Last week, Norwegian Cruise Line announced that it would start requiring all final payments to be made 120 days prior to the date of sailing, up from the 90 days the line had previously required.
In a message to travel agents this week, Norwegian confirmed the news, writing that “to align a consistent schedule amongst stateroom categories,” all sailings of seven-nights or longer will now require final payment 120 days prior to sailing; while sailings of six-nights or less would require 90 days prior to sail date for non-suite stateroom categories, and 120 days for Haven and suites categories.
Norwegian Senior Vice President of Sales Camille Olivere wrote that the new deadlines will “help simplify the booking experience for you, help ensure that your clients who book early will receive optimal pricing and stateroom choice, and further allow you to sell with confidence.” But travel agents speaking with TMR had other opinions.
Some are unhappy about the change
“I can give you my reaction from some of my clients and it’s not good,” said Pat Graham, owner of PJ Travel & Tours in Campbell, New York. “I know some agents are in favor but a lot of my clients count on the extra time to make payments. It makes a difference to those who budget their cruises. It will definitely impact which lines some of my clients book, especially my core groups.”
Some agents, such as Choice Travel Adventures’ Kat Casarez-Perkins, said that while 30 days doesn’t seem like a long time, it can still make a big difference.
“Clients sailing with two or more kids and elderly on a fixed income are the typical clients who like payment plans, and it will affect them,” Casarez-Perkins said. “They will need to plan their vacations further out to have a payment plan that fits into their budget.”
Others are expecting to see clients stop booking with the line, or even switch over from cruising altogether.
“As a consumer, I like the extra time to pay on my cruise, and this move only makes me consider visiting resorts more often than cruising. It is one more thing that is pushing consumers toward land vacations rather than cruising,” said Judy Fiorello from Sail and Sand Travel in Williamsburg, Virginia.
“Norwegian caters mainly to a middle-class demographic — and moving the final payment due dates to 120 days prior to sailing will likely have an adverse impact on a demographic that is more budget-conscious, and would have generally booked closer in to sailing dates,” said Ralph Santisteban of Dream Vacations: Santisteban & Associates in Miami, Florida.
Heidi Nanigian, an agent with World Travel Bureau in Santa Ana, California, said that she has already heard from a client who won’t book Norwegian going forward after the change.
“It wasn’t until we booked that I realized final payment had moved forward. She is a budget travel who makes monthly payments to me. It was definitely an issue for her,” Nanigian said.
Others see it differently
Some agents took a positive point of view.
Dillon Guyer, for instance, owner of Guyer Travel International in Rochester, New Hampshire, said the deadline would help secure bookings.
“It helps weed out the ‘less than serious’ offers. Then over time, it's easier to recommend upgrades, further incentives, etc. Overall, I think the general pushback will be from those who already have issues paying 90 days out or on time in any manner,” Guyer said.
Jennifer Hand of Jennifer Hand’s Travel Pro in Alabaster, Alabama, also had a positive reaction: “From a professional perspective, it helps clients commit to the sailing. It helps protect cruise line and travel agent revenue, and will cut down on clients booking multiple cruises in hopes for price drops and canceling the unneeded cruises.”
Rick Ardis, owner of Ardis Travel in East Rutherford, New Jersey, said the new deadline “may weed out the people who cannot make up their mind and tie up space in desirable staterooms, then cancel,” and “will also help the small agent who often loses sales to larger (often online or wholesale club) agencies." He added that, for agents, “the earlier final payment will mean earlier receipt of commission.”
Ray Hayden of Triple R Travel in Tampa, Florida, said that while “the end result is that it's moving the client into penalty phase quicker, which benefits the cruise line,” the new deadlines “may convince more clients to purchase travel insurance,” which would lead to higher commissions for agents.