When cruise lines make a change, like introducing a new type of cruise fare or changing their group policy, etc. it’s not easy to predict how the change will be received. Four months ago Royal Caribbean changed their onboard rebooking policy (link to previous article: http://www.travelresearchonline.com/blog/index.php/2017/08/keeping-up-with-onboard-future-bookings/). In a nutshell, they did away with the $100 per person reduced deposit, and the only onboard credit offer is now tied to the new nonrefundable deposit cruise fare.
My educated guess was that this may have been a result of passengers taking advantage of the previous low deposit amount, and booking multiple cruises only to cancel the bulk of them right before final payment. If you can’t decide which cruise you want, or don’t know if your vacation request will be approved, why not hedge your bets? You had nothing to lose since the deposits were refundable. However it was a pain for the cruise lines, with cancelled bookings dumping back into inventory.
Of course, with the policy change there was an uproar among passengers and travel professionals. Regardless of the reasons beyond the changes, no one was happy about it. As a result, I think Royal Caribbean has felt the wrath. More than likely onboard bookings dropped significantly in the past four months. So a new change has recently been announced which takes affect starting this weekend.
The $100 per person reduced deposits are back; sort of. It only applies when clients pick the nonrefundable deposit cruise fare on Junior Suites or lower stateroom categories. Fully refundable deposit fares still require the full deposit at the time of booking, as will any suite bookings.
Why the change? Going back to educated guessing, I’d surmise that onboard bookings are not at a level that Royal Caribbean wants. Of course, you’d think that they’d expect a drop in bookings, assuming their real motive was to stop passengers from booking multiple cruises to cancel all but one before final payment. Whatever their original motive for the change, the desired affect apparently wasn’t achieved. So four months later, the policy is being tweaked. If you are willing to book a nonrefundable deposit cruise fare, and chance forfeiting your $100 per person deposit, the reduced deposit option is back. Will this win back passengers upset about the changes four months ago? We will have to wait and see, but I’m not holding my breath. Cruisers and travel passengers alike have already posted on cruise forums that they aren’t being swayed back to rebooking onboard. The changes in August have left a nasty taste in their mouth, and this isn’t enough to win them back. Only time will tell.
Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations, she focuses on travel for 18 to 23-year-olds. Susan can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (888) 221-1209.