MSC Cruises USA sweetens inclusives for wave promotion

MSC Cruises USA kicked off wave season by adding perks including up to $200 in shipboard credits, beverage packages and reduced deposits to its ‘Inclusive Experiences’ pricing categories. Plus, kids 11 and under sail free on all applicable wave season bookings.

Value-added benefits are based on the Inclusive Experience category and stateroom selected.

Among the benefits for the Bella Experience are up to $50 to spend on board and reduced deposits of $100 per person for ocean-view and balcony staterooms.

For Fantastica Experience pricing, ocean-view and balcony staterooms receive up to $100 per room to spend on board, reduced deposits of $100 per person, and a drinks package consisting of 12 vouchers per person for alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

In addition, Fantastica Experience customers always receive a premium location stateroom, priority choice of early or late dining, 50% off all fitness classes and personal training, free room service delivery between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. and enhanced recreational activities for children including cooking and foreign language classes.

Aurea Experience and MSC Yacht Club passengers in balcony staterooms and suites receive up to $200 per room to spend on board and reduced deposits of $100 per person.

In addition, Aurea Experience passengers always receive ‘My Choice Dining’ flexible times, priority boarding, an all-inclusive beverage package, a spa package, access to the exclusive adults-only Top 18 sun deck and all the perks associated with the Fantastica Experience.

MSC Yacht Club passengers always get an all-inclusive VIP club level experience with priority check-in and check-out, butler service, dedicated 24-hour concierge, exclusive Top Sail lounge and pool, 24/7 complimentary alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages available within the Yacht Club area and a private MSC Yacht Club restaurant.

The wave season promotion applies to select Caribbean, Bermuda, Europe, Canary Islands and trans-Atlantic ‘grand voyages’ that are five days or longer and booked between Jan. 1 and Feb. 15.

In addition, MSC Cruises USA is extending its 18% flat commission for all 2015 and 2016 Caribbean group bookings on MSC Divina to Jan. 31, 2015.

Spending in U.S. cruise sector tops $20 billion

By Tom Stieghorst
For the first time, the money spent in the U.S. cruise sector exceeded $20 billion last year, according to a CLIA study of the cruise industry’s economic impact.

That includes direct spending by passengers, crew and the cruise lines on items such as provisions, excursions, meals on shore and pre-and post-cruise hotel stays.

The $20.1 billion in direct spending mushrooms to a $44 billion economic impact when the effects of indirect spending and tertiary-level multipliers are factored in, the study says. In a separate study done for CLIA for the first time, researchers estimated the global cruise industry’s economic impact at $117 billion.

CLIA has commissioned an annual study of the cruise industry’s economic impact for at least a decade. This year’s 106-page report has in-depth data on spending, as well as state-by-state breakdowns for each economic category. As in the past, 10 states account for 80% of the economic activity in the cruise business, with Florida, California and Texas leading the way.

The number of passengers who traveled globally last year on North America-based lines rose 3.9%, to 17.6 million, CLIA said. The industry’s fleet, net of retirements, increased by 1 ship to 178 ships with a combined capacity of 338,505 lower berths,

An estimated 10.7 million U.S. residents took cruise vacations throughout the world, accounting for 61% of global passengers. Departures from U.S. ports totaled 9.96 million, a 1.3% decline, as more ships in the U.S. fleet operated outside U.S. waters, particularly in Asia, Australia and the Pacific islands.

Another significant finding in this year’s report is that employment generated by North American cruise lines has exceeded the level it reached before the 2008-09 economic downturn.

Jobs in the U.S. attributed to CLIA member lines (excluding river cruise lines) reached 363,393 last year, compared to 357,710 in 2008. The total plunged to 313,998 in 2009 and had only recovered to 356,393 by 2012.

When it comes to jobs directly held by cruise line employees, that total reached 147,898 last year, the study said. Cruise line employment peaked in 2007 at 158,376.

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.