Last year when Royal Caribbean launched the new non-refundable deposit cruise fare, it included two incentives. The first was a lower cruise fare. The second incentive was an onboard credit of $25 to $100 per room, if the booking was created 6 months or more before sailing.
On August 1, 2018 Royal Caribbean sent an email to their travel agent partners advising of a change to the non-refundable deposit program. Effective November 1, 2018 non-refundable deposit bookings will no longer earn an onboard credit, regardless of how far before sailing that they are booked. According to Royal Caribbean, their analytics and research over the past year has shown “that the onboard credit was not influencing the consumer’s buying decision.”
The good news is that they did give us a full 3 months’ notice, and they did not spring it on us at the last minute. We have the time to reach out to our clients and advise them. If there are clients out there that were influenced by the onboard credit offer, they’ll want to get bookings posted prior to November 1st. But if Royal Caribbean is correct, and the onboard credit isn’t influencing the majority of these bookings, then most clients should not be swayed by this change in the program.
Current bookings will only be affected if there are any changes to the booking that forces a re-pricing on or after November 1, 2018. The changes “that lead to a reprice include, but aren’t limited to, amending the ship, sailing, or category of an existing reservation, as well as converting to a different fare or promotional offer. Should a reprice occur on-or-after November 1st, 2018, the onboard credit will no longer apply.”
What is unclear at this time is how future cruise bookings will be handled. The non-refundable deposit cruise fare will not accrue any onboard credit after November 1, 2018. What is unclear is if there will still be any type of onboard credit offered to clients as an incentive for re-booking while still onboard.
This is not the first move by Royal Caribbean to reduce or remove onboard credit. With the recent changes made to the groups program, groups no longer have GAP points to use for onboard credit (up to $100 per stateroom in the past). The only onboard credit offered now is for the individual rooms booked into the group 6 months or more before sailing, and regardless of category or sailing length the room only gets a $50 onboard credit. So far that hasn’t changed.
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.