Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Oceania-fication of Regent Seven Seas Cruises: Regent Seven Seas Is Now A Premium, Not Luxury, Cruise Line...I Told You So!

I have been steadfast in my assertions over the past two years that (a) Regent Seven Seas Cruises is a premium, not luxury, cruise line; and, (b) Oceania is essentially taking over Regent Seven Seas and it will not exist as a distinct product.  Along those lines, Regent Seven Seas Cruises has just announced that it is segregating its allegedly luxury ships into two classes:  Concierge and Second Class.  (Oceania provides its suite guests and concierge class guests with amenities its standard cabin passengers do not receive.  See the similarity?)

New Regent Seven Seas Cruises Concierge Program - Guests booking suite categories E and above on Seven Seas Voyager and Seven Seas Mariner and category D and above on Seven Seas Navigator will receive the following services:

* priority specialty restaurant reservations
* 25% off premium purchased wines & liquors
* priority spa reservations
* 10% off pre-or-post hotel or land packages
* priority embarkation
* space available upgrades at time of sailing
* priority luggage delivery
* complimentary binoculars
* 15 min. worth of free phone calls per suite
* complementary Regent Seven Seas tote bag
* one free hour of internet per suite
* printed air boarding passes

Before I analyze this and because there is just so much to say, I refer you to a few of my prior articles:





That said, let's look at this Oceania-fication of Regent Seven Seas Cruises, first considering why this is happening.

It is well known that cruises "sell from the top down and the bottom up".  In other words, the most expensive and the least expensive cabins/suites sell first because people generally want the best suites and/or the best price.  This leave a void in the middle which fills in over time.  On the Regent ships the suites are essentially the same with most or all having balconies and identical layouts, so how to sell more of the mid-priced suites?  You put a carrot in front of those potential passengers that want the best price and let them know that they just might get that now extremely illusive thing called a "Complimentary Upgrade". 

Now the person who would normally book a Category H (the lowest) might just be motivated to purchase a Category E or, more likely, the person who books a G might make that move more readily.  Of course the beauty is two-fold:  If the ships sell from the top down the chance of a big score upgrade is pretty much nil.  If you move from an E to a D, so what.  And remember the person who purchased the D is probably going to move up before a person in an E.  The result:  Regent's ploy causes the ill-informed to purchase an identical suite at a higher price with little or no chance for substantive upgrade on most sailings.  [BTW, doesn't Regent claim its ships are sailing full? If so, to what suite would you upgrade.  But I digress...]

Now, with that ploy out of the way, let's take a look at the "benefits" of Concierge Class and compare them to what you receive on Crystal Cruises, Silversea Cruises and Seabourn Cruises:

* Priority embarkation - What the heck is this?  On your luxury cruise you need to pay over a $1,000 more to walk on the ship earlier (how much we don't know) than someone else.  Or, better, if you don't pay the higher fare you get to sit in a cruise terminal...waiting to embark on your allegedly luxury cruise.

* Space available upgrades at time of sailing - We covered this fallacy already.

* Priority luggage delivery - So my allegedly luxury cruise means that I get mass market luggage delivery?  No what it really means is that Regent is cutting back on service so luggage deliver will be delayed for many passengers.  This is an obvious indication of a cutback in the number of crew on the ship.

* Complimentary binoculars - Celebrity makes them available in all suites and Regent only provides them in some?  Huh?

* Complementary Regent Seven Seas tote bag - Celebrity makes them available in all suites and Regent only provides them in some? Huh- Part II?

* 15 min. worth of free phone calls per suite - Value: about $25.00...or you can just use your mobile phone.  But if you are a Past Guest it is worthless.

* One free hour of internet per suite - Value:  about $25.00.  But if you are a Past Guest it is worthless.

* 25% off premium purchased wines & liquors - Getting past the "free", "free", "free" Regent marketing, I must wonder what liquor is not going to be excluded from the complimentary liquor list in order to give this value. Further, it is well known that the vast majority of guests never touch the reserve wine lists. Without getting into whether the prices of the reserve wines will creep up to cover this cost (as Regent's prices did if you were to get the allegedly "free" pre-cruise hotel room), this reminds me of the old joke about the wife coming home and telling her husband how much money she saved because everything she bought - but didn't need - was "On Sale".) Obviously the purpose is to drive sales of wines; not provide actual additional value. And, of course, remember, you are paying $1,000+ more in order to save possibly $25 on a $100 bottle of wine...that may well have been previously sold for $85...if Regent's history repeats itself!

* 10% off pre-or-post hotel or land packages - See my comments on the "free" hotel only being available when you purchased a cruise at a higher rates and my concerns over the price of wines above.

* Priority specialty restaurant reservations - When 30+% of the ship has priority, that would mean that not only is there no real priority, but that 70% of the ship on this allegedly luxury cruise are going to be closed out of literally every good dining time.

* Priority spa reservations - When 30+% of the ship has priority, that would mean that not only is there no real priority, but that 70% of the ship on this allegedly luxury cruise are going to be closed out of literally every good spa appointment.

* Printed air boarding passes - What can I say?  How about, "Huh - Part III"

As promised, I will now compare the Regent Seven Seas Second Class service versus Seabourn.  I can't.  I just can't.  Not being able to board while others can? Wait for the luggage because others are served first?  No available prime dining or spa reservations because the "more important" guests (you are a mere passenger, are you not?) have them? Oh, but some of your tours are included as is a one night hotel stay...at prices that are significantly higher than what you would pay on Seabourn, Silversea or Crystal Cruises.

My motto needs to be repeated here:  Be Treated By Your Travel Agent As You Will Be Onboard!  Now do you understand why I don't normally sell Regent Seven Seas Cruises?  I would NEVER treat my clients as second class nor would I charge a client more to receive my luxury cruise services.

What you do you think?  Join the discussion on The Gold Standard Luxury Travel Forum.