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2015 Buyer’s Guide: The New Age of Cruising

These days, it’s not about what it costs to get on a cruise — it’s what it costs to get off the ship.

Passengers often feel nickeled-and-dimed by the time they pay for drinks, Internet, tips, excursions and more, which is why more cruise lines are inching toward all-inclusive packages. Celebrity Cruises just unveiled an inclusive pricing structure, Silversea Cruises is rolling out free Wi-Fi across its fleet, and Norwegian Cruise Line is looking for ways to offer inclusive pricing for groups.

But those are just a few innovations cruise lines are debuting. AmaWaterways is partnering with Adventures by Disney to offer family-oriented river cruises in Europe, Un-Cruise Adventures focuses on immersive experiences, and Emerald Waterways’ ships provide flexible design features.


Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises made its first foray into all-inclusive packaging with 123Go!, a promotion that offered a classic beverage package for two, free gratuities for two and up to $300 to spend on board per stateroom.

But the company wanted to take it from promotion to price structure. Enter Go Big, Go Better, Go Best, an inclusive program the company unveiled in early July. The program allows travelers to choose from a menu of “perks” that include a beverage package, unlimited Internet access, prepaid tips and $150 per person in onboard credit. Go Big includes one perk of the traveler’s choice and Go Better includes two perks. Go Best includes all perks, plus an upgrade to the premium beverage package.

“It’s a game changer because it’s a pricing structure, not a promotion,” said Ron Gulaskey, global director of corporate, incentives and charter sales.

Celebrity wanted to provide guests better value and more choices; plus, the program is simple to understand, he said.

From a group standpoint, promotions can be frustrating for operators, who hold space for their groups for three to six months, which means some people may get the deal while others don’t, he said. The new pricing structure does away with that. And even within a group, travelers can choose from the three tiers.

Tour operators no longer feel pressure to close the group, which has, surprisingly, led to more bookings, he said. No promotion deadline also means operators no longer have to tweak their websites and marketing material to reflect changing or expired deals.

The pricing structure is available on more than 470 departures starting in October and continuing through April 2017, and it applies only to Ocean View staterooms and above, which is about 95 percent of cabins.


Silversea Cruises

Silversea Cruises offers it all, even butler service. So it made sense to company officials to extend that level of service to Internet access.

The luxury cruise line announced in June that free Wi-Fi access would be available to all guests on all cruises, including expedition cruises. Free Wi-Fi will be available throughout the ship, including all suites and public spaces, beginning with its January 2016 departures.

“There was a lot of confusion and a lot of different packages — daily packages, hourly packages, weekly packages; this just eliminates all the confusion and makes it easy,” said Brad Ball, director of corporate communications. “With Silversea, our guests don’t mind paying a little more up front if they know they’re getting more out of the cruise. They don’t want to be nickeled-and-dimed.”

Each passenger will have at least one hour of free Wi-Fi every day. Unlimited free Wi-Fi will be available to guests sailing in the Owner’s, Grand, Royal, Silver and Medallion suites on Silversea’s ocean ships and in various suites on expedition ships.

Unlike land-based hotels and resorts, where it’s easy to connect to the Internet, cruise ships deal with satellites and shared bandwidth, which can make it “quite expensive and quite slow,” Ball said. But Silversea has been investing in hardware and technology aboard its vessels to improve its Internet connections, making free Wi-Fi possible.

“They’re going to be connected and not have long waits, not get logged off,” he said. “It will be a decent connection.”

Silversea also rolled out inclusive shore excursions for 52 Mediterranean voyages this year, a move that was so successful, the company announced in June that it will include airfare, hotels, transfers, Wi-Fi and shore excursions for all its Silver Shadow Asia departures in 2016.

Rachel Carter

Rachel Carter worked as a newspaper reporter for eight years and spent two years as an online news editor before launching her freelance career. She now writes for national meetings magazines and travel trade publications.