When Carnival Cruise Line recently announced their new EasyPay payment plan, my initial reaction was that they were coming up with yet more ways to make travel agents less valuable to cruise passengers. After learning more about it, I’m not as concerned.
For as long as I have been in the travel industry, travel agents have had the unique proposition of offering “payment plans” to their clients. Many travel agents liken it to a layaway plan.
Carnival’s new EasyPay plan only goes so far. Information on their website is actually vague, stating “choose Carnival EasyPay and the rest of your cruise payments will happen automatically….” They go onto say that after the initial deposit is paid, they “split your balance into easy monthly payments.” If you dig into their FAQs about the program, that’s where you will find that they only split the balance into three monthly payments, regardless of how far out you make the booking.
Most bookings will qualify for the program, as long as they are booked more than 90 days before the final payment date and the chosen sailing is eligible for deposit payments (i.e. payment in full at the time of booking isn’t required). Once the booking is created and the deposit has been charged, Carnival will then charge the credit card once a month for three months starting 30 days after the deposit payment.
Travel agents do have the ability to sign up clients for EasyPay if the client wishes to participate in the program, so this is not a way to promote booking direct versus through travel agents. However, travel agents can still offer much more flexibility versus booking direct, once again reaffirming our value.
If a client is booking further out than 3 or 4 months, do they want their balance spread out longer than 3 months? EasyPay can’t do that, but a travel agent can offer that to clients, as we’ve been able to do all along. If a client wants to use more than one credit card to make payments, EasyPay cannot support that. However a travel agent can easily offer to charge multiple cards if a client wishes to do so.
If a client doesn’t want the balance evenly broken up, instead wanting to pay different amounts along the way, EasyPay cannot accommodate that request. Or if a client wants to make payments biweekly, or every other month, EasyPay is not set up to handle that. Travel agents can do all of that, and more.
This is a new convenience provided by a cruise line, mostly benefiting direct booking clients in a limited fashion. As the EasyPay program is currently structured, travel agents have nothing to fear about it usurping their value.
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.