Thursday, December 13, 2012

Oceania Cruises - A Little Less Consumer Friendly. Why? And What's The Good News?

Oceania Cruises is doing some things to make its cruises just a bit less consumer friendly, just a bit more expensive, and, to be honest, a little concerning.  While I still have happy clients that cruise on Oceania, the key to that happiness is knowing what to expect... and these changes are, to be sure, unexpected and neither will make you happy.


First the less important (significant) change:  It was only a few months ago that Oceania started its beverage package programs where you can purchase, for example, spirits, wine and beer throughout the ship.  Oceania has just announced that its packages are already going up in price.  Now, I am not sure if that is related to people drinking more than expected or trying to tweak it so that those people who were on the cusp, decide not to take the package...and then are charged more by the end of their cruise.  Then again, it just might be so popular that Oceania figures it can make $2,000,000+ over a year across its fleet with the price increase.  While it is curious to me, it is something you just need to be aware of. 

That said, while Oceania claims its beverage package is "one of the reasons Oceania is such a great value", that value just got $5.00 per day more expensive; making it just a bit lesser of a value, right?  Regardless, it should not be a major factor in whether to take an Oceania cruise.

The second change is actually two changes that effect each other.  And those changes just might be a bit more important when planning your cruise vacation - or even if you select Oceania for your cruise holiday.  Change OneOceania is redefining a "long cruise" from being 20 days or more to only 15 days or more.  Why?  Because Oceania has always had a longer penalty period for "long cruises".

Change Two:  Oceania has always started its penalty period for "long cruises" (when cancellation fees apply) as being 150 days rather than the standard 90 days. But now Oceania is extending is penalty period out to 180 days on long cruises.  What that means is if you change your mind, become ill or whatever, Oceania is going to hit you with a penalty six (6) months before your cruise was to set sail...and that is not, to my mind, fair or reasonable.

This tells me two things: 
  • Oceania is having issues with passengers booking longer cruises and then cancelling them just before final payments are due.  While the question, "Why?", is interesting (and relevant), the fact is that this phenomenon leaves Oceania with inventory to sell with relatively little time to sell it.  When this is coupled with its "no discounting" policy, there is little in the way of marketing to fill those empty berths.  (Yes, Oceania does have a very aggressive program of offering highly discounted prices to passengers booked on the cruise before or after the sailing, but not for those just desiring that sailing.  Curious, but it is what it is.)

  • Oceania wants and needs your money earlier.  When the penalty period starts 6 months before your cruise, it means your money is out of your pocket months earlier...so Oceania gets to use your money while you wait half a year for your cruise.  Oh, and don't think your travel agent is getting his/her commission earlier, because Oceania took care of that a months ago when it delayed the payment of commissions until only a couple of weeks before your cruise departs.
I do not want to be the purveyor of "gloom and doom", but these changes along with some of its earlier "policy" changes, the delay of the drydocking/refurbishment of the Nautica, and its sister company, Regent Seven Seas Cruises', rather poor financial performance leads me to have some fairly significant concerns that Oceania Cruises may be going the way of Renaissance Cruises; a prior Frank Del Rio venture.

Now, what is the good news?  Is there any?  Why Yes!  Yes there is!!  Despite my longer term concerns, Oceania now provides a very good cruise experience and it has some excellent itineraries.  And (you would know this if you really read this article!) there is availability on some pretty great close-in sailings including this winter in the South Pacific

With a wonderful onboard product (even if it costs your $5.00 more a day for your drinks! LOL!) and those longer penalty periods of no relevance, you can take advantage of the situation and get yourself on a great Oceania Cruise today and be on the high seas this winter.

Interested?  Give me a call at (877) 2GO-LUXURY or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com.