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Do cruisers want less-inclusive fares? Some lines say yes

Feb. 02, 2022
5 min read
World Navigator
Do cruisers want less-inclusive fares? Some lines say yes
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We've all heard the saying that too much is never enough, but some cruise lines disagree. Atlas Ocean Voyages, a new luxury expedition cruise line that debuted in 2021, is making its fares less inclusive, due to feedback from travel agents and cruisers who have said they want more flexibility.

Previously, Atlas' fares included Wi-Fi, alcohol, gratuities, flights and basic shore excursions in each port.

Now the line will still include the first three but offer "voyages independent of included air travel and shore excursions, beginning with bookings made from February 15, 2022, for departures from April 24, 2022," according to a company statement.

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"Atlas remains an all-inclusive cruise, and, with the new set of inclusions, travelers enjoy more competitive cruise fares, as well as more convenient options for air travel and more personalized, shoreside adventure options in small and authentic ports, a hallmark of Atlas' distinctive itineraries."

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Atlas says the change will allow passengers more freedom to book their own flights and plan their own shore excursions, whether on their own or through the cruise line, while enjoying some savings in the process. So, perhaps less is actually more.

I caught up with Atlas Ocean Voyages President Alberto Aliberti, who elaborated on why Atlas made its fares less inclusive.

"We were receiving a lot of feedback that the included tour was not as valuable as doing private arrangements or taking smaller group tours or even, if they wish, going on their own," Aliberti said. "We wanted to give the guests the flexibility to make those selections."

Atlas Ocean Voyages' World Navigator (Photo courtesy of Atlas Ocean Voyages)

Many of Atlas Ocean Voyages' guests are experienced travelers, used to customizing their travel to their preferences. "We find our guests are very active, very independent, and they want to take care of their own air arrangements because sometimes our cruises are just a small part of their overall vacation," Aliberti said. "Many of them [also] have frequent flyer mileage, and they have so many different airline relationships that it was actually limiting for us to go ahead and tell them ... [how] to fly."

Aliberti stressed that Atlas still does have a full-service air department. The line is able to handle complex flight arrangements and bookings for passengers wishing to leverage their frequent flyer status or travel with a particular airline. But it is now easier for passengers to take advantage of those options through Atlas because flights are not automatically included in the price of the cruise.

Plus, with the unbundling of fares, flights and excursions, passengers might even save some money.

"The focus of this was to give the traveler more choice and more flexibility," Aliberti said. "The result is ... a reduction in price. They can then decide how they want to use that [price] difference."

Just how much will travelers save now that flights and excursions aren't included? "At least 15%, but it's often tracking 20 to 22%," Aliberti said.

As for how the changes benefit travel agents, Aliberti said that, following the change, it will be easier for them to cater to what their clients want. "Now, when a guest comes in asking for specific choices, a travel advisor is going to be able to more easily say yes or more easily say 'Let's plan that with Atlas.' And travel advisors are commissioned off of all those private tours that they pre-sell."

Cruisers will have the option to book tours on their own, but should they choose to go through Atlas Ocean Voyages, they will have a choice of small-group tours or popular new all-day private options. In keeping with the flexibility theme, the latter will allow participants to dictate which attractions they visit and even restaurants where they want to eat.

"In whatever location they are, we look at what the entrance fees are of the different sites, and we come up with an approximate [price] that would be worth it for the client to just ... plan with their guide," Aliberti said. "A full-day tour will get you three entrances of your choice for all participants. We found that's the most popular. Lunch ... [is] another area where people wanted flexibility. Some like grab-and-go. Some want a total foodie experience."

Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Millennium (Photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises)

Atlas Ocean Voyages isn't the only line that has reported passengers requesting bare-bones pricing despite the availability of attractive add-ons. Shortly before cruising resumed after the pandemic pause of 2020, Celebrity Cruises announced it would be switching its fares to what it refers to as "Always Included." That meant drinks, Wi-Fi and gratuities were automatically wrapped in with the line's most basic fares -- until some passengers said they didn't want the extras, prompting the line to offer an option without them.

However, the trend of cruise lines experimenting with offering more has continued into 2022. In recent months, mainstream brands are offering more-inclusive pricing. For example, Norwegian Cruise Line is running a longstanding deal that includes alcohol, specialty dining, shore excursions, Wi-Fi and more. During the early months of 2022, Holland America Line and Princess Cruises are offering fares that roll in shore excursions and/or gratuities, drink packages, specialty dining, Wi-Fi and cabin upgrades.

Featured image by An artist's drawing of the 196-passenger World Navigator. (Photo courtesy of Atlas Ocean Voyages)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
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  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases