Celebrity Cruises has responded to the new cookie controversy, when guests onboard Celebrity Equinox recently spotted a for-a-fee chocolate chip cookie offering. The cruise line has clarified the origin of the fee, the availability of free cookies, and the intention behind the change.

Guests aboard Celebrity Equinox earlier this week spotted a $2 (USD) plus 20% gratuity fee for a “warm, handcrafted Celebrity chocolate chip cookie at Cafe Al Bacio, the onboard European-themed cafe that offers pastries, coffee, and tea.

The response to what seemed to be the disappearance of free cookies onboard was fast and overwhelmingly negative, with many guests either suspicious of the authenticity of the for-a-fee cookie reports, or else angry over perceived nickel-and-diming for simple treats that used to be free.

At the time, it was unknown if free cookies were still available elsewhere onboard, whether or not the fee was for a different type of cookie altogether, or even whether the fee was to be implemented fleetwide.

Celebrity Equinox Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: NAPA / Shutterstock)

Now, Celebrity Cruises has an explanation: “Rest assured nothing has changed with any of our complimentary treats,” the cruise line stated to Cruise Hive. “Instead, we are testing the offering of a warm chocolate chip cookie right out of the oven for a small fee for guests that would like this. It is a pilot test meant to invoke that nostalgia of being a kid and enjoying a freshly made cookie – which pairs perfectly with our gelato offerings in the Gelateria.”

The Gelateria is adjacent to Cafe Al Bacio and offers not only artisan flavors of gelato but also fresh fruit sorbets in piccolo (small) or grande (large) sizes to suit guests’ preferences.

Furthermore, the cruise line has clarified that free cookies do, in fact, remain available elsewhere onboard. “Everything else our guests have enjoyed complimentary on Celebrity remains and we look forward to welcoming our future guests aboard for their voyage with us,” the statement concluded.

It is not unusual for cruise ships to vary dessert offerings day by day. It is possible that different complimentary cookies onboard were simply overshadowed by the appearance of the premium offering, or else other cookies may not have been readily available when the new cookies were first noticed.

Photo Credit: Marie C Fields / Shutterstock

Many cookie aficionados would agree that a fresh-from-the-oven cookie, warm with melty chocolate chips and a bit of crisp on the edges, would certainly be worth a minimal fee. Some cookie cravers, however, prefer a cool and crunchier cookie ready for dunking in one’s beverage of choice. This pilot program can test which cookies win out on Celebrity Cruises.

It is also not unusual for cruise lines to test different options onboard one or two cruise ships to gauge reaction and popularity in real time, with real travelers. Onboard, real-life results can vary tremendously from surveys, social media polls, or other means to judge interest and reaction.

Different cruise lines also use different methods to gauge possible reactions. For example, Royal Caribbean International recently asked about charging for Sorrento’s pizza in a post-cruise survey, with overwhelmingly negative results. At no time was such a fee actually implemented, and the cruise line quickly responded that it would not be charging for pizza.

Royal Caribbean Pizza Venue (Photo Copyright: Darryl Brooks / Shutterstock)

Carnival Cruise Line, however, quietly implemented a fee for their popular ChiBang! restaurant onboard Excel-class vessels. The nominal $8 fee was only charged to guests after their first visit to the venue, and only for multiple dinner meals (lunch remained free). The fee test began in April 2023 and the fee remains in August, indicating success and the likely permanence of the fee.

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What is upsetting to many cruise travelers – whether it is over cookies, pizza, or a Chinese-Mexican fusion meal – is the appearance of more and more fees. This is often perceived as nickel-and-dime pricing, or offering a supposedly lower fare but requiring greater expenses onboard to elevate the cruise experience.

Would cookies be worth the extra cost? Share your thoughts on the Cruise Hive boards!

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