I don’t suppose anyone is too surprised by this, but Royal Caribbean announced earlier this week that with bookings created March 7, 2016 and beyond will be subject to new payment due dates and cancellation penalty schedules. This comes about roughly a month after Norwegian Cruise Line made a similar change, although they seemed to forget to tell their travel partners in advance like Royal Caribbean has done.
In a nutshell, Royal Caribbean’s new policy has been simplified down to cruises that sail 1-4 nights versus cruises that are 5 nights or longer. Their previous policy had 5 different categories for cancellation penalties. You can click here to see the comparison between their old and new policy.
What does this mean for our clients? It means they will be making their final payment 15 days earlier under the new policy (75 days before sailing for the short cruises instead of 60 days, and 90 days before sailing for all other cruises which used to be 75-90 days under the old policy). Since this only applies to new bookings made starting next week, it does not impact any clients already booked. Any new bookings will be quoted the new final payment date. Most clients probably won’t even realize the final payment date is earlier, unless you tell them (I wouldn’t).
What does this mean for travel professionals? Remembering final payment dates will now be easier. Is the cruise itinerary 4 nights or shorter, or 5 nights or longer? That’s all we need to remember. We don’t have to worry about whether they are holiday sailings or cruisetours; just the length of the cruise. It also means that we’ll see our FIT commissions about 2 weeks earlier than we currently do now. Royal Caribbean pays FIT commissions after final payment, so an earlier final payment will likely mean earlier commission payments. Unfortunately group commissions won’t be affected since those are paid after sailing.
Even though the impact on clients and travel professionals is minimal, and it isn’t increasing anything clients are paying, there still seems to be some pushback from some travel professionals posting in private travel agent groups. I’m not sure if it’s simply a case of people not liking change, or if there’s some other unspoken underlying issue. Royal Caribbean isn’t increasing gratuities (like Norwegian recently did). They aren’t increasing their beverage package pricing (like Norwegian recently did). They have simply moved the final payment date. If a client can’t make final payment 2 weeks earlier, can they afford to cruise in the first place?
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.