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It is being reported in USA Today that Cunard Line is considering the introduction of a la carte, by the plate pricing for one of the dining venues on Queen Elizabeth, scheduled to make her debut in Southampton on October 11, 2010.

The Veranda, a much-loved restaurant on the original Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary, will be the top of the line dining room on the new ship.  It replaces the Todd English Restaurant, which currently fills that position on both Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria.

One scenario under consideration, according to the report, is to charge $6 to $7 for appetizers, $16 to $18 for entrees, and $6 to $7 for desserts.  This pricing structure is very rare on main-line cruise ships, where the custom is to charge a supplement, perhaps $25, to dine in the specialty restaurant.

I reacted quite negatively when first reading this news.  It seems to me to run counter to the experience one wishes to enjoy on a sailing, where most components are prepaid and need not be a concern.

And yet, at the same time, it has been a trend in the industry recently to offer all manner of additional items and services and charge for them separately.  Even in the main dining rooms, it is common to pay for drinks, alcoholic or not, which are not on a very limited list of included beverages.

Perhaps Cunard’s rationale is that charging by the plate is merely an extension of the beverage policy.  After all, if a guest is willing to pay separately for a glass of wine or a cappuccino,  then why not the porterhouse as well?

Whatever the rationale, it’s the impact on the overall experience that gives me pause.  Perhaps it will work, and passengers will adapt without any difficulty.  It will be interesting to watch.

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