Effective July 1, Royal Caribbean International plans to introduce a new nonrefundable deposit program.
“Nonrefundable deposit fares now give Royal Caribbean an opportunity to simplify our promotional landscape, while also providing our guests with added confidence to book early and our travel partners the reassurance in more qualified, dependable business,” the line told agents in its written communications with the trade.
So, basically, what are the prime benefits? And how does the new program work?
First, it provides an early booking incentive. Clients will earn a booking incentive based on the early booking timeframe and stateroom category.
Second, the line believes the new nonrefundable deposit program will build stronger bookings and provide a higher retention of those bookings.
Third, the new program offers flexibility with deposit options.
"It's similar to the Carnival Early Saver rate and I sell a lot of that," says John Gawne, an independent travel agent with Cruises Inc., Virginia Beach, VA. "I haven't had any problem selling the Carnival Cruise Line Early Saver and don't expect a problem selling Royal Caribbean's."
Royal Caribbean says the nonrefundable deposit fare will default at the best rate whenever available, as it will always be priced lower than the regular brand promotion. In other words, clients will get a great deal if they understand the nonrefundable terms and conditions.
The fare name will have “No Ref Dep” as part of the name to indicate that it is part of the nonrefundable deposit program. So agents can immediately see what type of fare it is and that a nonrefundable deposit is required.
When agents are viewing the pricing screen in Espresso, there will be a button to change the view between the nonrefundable deposit fare and the regular fare, so agents can easily compare the fares.
Before the travel agent makes a nonrefundable deposit reservation, the line insists that the agent inform the client that he or she is creating a reservations for which the fare is nonrefundable.
Gawne concurs, noting that "it's important on both fares [Carnival's and Royal Caribbean's] to ensure the prospect is fully aware of the conditions/restrictions on this nonrefundable deposit fare."
Why? If the client with a Royal Caribbean nonrefundable deposit reservation wishes to change ship or sailing date, that client will incur a $100 per person change fee. Or, it's a deduction of $100 from any future cruise credit. Carnival's change fees are $50 for both of those circumstances, he notes.
Early Booking Incentive
If the nonrefundable deposit fare reservation is being made farther out than six months prior to sailing, Royal Caribbean will provide an Early Booking Incentive for bookings of interior, ocean view, balcony and suite category accommodations.
On cruises of one to five nights, the incentives range from $25 for interior and oceanview stateroom bookings to $50 for balcony stateroom and suite bookings.
On cruises of six or more nights, those early booking incentives are $50 and $100, respectively.
In a help document for agents, Royal Caribbean summarizes the key points of the new nonrefundable deposit fare and shows agents how to add in future cruise certificates for the new fare within the Espresso reservations system.
A separate Q&A document tackles more nitty-gritty questions such as what happens if the client wishes to downgrade from a suite to a balcony stateroom, or is it possible to switch from nonrefundable to a regular deposit fare later?
A training webcast also can be viewed at www.cruisingpower.com.