Norwegian introduces flexible dining packages

Norwegian Getaway

Norwegian Cruise Line is offering a new version of its restaurant package that lets guests select nights in alternative restaurants for a single price.

The cruise line’s current package for specialty restaurants, the Ultimate Dining Package ($59 per person for a three- to six-night cruise and $119 for a seven-night cruise), allows diners to eat in a specialty restaurant every night of the cruise, but doesn’t have an option to select some nights.

The flexible Specialty Dining Package offers a savings over a la carte dining in specialty restaurants that carry a cover charge. Diners can choose how many nights to dine in specialty venues, with a minimum of three days. The three-day package is $59 per person when bought online prior to embarkation.

The packages are good in specialty steakhouses, Brazilian churrascarias, French, Japanese Hibachi and Italian restaurants.

To dine in specialty restaurants where items on the menu are priced individually, or in entertainment-based restaurants, holders of a specialty dining package pay an upcharge. The upcharge is $15 for Ocean Blue; $10 for general seats and $15 for premium seats at Cirque Dreams and the Illusionarium; $10 for Bayamo; and $7 for the Raw Bar, Pincho Tapas Bar and all sushi bar restaurants fleet wide.

A restaurant called For the Record: Dear John Hughes, coming when Norwegian Escape debuts in October, will carry a $15 upcharge.

The packages can be pre-ordered online (at greater savings) or bought in the first two days of a cruise, beginning in early August, depending on the ship.

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.”

Norwegian add-on package bundles several extras

By Tom Stieghorst

Norwegian Cruise Line will offer an add-on package that can be pre-purchased and includes a kitchen sink of items that cost extra on a cruise.

The package, priced at $899 per passenger for a seven-day cruise, bundles Norwegian’s prepaid dining and beverage packages with a $200-per-person shore excursion credit, 250 minutes of Internet access, prepaid gratuities, 20 photos of any size, a bottle of wine, six bottles of water, one bingo session and chocolate-covered strawberries.

Apart from service charges and gratuities, the package is fully commissionable to travel agents at the agent’s contracted rate, a Norwegian spokeswoman said.

Norwegian’s dining package offers complimentary access to a specialty restaurant each night of the cruise; its beverage package includes cocktails, beer and wine up to $10 a glass and unlimited fountain sodas and juices.

The package is for sale Aug. 4 to 29 and applies to all 2015 cruises of three to 14 days, except those on Pride of America. Pricing is by length of cruise. Shore excursion credits on shorter cruises are $100 per person instead of $200.

Norwegian said adding the package to select cruises will reduce the fare by 10%.

Norwegian said the package is the first of its kind in the cruise industry.