Last updated: 09:37 PM ET, Wed February 03 2016

Royal Caribbean Changes the Last-Minute Discount Landscape

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. | Jason Leppert | February 03, 2016

Royal Caribbean Changes the Last-Minute Discount Landscape

Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

Consumers and agents can no longer expect deep discounts on Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.-affiliated sailings in the last days leading up to departures.

Seatrade Cruise News is reporting that the company’s Chairman and CEO Richard Fain has declared there will be no new discounts within 30 days of sailing with the company on its brands — Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises.

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It’s all part of the company’s pricing integrity policy that had been previously inconsistent with some last-minute deals opening up 10 days prior to sail dates or before. Now the only exceptions will be on shorter three- and four-day voyages. Otherwise, the updated policy applies to all itineraries in the hopes that it will make pricing more digestible to consumers. Fain adds, “it's important we have a clear policy everyone could understand and follow.”

Previously, it has not been uncommon for cruise lines to offer last-minute discounts to help fill unsold cabins, creating a disparity between a higher price paid by a traveler say a year out versus a lower one several weeks out. Fain admits this might cause some staterooms to remain empty through 2016 but expects it will even out by 2017. Presumably, by then consumers and agents will fully recognize that last-minute discounts are no longer available and will have to book farther out should they wish to sail, at the prevailing rate, filling in those cabins sooner.

As cruising becomes more popular internationally, Royal Caribbean’s pricing integrity policy indicates that cruise lines are becoming more confident in their regular rates than in the past — which will surely boost their bottom line. In fact, Fain thinks it has helped the company’s current reservations to reach a level comparable to its record high in 2015. The policy was first implemented in the U.S. and Canada about a year ago and expanded to the UK and Ireland last October. These four markets account for two-thirds of the company’s overall revenue.

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Fain concludes, “we now think we've got it right and we do not expect any changes in the near future.” It will be interesting to see if competitors follow suit. Most other lines do offer discounts, but that could very well change across the board, making price points more consistent but higher. Cruising remains an excellent value, but perhaps the days of outstanding low fares are drawing to a close.


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