Bundling: The Next Step For Cruise Vacations?

We see it in our personal lives all the time.  Buy local phone service, Internet access and cable TV from the same provider and enjoy a lower total price than all three bought separately.  Placing our auto, home, health or life insurance with the same company has brought a discount for decades. It should be no surprise that cruise vacations, already solidly established as an inclusive travel experience, would bundle what they do in a one-stop shopping sort of way.

Compared to land-based options, travelers enjoy the inclusive nature of cruise vacations.  Just two of their foundation selling points;  ‘unpack once, visit multiple destinations’ and ‘meals included’ create undeniable value.  But to an increasing number of cruise travelers, those points are not enough and cruise lines are attempting to deliver more.

An increased focus on destinations for some lines, more top deck features for others, revamped onboard programming for most have kept up with ever-increasing passenger expectations.  Still, savvy cruise travelers want even more.

On The Road, But Not Quite There Yet
Recent popular promotions granted reduced deposits, enabling first-timers to get in the game easy; Buy One, Get One Free, often a red flag of financial trouble in retail, is working for cruise lines; Budget-conscious families like the sound of “Kids Sail Free” and we are seeing more of that too.  Is the price of international airfare keeping you from a European sailing?  We don’t have to look too far to find a “Free companion air” promo.  These efforts have all had their success and all benefited buyers but still fall a bit short and lack the pizzazz that knocks our socks off.

Enter Norwegian Cruise Lines and a new promotion that combines a seven-night cruise with flights to and from the embarkation port for a reasonable price.  That alone might appeal to buyers, but this promo goes further.

“The offer is for voyages to the Western Caribbean on the Norwegian Jewel and also includes a one-night pre-cruise stay in Houston, airport transfers and three dinners at specialty restaurants on the ship, ” explains USAToday’s resident cruise expert Gene Sloan in a recent article.

What a great idea this is.  
With prices starting at $999 per person ($599 without the airfare), cruise travelers are encouraged to do it right; come into the embarkation port a day early, providing a buffer of time in case of flight delays.  More importantly, doing so puts travelers in the right frame of mind to eat the cruise ship experience candy and digest it well, solidly leaving real life and hectic ‘travel day’ stress in the dust.

Better yet, the pre-cruise hotel stay is at the Crowne Plaza Houston River Oaks, no shabby digs and a property set up very well to handle effortless transfer of passengers to ships. Onboard, the three included specialty dinners blow away the last of the lingering notion that ‘On Norwegian you have to pay extra for the good food’, the downside of their Freestyle Dining concept.

But that’s not all.

“In addition, cruisers will receive chocolate-covered strawberries and a bottle of wine in their cabin along with 20 professional photos taken on-board, ” adds Sloan, wrapping up the package and tying it with a bow.

Right now, that bundle is available only on Norwegian Jewel, sailing from Houston this October through April of 2015.  We will be watching this one though.  Done right, packages like this could be the next big thing in cruise travel, offering a value so great, so undeniably easy for consumers that other cruise lines will follow.


More About Norwegian Jewel
Now in service after a May dry dock remodeling, Norwegian Jewel has a number of new features,  including:

  • The addition of O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill.
  • The ship’s Moderno Churrascaria, the Brazilian-style steakhouse, was relocated to a more intimate setting on Deck 13.
  • The Sugarcane Mojito Bar, first introduced on Norwegian Getaway, was added.
  •  Carlo’s Bake Shop by Buddy Valastro, star of TLC’s Cake Boss and Next Great Baker, has been added in the Java Café.
  • An updated Casino and Photo Gallery, new carpets and flooring throughout guest areas, window replacements, upgrades in galley areas and updates to the pool deck.
  • New digital signage brings interactive touch screen signs that allow guests to order specialty items, get directions and reserve dining and shore excursions simply with a scan of their stateroom key.
  • Technical enhancements include the ship being outfitted with Green Tech Marine Scrubbers, in order to reduce fuel emissions, overall energy consumption, and the company’s environmental footprint.
  • The ship also received an Azipod hydrodynamic upgrade and state-of-the-art silicone paint on the hull, in order to further improve fuel efficiency.
  • Norwegian Jewel will also benefit from the installation of shore power connectivity.
  • Other significant technical and safety updates include: lifeboat and tender boat release systems upgrade; thrusters and stabilizer maintenance; and ballast and bilge piping replacement.


Flickr photo by Images Money