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Lisa Bauer is blunt in summarizing Royal Caribbean Cruises
Ltd.’s history with agents and group travel.
“We weren’t easy to do business with,” said Bauer, senior vice
president of North American sales for both Royal Caribbean
International and Celebrity Cruises. “Overall, our group policies
weren’t competitive. Everyone made exceptions and that led to
After a series of focus groups with travel agents in which RCCL
executives said they “really listened to the voice of the customer”
it became clear what needed to change.
“What we wanted to do was come up with new policies and
procedures that were competitive, consistent, flexible and really
made us easy to do business with,” Bauer said.
Briefly, the main changes to the groups policy are:
" Initial deposits are reduced by 50 percent, to $25 per cabin
for itineraries including as many as eight nights; and $50 for nine
nights and longer.
" The deadline for the full deposit is now four months in
advance of departure. It had been four, five or six months,
depending on sailing length.
" Group space can be increased if 80 percent of the original
allotment is sold and additional cabins are available. Those cabins
will be sold at prevailing rates.
" Name changes will no longer represent a cancellation and may
be made to all but one of the original names, with some
" Transfers from FIT to existing groups may be made for bookings
with full names and full deposits, with restrictions.
" Rates and inventory will be protected following a cancellation
if a request is made within 48 hours and inventory is
“Before, the automation didn’t give us a lot of room to be
flexible, depending on how the sailing is doing,” Bauer said.
“Before, the final payment was due on a certain day and if the
payment was not applied, the system would cancel it.
“Now, if a sailing is not doing well, we’ll make the phone call
to the agent and say, ‘This sailing still has some room and the
full deposit is due, so why don’t you keep selling and we’ll extend
the deadline for you.’ It’s more relationship-driven.”
RCCL also promised introductory calls to new agents, so that its
group policies are understood. “We really believe by making sure we
clearly communicate upfront, that we’ll establish a road map for
success,” Bauer said.
“We think we’ve improved communication, we think we’ve
simplified full-deposit due dates, we’ll show a lot more
flexibility depending on how sales are doing. We’ve completely
streamlined, which will empower our field sales people.”