Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Regent Seven Seas - Raising Prices and Questions About It's Value

I kid you not, yesterday within but a few minutes of each other I received two emails. One was from Regent Seven Seas and another was from a client of mine who has cruised on Regent, among other lines.

The Regent email stated, in part:

2010 - Our Most Inclusive Year Ever...Prices Increase October 1, 2009....With many 2010 cruises already sold out, time is running out for you to take advantage of our exceptional savings offers. After September 30, 2009, prices will be increasing on nearly half of our voyages. You will still be able to enjoy Unlimited Complimentary Shore Excursions and Included Air, but 2-for-1 Fares plus up to an additional $1,000 per guest savings will no longer apply on select 2010 cruises effective October 1, 2009. But don't wait until then - book now as space is limited, many cruises are already sold out, and some suite categories are already full!

The client email (which was also posted on The Gold Standard Forum) stated:

Eric, I had to get this off my chest. Yesterday, I received 2 huge Regent books. One for Winter-Spring and one for Europe 2010. I assume you received them as well.



Forget the hype, did you take a look at the "list" pricing on these cruises ? I mean, really. What sane person would even swallow the prices they post as list. Add to that the prices they claim they save you for "complimentary" shore excursions. All they did was hyper inflate those prices as well. What they discount down to is still so high... I would never book Regent. Add to that....their food is mediocre and the service...horrible. Last year I ordered a lobster tail on formal night. It came still in the shell and after 5 minutes ....had to REQUEST a waiter remove it from my shell. As for their morning Veranda restaurant...try to get a second cup of coffee was like trying to stop a speeding bullet. Next to impossible.

Anyone sailing on Regent nowadays is being robbed.

Okay, I feel better now.

I previously wrote about the problem with faux discounts, but let me repeat it here.  Cruise lines make up the "Brochure Rate" and they make up the "discount".  As no one ever, ever, ever, pays Brochure Rate there is no such thing as an actual discount off of that.  The actual base rate would be what is commonly referred to as an "Early Booking Savings (EBS) Rate".  I don't care if it is Regent, or Carnival or Seabourn, virtually ever line does it.  (I know of cruises that have a 50% discount...and that is for 2011 sailings!)  Therefore, taking the extreme, if a 2011 cruise has a 50% discount already and it is then advertised with a 60% discount, the actual discount is actually no more than 10% (and how it is calculated can actually bring that figure down to around 7%).

But I digress, what Regent has done is not only exploit that concept, but added another layer: Marketing that you are getting a huge value in "free" tours which are, in real terms, just like the "free" drinks:  You are paying for them up front even if you don't use them. 

And that is where the problem becomes exacerbated:  Most "luxury" cruisers either don't take ship's tours or the ship's tours that Regent is offering as complimentary.  Supplements abound for better tours and limits are placed on the "free" ones.  So people are paying a premium for...what???

But there is more:  People are willing to pay if there is quality provided.  Honestly, though, I have never seen the number of complaints about the poor quality of Regent's service that I have in the past year or so.  I saw the product slipping for quite a while, but now it is just appalling.  Yes, you are going to get those that say it is the best while, if you read their words, the cruise actually (dare I say it) sucks.  And, to be fair, there are those that will have a really great cruise experience.  But there are many that just are not happy. 

And as a travel agent, you do not pay me to simply take your order.  You pay me to make sure you are the best cruise for you.  Not the one I make the most money on.  Not the one that gives me an incentive to book them.  Not the least expensive one.  The "best" one for that individual client.  And with the complaints flowing and the inconsistencies unable to be ignored, how the heck do I recommend Regent Seven Seas to my cruise clients???  Do I say, "You might have a great time; you might not."?

Well, as you can see, when Regent jacked up the prices and then gave the illusory big discounts one nerve was struck.  When the service and cuisine went from very good to no so much so, another nerve was struck.  And just as I work extremely hard to earn my client's business - not just for the present cruise but the future ones - Regent needs to do the same; especially now that many people are pained.

Me thinks there needs to be some fence mending by Regent Seven Seas...and starting with strengthening the product would be a great thing.  While the pricing methods of the cruise industry cannot be changed overnight, if the perception is that there is real value, luxury clients will pay a premium.  But if Regent continues to tell its guests that it "6 Star" and delivers quality that is "4, no 2, no 5, no 3, no 4 Star" it will find itself in a bad place.

Seriously, is it that hard to make a decent cup of coffee and serve it?  Can there be a system to serve everyone at a table at the same time?  Can pizza be removed that is more than 10 minutes old?  I mean they can do it at the local diner, why can't Regent do it consistently.  People will happily pay for it!!!!