC about how these charges continued to appear on my invoice, especially after bringing the ‘errors’ to their attention, I have to conclude that it was intentional rather than accidental.”
I think he’s right. If this had been an honest mistake, we would have heard from the cruise line after the first, if not the second, query. But it remained silent.
Hoagland’s story is yet another reminder that you have to review your final bill and question anything you don’t recognize. Junk fees, it seems, are going on a cruise.