Oceania’s Brilliant Idea to Include a “Free” Hotel Night Pre-Cruise. Can This Idea Expand to Other Lines?

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Oceania Riviera in Corfu Greece 2017

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The former CEO of Norwegian Cruise Lines Frank J. Del Rio moved over to become president of Oceania. I was not a fan of a number of the changes he made during his tenure with NCL but I have to admit I like the current promotion he has come up with to get folks to book with Oceania, that is, the offer for a “free” hotel room before your cruise.

You may have noticed I put free in quotes because we all know when a cruise line has a promotion they are, most times, just moving the chess pieces around on the board, that is, that the price you pay in some way includes all the free stuff they are tossing in. We do work hard to score the best deals and offers but this one I think could be a game changer if it catches on. Let me explain.

a aerial view of a city and a body of water

Looking back at every single cruise I have ever taken I can not remember ever not arriving at the port city at least one day before. In fact chatting with my fellow Frequent Floater MJ he has only one time in his life intentionally flown in the same day the ship departed and he said he was a nervous wreck and the flight he had booked had a mechanical issue and he had to take a later flight (but did make it). There are just too many things that can go wrong with air travel that could cause you to “miss the boat” quite literally.

Because of this I am constantly looking at hotel card offers to build up my free night choices so that when I have a cruise booked that part of vacation will not increase the cost of the trip – but if it could be included in my cruise package it would free up that need and let me go for other cards that could, say make the flights better, that is, maybe burning more points for first class vs. coach.

And this is why I think Oceania’s current offer is just brilliant and could really be expanded. Cruise lines are masters at subcontracting out all kinds of things (like the Spa onboard to name just one) and still get a cut of the profits. If more cruise lines were to team up with local hotels and offer to fill them up with guests it could be a win-win for just about everyone and prevent, or at least lessen, the risk of passengers not making it to the ship due to air related issues of flying in the day of the sailing.

The other thing this could do, when you have so many staying at the same hotel, is to offer a discounted or even included transfer to the ship so that the only other cost you might have is getting to the hotel from the airport you flew into.

a glass of wine on a deck

The point is that a cruise vacation is supposed to be fun and stress reducing and not stress inducing. For me I am not 100% relaxed until I set foot on the gangway about to board the ship as I know at that point all my travel stress is over and my vacation can begin! The only downside I see with this is that I often like to spend more than just one night at the port city I arrive in and the hotel offered by the cruise line may not be part of any programs I prefer and paying cash for extra nights (so I would not have to switch hotels) may not be a plus for me.

What do you think – would you like to see more cruise lines offer a free hotel night pre-cruise included in your package? Would this motivate you more to book with that line vs. another? I would also love to know if you ever risk flying in the day of your cruise and if so why are you OK doing so? – René

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