Norwegian Cruise Line is scrapping its ‘Premium All Inclusive’ pricing concept after two years and replacing it with a new ‘Free at Sea’ programme which it claims offers greater flexibility and allows agents to earn more.

The ‘Free at Sea’ programme requires customers to pay £99 to access two benefits which the line claims are worth more than £700.

The programme is already operating in all markets outside Europe, but will expand to the UK and Ireland, and the continent, from April 2.

Customers can choose two of the following:

  • A premium drinks package, worth up to US$99 per person, per day, including gratuities and service charges
  • Speciality dining for three nights of a seven-night sailing, worth $89 per person, including gratuities and service charges
  • Free WiFi, up to 250 mins per stateroom on a seven-night basis.
  • US$50 dollars on board credit per stateroom, per port, to spend on shore excursions
  • The third and fourth passenger in a stateroom, sails for the cost of taxes only (selected sailings only)

Guests sailing in NCL’s top stateroom classes (Haven, Concierge or suites) would automatically be eligible for all five. The Free At Sea upgrade is fully commissionable to agents.

Under its Premium All-Inclusive offer, which was introduced in April 2017, unlimited premium drinks, service charges and gratuities were included in the fare.

Vice-president and managing director for NCL’s UK, Ireland, Israel, South Africa and Middle East markets, Eamonn Ferrin, said while a drinks package and speciality dining might be important to some, for others, free child places or access to the internet might be the key driver.

He also said other lines had copied elements of the Premium All Inclusive offer which had “diluted” the message.

“This is all about reinforcing freestyle cruising, giving more flexibility, choice and value to our customers,” Ferrin said.

“These are the key watchwords of our brand. The core values of Norwegian are that you can wear what you want, eat what you want and when you want, and that you can choose from a wide range of entertainment.

“We have done a lot of research among existing customers and those yet to cruise, and it was a real eye-opener into what they really want. Across all demographics and socio-types, having choice and individuality to create their own vacation experience was really important.”

He said he had spoken to between 20 and 30 key agent partners about the new Free at Sea programme and they had “overwhelmingly endorsed” its introduction.

“They are very excited about it and can’t wait for us to get it up and running,” Ferrin added.

Ferrin said that because all five added benefits come as standard for Haven, Concierge and Suite guests, this gave agents a great reason to upsell.

Ferrin said: “When we launched Premium All Inclusive it was really innovative. No-one else was doing it and it was very successfully endorsed. But as we’ve looked at it afresh, things have moved on. A number of competitors have copied elements so the message has become diluted. It’s not as strong an offer anymore, and was hard for us to differentiate.”

But he said Free At Sea was unique and working well in global markets.

“The flexibility it gives is the next future step. It really gives the customer the choice of what they want, whereas Premium All Inclusive offered benefits that didn’t suit or appeal to all customers,” he said.

Ferrin added that he would be “gobsmacked” if “in the high 90% of customers” don’t take the upgrade.

“It just makes no sense not to,” he said.

The £99 Free At Sea upgrade is available on all cabin types.

NCL will be sending Free At Sea merchandising packs and sales support material to agents across the UK and Ireland ready for the launch next month.