Norwegian to auction cabin upgrades

Haven Suite photo by Dave Jones

Borrowing a page from Priceline, Norwegian Cruise Line said it will allow select passengers to bid on cabin upgrades prior to sailing but after making final payment.

The process would let passengers upgrade one or two meta-categories. So for example, a guest in an oceanview cabin could bid to move to a balcony or mini-suite, but not a suite.

Norwegian said passengers eligible would be notified by email, as will their travel sellers. Selection is based on a variety of criteria including but not limited to what guests already paid and the type of cabins available on their sailing.

After bidding a “nominal” amount, guests will be notified with an immediate confirmation email of a winning bid. If a bid has not been accepted, guests can improve it or cancel it up to 48 hours prior to departure.

Travel agents are only notified of winning bids, and are eligible for additional commission on the upgraded fare. They will get incremental commission due in a separate commission payment, Norwegian said.

Norwegian is not taking bids on identifiable cabins or specific categories, but only at the meta-category level. Guests eligible to bid on suites or The Haven will be able to bid on each separately.

Norwegian did not say if minimum bids would be set.

The program, called Upgrade Advantage, is scheduled to start Feb. 8 on the Norwegian Escape, Getaway, Breakaway, Epic and Pride of America, with the remaining fleet set to begin participating in the second quarter.

Agencies are allowed to opt out of eligibility by sending an e-mail to NCL sales.

In a note to agents, Norwegian senior vice president of sales Camille Olivere said a pilot program tested very well with guests and agents.

“I highly recommend that you participate in this program,” Olivere wrote. “Upgrade Advantage is a great way for you to enhance the guest experience and earn more commission with very minimal effort.”

Currently, Norwegian offers upgrades through an Upsell Department, which identifies sailings with potential for upgrades and emails guests, who can then call in and bid on upgrades.

“This new system will be completely automated and allow for a level playing field where all guests can easily bid for an upgrade simply by clicking through,” Norwegian spokeswoman Christina Baez said. “It also notifies the travel partner who made the booking and automatically provides them with the commission on the higher fare if their bid is accepted.”

Many Asian restaurants on Norwegian ships become complementary

The Jasmine Garden restaurant on Norwegian Jade.

Norwegian Cruise Line said Asian restaurants across its fleet of ships will become complimentary as part of an investment in enhancing the dining experience.

The restaurants affected by the move include Shanghai’s Noodle Bar aboard Norwegian’s Breakaway Class ships and Norwegian Epic, Jasmine Garden aboard Norwegian Jade, and Chin Chin aboard Norwegian Jewel.

The changes also apply to Orchid Garden on Norwegian Gem, Lotus Garden on Norwegian Pearl, Giza on Norwegian Star, Shogun on Norwegian Spirit, Bamboo on Norwegian Dawn and East Meets West on Pride of America.

All previously had cover charges or items priced ala carte on their menus.

Norwegian said its Teppanyaki restaurants will continue to carry a per-guest cover charge, and sushi venues across the fleet will retain nominal a la carte pricing.

Norwegian Epic to call at Southampton

Norwegian Epic is to return to Southampton for the first time in five years from 2015, marking its first return to the port since its inaugural celebration in June 2010.

According to Travelmole, the ship will sail to the UK port during its two Iberian Peninsula cruises, which are scheduled for September and October next year.

First up is a six-night sailing departing from Barcelona on September 20th. Then, the first of the two cruises will depart from Southampton on September 26th, with port calls in Cartagena, Granada and Lisbon.

After that, there’s a seven-night cruise from Southampton to Barcelona on the cards, departing on October 11th. In the interim, the ship is scheduled to go into the dry dock in France.

There’s likely to be plenty more visits to the UK for Norwegian Epic once the ship relocates its home port to the Catalan city of Barcelona on a permanent basis.

At that point, it will offer year-round sailings to the Western Mediterranean and the Canary Islands and Morocco.

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