Many veteran cruisers see no reason to book cruises right now. Their income is uncertain, many resent how they’ve been treated by cruise lines and insurance companies, and they’re not sure they can cruise safely. Many avid cruisers thought they knew the rules of the game:
Sail on a few favorite cruise lines, get to know the ships and key staff, and the companies would look out for you.
This changed when COVID-19 struck. Guests on infected ships were misled, those seeking to cancel cruises got run-arounds, and refunds were largely replaced by “future cruise credits.” These preserved the company’s cash but forced some guests to book on cruise lines they no longer trusted. Is there any wonder why so many of our best clients won’t book at this time?
Here is a two-part strategy that could easily triple revenues by the first of the year. These innovations don’t require legislation or industry-wide pacts. A handful of right-thinking people in the senior ranks of the cruise lines, and insurance companies, can get things started immediately.
Permit Future Cruise Credits to Be Honored by More Cruise Lines
For the remainder of 2020, allow future cruise credits that have been awarded during 2020 to be spent on almost any cruise that sails in 2021 or 2022, regardless of who owns them.
This isn’t a new idea. In the early days of flying, a passenger ticket was almost like cash. It could be traded-in for a ticket on another airline, even at the gate, a few minutes before the flight.
The old cruise reservation would be honored the full amount passengers paid. The cruise line accepting the cruise credit could charge whatever it wished for the new reservation, and the agency selling the reservation would receive its normal commission. 100% of the cruise credit would be transferred to the receiving cruise line and used to pay for one or more cruises.
The new tickets would be non-refundable, but buying an inexpensive COVID-19 insurance policy would be required. As an example, MSC sells COVID-19 policies for its one-week cruises for 18-Euros. This covers the cruise fares, quarantine costs, and return airfare – if anyone is infected with COVID-19. Guests would also be urged to purchase more comprehensive travel insurance for the trip. Cancel-for-Any Reason policies will be offered to clients of any age.
Non-refundable fares will permit commissions to be paid within 30 days. Since the use of future cruise credits on any cruise line is only assured for the remainder of 2020, this would create a rush of business for everyone as cruise clients vie to reserve space on the cruises sailing in 2021 and 2022. The explosion of more rapid tests, effective vaccines, and safer ships will fuel this rush. All that needs to be done to set this plan in motion is for most cruise lines to agree to pay full value for each other’s tickets.
This can start immediately if each of the “Big Three” decide to honor the tickets of all the cruise lines that they own. This would permit Seabourn tickets to be honored on Cunard; Silversea tickets to be honored on Azamara; and Regent tickets to be honored on Oceania. A month later, the majors could link up with one another and the independents could join the party.
Permit COVID-19 Insurance Claims to be Settled with Cruise Credits – if Everyone Agrees
Travel insurance carriers have failed to pay off many COVID-19 claims, by saying that the pandemic was “a foreseen event.” Now the claimants will be given the option of settling claims that were previously denied or are pending, using cruise credits that can be redeemed on any cruise line.
This will remove the obligations from the insurance companies’ books, save millions in legal costs, and give them the opportunity to sell insurance for the new trips. This will be a good solution for everyone, especially if courts or government legislation results in making the “foreseen event” defense invalid. It will also permit insurance companies to rejoin the ranks of the “good guys,” where they’ve always been.
Insurance credits will be able to be “spent” with travel advisors, internet ticket suppliers, or the cruise line call centers. While the cruise credit settlements will not be as good as cash for some people, they are a lot better than having claims delayed for years and paying legal fees. The settlements will also provide funds that will permit these cruisers to sail again. In the case of cruise credits that can’t be spent for medical reasons, the insurance companies might consider transferring the credits to any friend or family member.
Summing It Up
These suggestions can skyrocket new reservations in a matter of months. They require no legislation, nor industry-wide pacts; and the programs can get underway this year. Benefits will accrue immediately. Cruisers will have many more travel options, sellers of travel will have 30-day payouts, travel insurance (for COVID-19) will be compulsory, and the entire industry will once more be on the same side as the guests. If monthly sales for cruises don’t triple, I’ll be very much surprised.
Dr. Steve Frankel and his wife have sailed on most of the Seabourn, Silversea, Crystal, Azamara, Oceania, Regent, and Windstar ships on more than 40 cruises. Steve’s company, Cruises & Cameras, LLC, partners with LUXE Travel, a FROSCH Company, and the Signature Travel Network. Since the start of the Covid-19 Pandemic, he’s earned two certificates in epidemiology from Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. He’s using what he has learned in six courses, along with his earlier training in measurement and statistics, to help his clients deal with the realities of the pandemic. His most recent book is How to Plan Your Next and BEST Cruise (Amazon, 2019, 186 pages). His email address is Steve@CruisesAndCameras.com.