Often one cruise line will test a new idea and, if it flies, other cruise lines will follow suite in short order. Disney Cruise Line spearheaded family friendly cruising. Now you can find Nickelodeon and Universal partnered with other cruise lines, water splash areas, water slides to die for, and family-friendly staterooms on other ships. Norwegian Cruise Line introduced Freestyle Dining, and now everyone has some form of open dining program. Someone raises their gratuity amounts? Others follow suit within months.
We really should not be surprised by Royal Caribbean’s announcement this week about rolling out non-refundable deposits. Carnival Cruise Line has had something similar since they introduced their Early Saver Rate in 2009. What may be surprising is that it took 8 years before another cruise line followed in Carnival’s footsteps. Of course Disney Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line have had nonrefundable deposits for some time now for their suites/The Haven. However, other than Carnival, mass market cruise lines had not delved into nonrefundable deposits for their standard stateroom categories. Until now.
On May 26 Royal Caribbean will soft launch their new nonrefundable deposits or “early booking” fares. It will be launched fleet wide on July 1, and be available on all sailings and all ships from that point forward.
Not to fear, refundable deposits will still exist for standard stateroom categories. All suites, from Grand Suites and up, will be nonrefundable with no option for a refundable deposit.
For our standard room bookings, we will be able to offer our clients choices. As a booking incentive the early booking cruise fare will be the “best fare available,” lower than the standard cruise fares. The deposits become nonrefundable as soon as they are paid. If a client wants to change a ship or sail date, they can do so for a $100 per person change fee. This MUST be disclosed to clients at the time of booking, prior to processing their deposit payment. If a client wants to cancel completely, they can receive a Future Cruise Credit valid for one year, equal to the amount of the nonrefundable deposit paid, minus the $100 per person change fee. Note, name changes are considered a cancellation. In yesterday’s webinar, they addressed the issue of reduced occupancy (i.e. a triple reducing to a double occupancy). The third passenger deposit would not be refunded, but instead applied to the outstanding balance of the first and second passengers on the booking.
What about combinability? The new early booking/nonrefundable deposit cruise fares will be combinable with nearly all promotional rates including Next Cruise, Senior, Resident, Military, etc. They can also be pulled into groups and receive all group amenities.
It took 8 years for any cruise lines to follow Carnival’s lead with nonrefundable deposits. How long to you think it’ll take before the other mass market and premium cruise lines follow suit? Additionally, if booked 6 months or more before sailing, the nonrefundable deposit cruise fares will also come with a $25 to $100 per room onboard credit. The OBC amount will be determined by stateroom category and length of cruise sailing.
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.