The latest twist on exclusive offers designed to make guests feel special came this week from Royal Caribbean, with a new program called Key Pass, which offers an assortment of VIP benefits for about $20 per person per day.
For little more than the cost of high-speed internet, the Key gives guests:
• Carry-on luggage storage and delivery to their cabins on boarding day
• Boarding day lunch at Chop’s Grille
• Voom Surf and Stream high-speed internet on one device
• Private hours on the FlowRider, zipline and rock-climbing wall
• Priority disembarkation on select ships, at ports, and on tender service
• VIP seating at shows
• Choice debarkation and an à la carte breakfast in the main dining room on the final day
The Key is being tested on Liberty of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas through the end of March 2019. For now, the number of customers using it is being capped at 100 per sailing.
Travel agents who Travel Market Report spoke with generally liked the idea, though some noted that it’s more nickel-and-diming for clients to shell out, and not commissionable to travel agents.
“It sounds like something a few of my select clients would be interested in — and I personally would do it,” said Ann Erwin at The Travel Shoppe.
“I think it will sell out quickly,” agreed Amy Madson at Dream Vacations in Orlando. “If the client is getting internet anyway, the difference in price is minimal. Lots of perks and there are always folks who like to spurge on vacation.”
At Rubinsohn Travel, Adrienne Sasson said it’s something she would offer to clients “who like to be a little bit pampered, but maybe don’t have the funds or just don’t want to cruise on a luxury ship. It’s another high-touch amenity we can offer our clients and make their cruise more enjoyable.”
Dream Vacations Franchise Owner Christy Newsom Scannell said she “will be offering this to clients who don’t have the budget for a suite but appreciate the extras that make a cruise a little more special — such as not having to haul around carry-ons the first day and a nice place to eat an embarkation lunch. It would make a great gift for honeymooners! I just wish it were commissionable.”
But some expressed concern over the price, and the effect on other customers — especially Crown & Anchor members. “I am concerned about over-saturation of reserved times, leaving regular guests frustrated,” said Marc Bokoff at Cruise Planners in Connecticut. “I do think there’s a market, though.”
“It will sell out quickly,” predicted Dana Ceglenski at Cruises Inc. in Savannah, Missouri, but “on the flip side, Crown & Anchor members will have some resentment as they ‘earned’ their privileges and exclusivity.”
And the nickel-and-diming aspect bothers many. Sheila Michels, owner of Hometown Travels in Minneapolis, said she just had clients return from a cruise and say “they felt like every other week there was another request for a hand-out for more money. By the time they were done, they felt shorted of the value and said they were done with cruising. They are going back to the all-inclusive experience, as it causes them less anxiety. They felt it was easier to track their money/value ratio.”
Still, Maggie Harland Barton of SmartFlyer Atlanta guessed that 75 percent of her clients would be interested in The Key. “The ships are full at peak times, and this would be perfect for holidays, spring breaks, and Alaska and Europe in the summer,” she said. “Most of my clients will pay a small premium to be considered ‘priority.’”