Thursday, January 6, 2011

Regent Seven Seas Pricing - It Is Out of Control...Seriously, Why Pay That Much?

WARNING:  This is NOT an advertisement.  This is a continuation of what seems to be an ever increasing disparity of pricing between Regent Seven Seas and virtually any other cruise line considered by anyone to be "luxury".

So a man walks into a bar...I mean my office...looking at a 10 day Regent cruise on the 700 passenger Mariner in May 2011. The itinerary is quite good and the fare is $7,800 per person in the lowest category Veranda Suite or $780 per day per person.


Just for comparison, we look at a 14 day cruise on the 200 passenger Seabourn Legend, also in May 2011 which covers a number of the same ports, and the price for an Oceanview Suite is $5,000 per person or $357 per day per person.  The man says he really doesn't want to take many tours and, in fact, hates bus tours. But he is concerned about air. Great flights out of the airport of his choice on a major airline will cost him under $900 per person...which adds $64 a day to the Seabourn fare. Want to throw in a pre-cruise hotel and transfer for $150 a person...it adds $11 a day.  So his total comparison cost is $432 per day per person.

So the question, assuming arguendo that the food and service is equal (and to be sure I do not believe Regent's is on a par with Seabourn), is there enough value in the Regent cruise to warrant paying $348 per day per person more ($698 per couple per day) for a balcony and some tours? [Yes, that is approximately double the price of the Seabourn cruise. It is not a misprint.]

Regent Seven Seas profusely markets that its cruises are a great "value" and that everything is "free". In fact, quoting directly from Regent's website (capitalization is original to Regent):

"All-Inclusive Value
Regent Seven Seas Cruises fares include:

FREE Roundtrip Air
FREE Unlimited Shore Excursions
FREE Luxury Hotel Package
FREE Business Class Air in Penthouse Suites and higher on Europe sailings
FREE beverages including fine wines, beer and premium spirits, soft drinks, bottled water, specialty coffees and tea served throughout the ship
FREE in-suite mini-bar replenished daily with soft drinks, beer and bottled water
FREE 24-hour room service and no additional charge for specialty restaurants
FREE Pre-Paid Gratuities..."

In other words, when does the "free", "free", "free" or more inclusive package (take your pick as to wording), lose its cache...or does the Regent product really hold its value?

I pause...and I pause again...because I know I will get those emails and some others will think, "Well that is Goldring Travel just pushing Seabourn by again battering Regent Seven Seas."  However, I would ask you to pause...and pause again...and think, "Rather than damning the messenger, maybe we should take a closer look at the message."
From my perspective, it is absolutely appropriate to discuss the "value" provided by Regent and if what it is providing is "free". It is also absolutely appropriate to use examples to compare and contrast to determine what that "value" is.  That is why I worked in the other "free" items before I came up with the $700 per day difference...now we really only have to discuss tours (and will ignore that which you get on Seabourn that you don't get on Regent such as in-suite liquor, designer soaps, Molton Brown bath amenities, in-suite chapagne, complimentary caviar, stewardess-drawn aromatherapy baths, etc., etc.)

I tried to look at it like a Coach bag.  It hold stuff, looks good, and had a brand cache. But there is nothing in any of the marketing that gives Regent marketing cache over Silversea, Seabourn or Crystal; NCL most certainly, but not the other luxury lines.  So that can't be where the value is.

I tried to look at the inclusiveness, but honestly, every single cruise line offers air and, to be sure, in almost every instance you can find air - probably on better flights meeting your individual needs - for less money. And, as I showed, the cost of the few other items is not great.  I can, however, give a little bit of a nod to the marketing of it as inclusive in favor of Regent...but not near warranting the doubling of the prices or $700 a day.

I also looked at the tours.  Now, this is where it  - for me - gets a little interesting.  I have NEVER sold a luxury cruise where my clients have taken ship's tours every day.  I have clients that take one or two...and I even provide some special events myself...but generally I find my clients to be people that want to wander a town, take a private tour and only occasionally take a ship's tour (and then with 25 people; not 50+ as happens many times on Regent). 

So I am left with the feeling that the tours are sort of like an "all you can eat" buffet.  Some people indulge in more than you normally would...even if the quality isn't the highest...and feel that by having that overstuffed feeling they have gotten their money's worth.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  Heck, "all you can eat" buffets are popular...and they are offered because the sellers find them to be incredibly profitable, so everyone that involves themselves are happy.

But does this buffet of tours warrant a $700 a day price difference?  I guess to some it does.  And for Regent - as with the seller of the "all you can eat" buffet it is a veritable gold mine because the profit margins are huge.  (Ever wonder why the mass market lines offer so many different tours:  HUGE PROFITS.)

Obviously there are some that find value in a Regent Seven Seas cruise.  In fact, based on the fact the ships are double and triple the size of the Seabourn and Silversea ships, there are quite a few that do. 

But my job is not to simply take your order for a single cruise.  My goal is to make you an educated cruiser and one who finds that the value is not only in the cruise, but in the travel agent.  Why do I say this?  Because when presented with all the information not a single potential client of mine has decided to purchase a Regent cruise.  Not one.*

*Oh, there was on one very well-know Regent-loyalist, but even he just booked a Seabourn cruise...that is after he wasted many hours of my time reaping all sorts of information and then booked with a heavily discounting travel agent (who obviously was incapable of having the knowledge I do) to save a couple of bucks.  It is as if he is the sort that comes into a bar at Happy Hour, eats the food at the free buffet and then walks never buying a drink.  (I guess I just have a problem with buffets?!)