From what I have read, the cover charge is suppose to include the extra tip for the wait staff. However, we tipped extra because the service, food, presentation of food, ambiance, comfort and experience was exceptional. We don't do it on every cruise, but once in a while, what a treat! Very, very, very worth the money. You can barely get out of IHOP or Denny's for $30.
I have never been a fan of the pay restaurants. I have always thought since their inception that they started a dangerous trend. When they first started most ships only had the main dining rooms and the buffet which closed early. The first pay restaurants charged a truly nominal fee of $5 which was said to cover the gratuity since the person wouldn't be eating in the main dining room that night. Now, the nominal fee has increased to a not so nominal fee. Cruise lines are good at telling you it's to keep down the crowds, it's paying for the experience, it's paying for better cuts of steak. Which is it? Or is it just another way of nickel and diming people? Should you have to pay more on top of your cruise rate for better steak? It's a dangerous trend. Most of the new NCL ships have more pay restaurants than non-pay.
It's amazing how people will shop around for the cheapest cruise paying $499 for a 7-day cruise. Then spend $30 on one meal, or 6% of their cruise. I understand many enjoy the restaurants. I don't think you should have to tip on top of the charge though, since that's what it's original purpose was for.
I recently heard that Ruth's Chris now has a $39 special which includes appetizer, entree, and dessert. These are smaller steaks, and that doesn't include tip, but still it narrows the gap between a high quality land-based restaurant and the $30 charge for a Carnival Supper Club.
I never bought the "crowding" explanation. They have X number of tables and Y number of reservations per evening. How can that lead to crowding? You either have a reservation or you don't. It is all about the money.
Thanks, Island Cruz for the link. The menu is mouth watering! I can't wait to try it on the Spirit. Now, I just have to find out when the formal nights are so I can book the Supper Club one night.
You are most welcome! I noticed they changed the name to Steakhouse in the link already too, but haven't changed it on the menu yet. It takes them awhile to update pdf files. I love the menu too! As I posted before, I am trying to get an idea of what to order before I go, so I'm not sitting there trying to make up my mind.
I wish I could say for sure which nights will be formal. I am guessing the sea day on the 23rd for the first one, and the Ketchikan day on the 27th for the second. You can always ask when you first board as you know. But, it is always nice to know ahead of time so you can plan these things. Planning is half the fun sometimes.