Even though Celebrity Cruises is one of my preferred cruise-line suppliers, I’m a bit miffed with them this week. Not too long ago the three cruise lines owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises LTD (Azamara, Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity) launched their new booking engine Espresso. During the training for Espresso (online as well as in-person training) we were told that new bookings were going to now require that we enter client email addresses and cell phone numbers. Of course, many travel professionals were leery about this new requirement. Several cruise lines are more than aggressive in marketing directly to our clients, trying to lure them into booking direct and bypassing their travel agents. However, we were assured over and over, that this new requirement was only for emergency contact purposes (i.e. last minute changes in itineraries, if the ship won’t be available to embark on time, etc.). It even says it right in Espresso, “Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises will use Email contact information for emergency purposes in time-sensitive situations, where should the need arise, we can quickly get in touch to provide information as necessary.” (The emphasis is mine)
I know many travel professionals were still skeptical, and have been entering agency email addresses and phone numbers instead of client contact information. Then this happened. I created a booking recently on a Celebrity sailing for myself and my husband. As also for my client email address I entered my work email. This time for my husband I tried a little experiment. I entered one of my gmail addresses as his email address. Within four days of creating the booking, there it was, an email from Celebrity directly sent to the client (my husband):
There’s no better way to enhance your Celebrity cruise vacation than with one of our beverage packages. With a wide variety of innovative and trend-setting packages available, there’s definitely one to fit your specific thirsts. And what could be more convenient? Pay one set price to enjoy a wide variety of beverage choices, including your favorite cocktails, premium coffees, wine by the glass, endless refills of sodas, featuring Coca-Cola® products, and unlimited bottled water. Our beverage packages allow you the freedom to try something new while on vacation or stick with your tried-and-true favorites.
Plus, when you purchase a Classic Package or a Premium Package, you can enjoy up to a 20% discount* on all wines by the bottle purchased on board, even our prized Reserve Wine list and Rare Wine list.
I don’t think I can stretch my imagination far enough to consider booking a beverage package as an emergency purpose, nor time-sensitive (the cruise is nine months away). Oh, and let’s also mention the fact that the booking was booked with GoBEST, which already includes the premium beverage package. The email was completely unnecessary.
And that isn’t the end of it. Today, seven days after the beverage package email, the client (my husband) again gets an email from Celebrity.
Thank you for booking your vacation with us on Celebrity Equinox. We’re excited to welcome you aboard and indulge you with an updated luxury vacation like no other.
Maximize your vacation time aboard by making your specialty dining reservations online—before you even step aboard. Plan your dining schedule, reserve ahead of time, and all you have to do when you get on board is relax and enjoy your vacation. Plus, get 20% off* any reservation made for the first night of your sailing.
Remember, reservations can be made up to two days prior to your sail date.
Again, not an emergency, and nine months before sailing, it’s not even time-sensitive.
I’m not one to let things slide, so I asked someone at Celebrity about this use of “emergency contact information” for non-emergency marketing emails. If you’re like me, you’ll be less than happy with the response:
To help our Travel Partners save some time and administrative work, from time to time we will send out reminders to clients to book their onboard amenities before they sail. With Go Big, Go Better, Go Best, those emails will reduce in number because our guests will have their chosen amenities already included. I hope this helps clarify that our goal is to be your genuine Travel Partner.
No, it really doesn’t clarify anything. We’re still being told that the contact info is needed for, and only used for, emergency purposes. Yet, here we have at least two marketing emails that demonstrate what travel professionals were questioning (and worrying about) during the Espresso training.
So now I have joined the ranks of the paranoid. Are Royal Caribbean and Azamara Club Cruises doing the same thing? Silly me, I actually have entered client contact information on a handful of bookings. I wonder how many emails they’ve received so far from the cruise lines for “emergency purposes in time-sensitive situations.” From here on though I will be much less inclined to enter any client information, doing like many of my colleagues and entering my agency email address and phone contact information.
Note: We have noticed in the last couple of days that new bookings in Espresso are not requiring client emails or mobile numbers to complete the booking. We have no confirmation on why this requirement has been lifted, or if it’s unintentional (i.e. a glitch in the system).
Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel (www.shipsntripstravel.com) located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations (www.kickbuttvacations.com), 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.