Saturday, March 10, 2012

Seabourn Changes the Way Guarantee Bookings Are Handled. Is It The Start of a New Trend?

Seabourn quietly had changed the way it handles guarantee bookings.  

You know the ones:  The ones you have all considered to be like a lottery ticket.  You book a suite in a category (say the lowest category, an A Oceanview suite).  And then you wait...and wait...and wait...until about 30 days prior to sailing.  Then there is the scratch-off to see what you won.  Is it an Owner's Suite? Penthouse?  Veranda? Oceanview?



On just about every line there was a good shot of getting something better than that Category A.  Why?  Because you gave up the ability to pick a suite, allowing Seabourn the flexibility to put you where it liked...just not worse then the category of guarantee you purchased.  (So a V4 Veranda Suite Guarantee could never be placed in a V3 or Oceanview suite.)  It was...and I repeat "was"...sort of a quid pro quoYou give Seabourn flexibility and in return you potentially got treated a little bit better.

Now, as we say in New Jersey:  Fuggedaboudit

When it comes to your suite on Seabourn the concept now is: "You get what you pay for and expect no more."

After an hour telephone call with the top executives (and you all know what that means), I am so very disappointed...and concerned.  It undercuts the very concept that Seabourn was built on: Exceeding Expectations

And to me it is an indication that Seabourn is parting with the very soul of that Debbie Natansohn and Pamela Conover and others embedded in the DNA of Seabourn. 

So if you book a V1 Veranda Guarantee, unless Seabourn has no option that means you will get a V1 Suite. And, of course, which V1's are going to be left to shove you into? The worst ones all the way forward and with the smaller balconies. Book an A Guarantee on the small ships and you will assuredly receive the most forward ones...possibly even the ones which historically have been set aside for guest lecturers and visiting staff (not that they are "bad", but their layout is quirky...and not consistent with the overall Seabourn experience).

And for those of you looking at the new category of OB (a veranda guarantee at a significantly discounted price), you are not going to receive any American Express Platinum or Ensemble, Virtuoso or Signature amenities.

Oh, yes, those courtesy upgrades that used to happen...and, to be honest, I thought became a bit too common...are also pretty much a thing of the past.

Message:  Book What You Want, Right Down to Suite Number!)

Simply stated the Seabourn concept has always been that if you treat your passengers as guests and exceed their expectations from the moment they make that first call to the moment they leave the ship (or after any lingering issues are resolved) not only will they return to Seabourn they will bring their friends and families to Seabourn.

It is, in fact, the model that Goldring Travel was founded on...and continues to do (and improve upon).  It is one of the reasons that I have been such a proponent of Seabourn not only as a cruise product, but as a cruising lifestyle.  And, let's face it, it works!  (I highlighted this point just this past Friday when speaking at The New York Times Travel Show.)

To be fair and complete, the fact is that the economy has put significant pressure on pricing so that Seabourn, Silversea, Crystal, etc. have been selling at artificially low rates and eventually something has to give.  It ain't my company, but running weekly sales while the product itself has not significantly improved (though I am promised much is in the pipeline...and Seabourn isn't saying much of what is in that pipeline or how long the pipe is!) - even if it is the best overall luxury cruise product out there - isn't going to generate more long-term dollars or loyalty for Seabourn.

In my opinion, by changing the initial contact with the cruise line (NOT Goldring Travel!!!) from being a guest anticipating its expectations may be exceeded right from the start to a passenger who will get what it paid for and no more, the door is swung wide open to seeking value now; not waiting a year or six months to step onto the ship and have expectations exceeded.  I cannot fathom how someone treated as a passenger at the start transforms into a guest.

Not to worry, Goldring Travel will do its utmost to assure you are a cruise line's "guest"...and most certainly our valued client...from that first email or telephone call.  And, as you see, Goldring Travel will also assure that you are fully informed.

Let us know what you think.  Join the discussion on The Gold Standard Luxury Travel Forum.