Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises - The Differences Are Fewer and Fewer. Is "OLife Advantage" A Good Thing?

Oceania Cruises has just announced "The OLife Advantage" program provides 2-for-1 pricing, "free airfare", pre-paid gratuities and "complimentary" shore excursions and unlimited internet, for all spring, summer and fall 2016 voyages in Europe, Alaska and Canada/New England for those booking a veranda or better by September 30, 2015.

This may be a good deal (and considering what Oceania generally charges for it add-ons is quite high) the issue I see is not with the promotion.  In fact, I believe Oceania provides a better overall product and cruise experience then its sister cruise line Regent Seven Seas.  This promotion gives us the opportunity to compare apples to apples.

But before I get to that I need to address the issue I see with its words in the press release saying one thing and its marketing saying something else...And that something else is the same troublesome wording that its sister company, Regent Seven Seas Cruises uses:  "Free".


You have read more than once about my disdain for Regent Seven Seas's deceptively marketing "included" amenities as being "free"...because they are not "free":  YOU ARE PAYING FOR THEM....WHETHER YOU USE THEM OR NOT!  You can read my article, "Selling a Regent Seven Seas Cruise: Do Travel Agents Have Any Liability to Their Clients?"

Further, since Oceania and Regent Seven Seas have become sister companies I have been closely watching what I call the Oceanification of Regent Seven Seas. In fact, back in 2012 I wrote "Oceania Cruises New, Creative, All-Inclusive Approach (The Oceania-fication of Regent Seven Seas Cruise Line - Another Chapter)".  And this promotion seems eerily close to this happening as it applies to almost all of Oceania's cruises.

It is with this background that I analyze Oceania's OLife Advantage to see if it is, in fact, an "Advantage".  Let's take it step by step:

  • 2-for-1 Pricing - This is just a marketing ploy.  It is, to your pocketbook, meaningless.  These cruises have never been sold...and never will be sold...at full price and have, in no uncertain terms, been given full prices sufficiently high to support this actually non-discounted fare.  NOTE:  This is not unique to Oceania.  Many cruise lines use the same problematic marketing. The problem is that it works!  Customers believe they are getting some great deal on the cruise fare when, in fact, they are just paying what they would normally be paying.  (Sometimes the price may change to 50% off or even 40% off but with other amenities are added.  Regardless, it comes out to pretty much the exact same price for you.)
  • Free Airfare - There is no such thing as "free" airfare.  The simplest way to prove this is to not take the "free" air.  Do you know what happens?  You get a credit for not taking it. Free would be worth nothing, right?  Regardless, dependent on your departure city and whether you don't mind probably taking early morning or late night flights, probably with long layover connections, and no choice of flights this may be good. (By the way, if there is a layover and it is overnight, you have to pay for an overnight accommodation!) Of course for a fee and an additional charge you can have the flights you actually want.
  • Free Shore Excursions - If you are the type of person that likes the standard cruise ship tours this can be a good deal and a real money saver over Oceania's regular prices.  However, if you prefer tours without 50 people on a bus and 200+ people going to the same place at the same time, you have two options:  Pay for premium tours or just don't use the tour at all.  You do not - as you do with the "free airfare" - get a credit for tours not taken.
  • Free Pre-Paid Gratuities - Oceania has quite high rates for gratuities so this is a good thing.  As of today, the rate is $15 per person per day for staterooms and $22 for suites (in the Fall 2015 it rises to $16 and $23 per person per day).  On a 10 day cruise that amounts to $300 to $440 for a party of two.  (I always include that with the cruise fare when calculating the best deal.)  
  • Free Internet - This is also a high mark up item for those that are not part of Oceania's loyalty program.  Oceania is better than most cruise lines when it comes to providing free internet, but you want to be sure that is actually of value to you.  I have clients that "turn off" once they board the ship, but others want to check emails every few days, while others - like me- really want and need full time access. So, in the end, this may or may not be of value to you.
You might want to compare this to Celebrity Cruises new "Go Big. Go Better.  Go Best." cruise pricing where you are knowingly paying for the amenities you desire and will actually use.

Now here is an exercise I would love you to consider:  Compare Oceania's pricing with its "free", "free", "free" to Regent Seven Seas pricing for a similar cruise.  What you are undoubtedly going to find is that Oceania is a far better deal...and, if all of the reports I receive are true (and they are very consistent), Oceania provides a better overall product and cruise experience then Regent Seven Seas.  (The only difference is having all your drinks included...and that can be a significant variable to consider.)

Interested in an Oceania?  Call me:

United States:        (877) 2GO-LUXURY
United Kingdom:   020 8133 3450
Australia:              (07) 3102 4685
Everywhere Else:   +1 732 578 8585


Or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com