Norwegian Cruise Line says its switch to a new pricing model has brought transparency to its fares and spurred bookings by indie agents. Lucy Huxley reports

Norwegian Cruise Line says its “game-changing” Premium All Inclusive proposition has broadened the line’s appeal among independent agents.

It also said year-on-year sales had been “incredibly strong” after receiving a positive reaction to the move from the trade.

The line made the bold decision in April to make every fare on every ship inclusive of gratuities, drinks, coffees in its restaurants and bottled water in its cabins.

Agent confidence

Nick Wilkinson, general manager for northern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said the switch had “taken down barriers” for new-to-cruise agents to start selling cruises.

“Many smaller, independent agents are now booking with us, rather than just the cruise specialists,” he said.

“Agents have about 400 products they can sell, which is confusing. By making our proposition simpler, it builds a natural bridge between all-inclusive resorts – whether they are on land or sea.

“It’s suddenly comparable for them, and gives them the confidence to sell cruise. It makes them view us differently – we are not a cruise ship but a floating premium all-inclusive resort.”

Wilkinson acknowledged that other lines promoted deals where elements might be included or offered as added value in the price.

“They are just tactical campaigns that only last a certain time, or are only available on certain sailings on certain ships,” Wilkinson said.

“What we are offering is a total product change that agents can be confident will always be there. One agent called me and said ‘I’ve been in travel for 20 years and this is the first time I’ve felt completely confident selling cruise’.

“We have driven simplicity, so agents know what is always included, and that has garnered overwhelming support.”

New-to-cruise upturn

He said driving new-to-cruise sales had been a key objective of the strategy.

“For years, all the cruise lines have talked about how to get more agents selling cruise and encouraging more clients to try it. We all have to keep looking for new customers; we have to keep growing the total cruise pool.

“Making our entire fleet Premium All Inclusive is our way of growing that pool. Agents and customers no longer need to look at what’s included in the price.”

Wilkinson confirmed that tactical offers would still be used by Norwegian, but that these would focus on benefits such as free Wi-Fi, or onboard credit to spend in the ship’s shops or on shore excursions.

The line plans to hold 56 events around the UK for agents and consumers this summer to promote Premium All Inclusive.

Agents’ views

Chiara Brooker, Jetline Cruise
“Premium All-Inclusive offers the customer excellent value for money and it is easy to demonstrate that there are no hidden extras. We have also seen an increase in our new-to-cruise business and some of this we think has been generated from customers who are already familiar with all-inclusive land holidays.”

Simone Clark, Iglu
“The change means prices have risen and are higher than last year but we have seen that sales have been very strong. New cruisers are sometimes put off with the price of tips – having them included in the price takes away any concerns.”

James Coughlan, Flexicruise
“We’ve seen a fantastic response. The message is clear and effective and provides a transparent value proposition for both new-to-cruise clients as well as past bookers.”