Carnival eases beverage policy at ports of call

Carnival Cruise Line has eased its restrictions on guests bringing nonalcoholic beverages aboard at ports of call.

Guests can now return to the ship with as many as a dozen 12-ounce cartons or cans of soda, water, juice or other soft beverages. Bottles continue to be banned.

Earlier this year, Carnival limited the amount of bottled water brought aboard on embarkation to reduce screening times and help stop passengers from bringing unauthorized alcohol onboard.

As before, duty-free alcohol purchased at ports will be safeguarded until the end of the cruise.

Norwegian’s new amenities package draws agent interest

By Tom Stieghorst

Andy Stuart, Norwegian Cruise Line’s executive vice president of global sales, said some 3,000 agents joined a webinar about its new all-in-one amenities package, about a third more than the typical audience for a Norwegian webinar.

Called the All-Inclusive, the new product is a package of packages, bundling Norwegian’s Ultimate Dining and Ultimate Beverage packages with Internet minutes, plus a bevy of other items not included in the cruise fare.

“We got a ton of positive feedback,” Stuart said.

The All-Inclusive package is offered on cruises of three to 14 days in 2015. For a seven-day cruise, it is priced at $899 per person, with higher or lower prices for shorter or longer cruise lengths.

Norwegian will pay commission on the package at the same rate as the cruise fare, with the exception of the gratuities that are included in the package.

“There’s absolutely no way to make a big promotion and offer a package that for a seven-night cruise is $899 and ask the travel agents to support it without paying commission,” said Stuart.

Norwegian ran numerous examples to test the idea that selling the package could double an agent’s commission and feels that is a valid claim, he added.

Vicky Garcia, COO of Cruise Planners in Coral Springs, Fla., called the package an “extraordinary” value and said it would help agents get customers focused on 2015.

“Also, this all-inclusive offer is combinable with other sales or promotions that are currently in the market,” Garcia said.

Norwegian said the package represents more than $2,400 of value per stateroom. Although the exact value will vary according to an individual’s choices, Travel Weekly found a seven-night guest paying a la carte could spend about $1,350 for what’s in the package (see breakdown, above left).

Inclusive packages are also valued because they create certainty about costs.

“A lot of people like to be done with it before the cruise starts,” Stuart said. “They like to have that element done, and they get on their vacation, and they’re not thinking about … should I do this or should I not do that because there’s a cost attached to it.”

Beyond the dining, beverage and Internet packages, the All-Inclusive package includes a $200-per-person credit toward shore excursions, prepaid gratuities, 20 photos of any size, three bingo cards, a bottle of wine, chocolate-covered strawberries and six large bottles of water.
For cruises from three to five days, the shore excursion credit is $100 per person; and for sailings from nine to 14 days, the package includes 12 bottles of water.

“We felt very comfortable presenting this as an all-inclusive package,” Stuart said, adding that it will help Norwegian compete with all-inclusive resorts as well as with other cruise lines.

On select cruises, buying the All-Inclusive package also qualifies a guest for a 10% discount on the cruise fare.

At least initially, All-Inclusive will be available only from Aug. 4 through 29 on all 2015 cruises except those on the Pride of America. Stuart said there will be discussion later of how long to continue the package.

“It’s the first time the industry has ever done this, so we want to get a sense of whether it resonates with travel agents,” he said.

Stuart said Norwegian has seen a growing interest in inclusivity among its guests, and did research about what elements to include in the package. It found the most valued benefit was prepaid service charges, followed by the Ultimate Dining package and then the Ultimate Beverage package.

One unexpected result of the research was that first-time cruisers expressed as much or more interest as past cruisers in buying the package.

“That took us by surprise, I must say,” Stuart said. “But it encouraged us, because it really showed there was a broad audience for this promotion.”

Royal Caribbean’s increase in on-board revenue attributed to cruise ship revitalizations

Royal Caribbean’s increase in on-board revenue attributed to cruise ship revitalizations

Royal Caribbean reported third quarter financial results today and the big “star” of the results was the onboard spending, with a 7% increase overall.  So what is Royal Caribbean’s secret?  They think it’s all about the revitalization program.

During the financial results conference call, Royal Caribbean Chief Financial Officer Jason Liberty pointed to a few key factors that are part of the fleet-wide renovations to why the company is seeing better guest spending onboard their ships.

  • Specialty Restaurants
  • Casino
  • Internet
  • Unlimited alcohol packages
  • Shore excursions

“We benefited from new onboard venues introduced as a result of our revitalizations, and we saw further strength in spending from our U.S. customers, which helped generate improvement in gaming, beverage, specialty dining and shore excursions,” Liberty said during the conference call.Royal Caribbean CEO Adam Goldstein elaborated on how the company is looking to get more onboard spending, “So as I believe we mentioned earlier, gaming, beverage, shore excursions, retail and also some of the smaller revenue streams, internet has been doing well for us, which we wanted to see because we made a significant investment in, I think, 7 or 8x more bandwidth to the ships this year, and that seems to be paying off.

So a number of the investments that we have already made, we would expect to continue to pay dividends and revenue growth into 2014 and beyond. And we continue to look under every stone for onboard revenue opportunities that don’t conflict with the satisfaction of the product offering.”Basically, guests are spending more money in all these aspects and most of these venues are areas of the cruise ships that get upgraded or added as part of the revitalization program.  When each ship is refurbished, more restaurants are added and wifi is spread out to more areas across the ship. Add to that the new drink packages and Royal Caribbean is offering its guests more opportunities to spend money.