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-   -   Carnival no longer a preferred supplier with american express travel ( January 30th, 2013 08:14 PM

Carnival no longer a preferred supplier with american express travel
Just received the following announcement from American Express. Travel agents have been very unhappy with Carnival lately. If you notice, all of their latest advertisements on TV and mailings do not have the usual phrase about calling Carnival or your local travel agent. Now they just say to call Carnival. By eliminating the part about calling your local travel agent, they are sending a very loud and clear message. Because of this and other policy changes they've made over the last year, travel agents are posting their displeasure saying if Carnival is not going to support them, then the agents are not going to support Carnival. It'll be interesting to see how this goes because according to Carnival more than 75% of their bookings are made through travel agents.



After careful consideration, American Express Travel has decided to end our Preferred Supplier relationship with Carnival Cruise Lines, effective January 31. With some of Carnival Cruise Lines’ recent policy decisions, many of the components that comprise a preferred supplier relationship with American Express are no longer present, including a drop in agent commissions.

As a result, we are removing Carnival from the AgentPort booking tool and AXtraWeb. However, American Express Travel remains committed to working with the Carnival Corporation’s other brands – Cunard, Holland America, Princess, and Seabourn – and they will remain Preferred Suppliers. Other agreements between American Express and Carnival Cruise Lines, including its merchant acceptance agreement, will not be affected by this decision.

Paul Motter January 30th, 2013 08:39 PM

It's really interesting, Pete.

Do yo htink this will affect cruise buyers? For example, if I went into a cruise agency and asked for a carnival cruise do you think they might try to steer me to another cruise line?

If not, exactly how does this affect me as a cruise buyer if I were to walk into a Cruise Planner office?

seadog2 January 30th, 2013 09:09 PM

This is interesting. It seems that more people are using other means of booking travel. While a great number of people still use travel agents it's true too that there are a great number of people who prefer to do it themselves. What exactly does this statement mean by Carnival. January 30th, 2013 09:34 PM

Several friends of mine, who are also agents, have flat out said they either will not sell Carnival or they will certainly try to steer clients away from them.

While past guests who have traveled Carnival before know what they're getting and are certain they'll want to do it again, new cruisers are often not as informed and can be influenced as to what cruise lines to consider in their quest for the perfect cruise.

Personally, I'm not that type of agent, but I know many who are. This is why I always tell people to stay away from agents who are always "recommending" things.

There are three reasons why an agent recommends;

1) It may be the only thing they know and have no personal experience to compare it against others.
2) They may have liked it, but we're all different people; what one person loves, another will hate.
3) That cruise line or resort pays them a higher commission.

In other words, when an agent recommends, it's usually not in the best interest of the client.

I believe an agent's job is to provide as much unbiased information as possible so a client can make an informed decision to select a cruise or vacation that is right for them based on their requirements, lifestyle, and budget. That's not to say I won't make some suggestions based on those items to help them narrow down the multitude of choices, but when people recommend, they are, in effect, steering someone where they may not want to go. That's why it's always best to do alot of homework, read the reviews, and ask alot of questions.

Now, with all that said, there are obviously alot of agents who just want to make a buck as quickly as possible and will do nothing but constantly recommend. I've seen it happen first hand. I once watched an elderly couple talk to an agent about a cruise and the only cruise line the agent mentioned during the entire conversation was Carnival, when there were at least 4 other cruise lines doing the exact same itinerary and all were much better suited to what the client wanted. When I got home, I did some research out of curiosity and found Carnival was offering an extra $50 commission for this particular cruise. It was obvious the agent had only one thing in mind and that was definitely not in the client's best interest.

Sorry, didn't mean to get off the subject, but the bottom line is that while I know for a fact some agents will definitely try to steer clients away from Carnival, a good agent should really listen to what the client wants and provide them all the options available irregardless of how they feel about a particular cruise line.

I have no doubt this will impact sales, but to what degree at this time is unknown. But if Carnival keeps it up, they will definitely find themselves in a quandary with agents and in the long run, everyone will suffer because of it, especially the passengers.

Quite frankly, if people book directly with the cruise line and a problem occurs, who do you think the cruise line represents? It's certainly not the passenger. Whereas when someone books with an agent, they have an advocate on their side and will fight the battles that need to be fought when something happens. Plus, they have information about all the cruise lines, not just that one the passenger is talking to. So they can either talk to each cruise line or talk to one agent. Then there's always the information about the ships, itineraries, and all the questions passengers have.

There was a report once put out that more than 95% of the time when you call the cruise line or a large online site that the person you're talking to works in a call center, has worked for the company less than 6 months, is not a certified travel agent, and has never been on a cruise or to any of the ports. So their knowledge is limited to selling and that's all they can do. This is why CLIA (the Cruise Lines International Association that we all belong to) states that approximately 90% of all cruises are booked using an agent. People recognize the importance as well as the benefit in using someone who has substantial knowledge and experience.

If Carnival chooses to alienate agents, which represent the majority of how their cruises are booked, I believe in the end it will have a huge impact. They will get so overwhelmed that passengers will get extremely frustrated and go elsewhere. Their customer service is rather poor now, I can only imagine how bad it will get should they continue down this road.

They actually tried the same strategy years ago and realized it was a huge mistake. I have no doubt eventually this, too, will be realized as a very bad idea.

Didn't mean for the answer to your question to be so long and detailed, but as you can see, this is a major issue and tremendously important because it affects everyone involved.


zydecocruiser January 31st, 2013 12:14 AM

My travel agent has no objection to booking Carnival and if she did, I would dump her. The only sales I see declining might be for some agents. I don't see Carnival's sales declining, and it even looks like Carnival has some pricing leverage now.

Paul Motter January 31st, 2013 02:43 PM

The truth is Pete did us a big favor here by admitting what most agents will never say, that there are some who will try to steer a client towards what is most profitable for them.

In fact - this should be made known, so Pete you did well. Many travel agents are picky about hiding this fact, because it puts them in a bad light, but the best travel agents won't do it.

It is the ones who CARE about their clients who won't do it, and they build a business because their clients can see they care. If an agent sends a customer on any vacation they don't enjoy that client is not going back to that agent.

Carnival may be able to get by without travel agents, but it won't be easy. But agents can certainly get by without having to push Carnival.

Carnival is what it is - a mainstream cruise line that appeals to value-conscious buyers. If that is what a buyer wants then they often tend to believe they are getting the best deal by going direct to the source. No, the fallacy is that isn't true, you often get a better deal by going to an agent (or the same deal at least).

But Carnival is in a situation right now where every penny counts (they just had their worst quarter in decades) and so they are looking to cut costs. If that means cutting out or lowering agent commissions, it seems pretty logical that Carnival will be one of the first cruise lines to go that route.

Donna January 31st, 2013 04:17 PM

Seem a lot of companies are having to cut costs, this one with Carnival on the other hand, just doesn't sit right with me and I think it could back fire on them. Only time will tell if it works for them. For me personally, I would never book directly with any cruiseline, always use an agent for many reasons..

zydecocruiser January 31st, 2013 06:50 PM

I almost always use an agent, but if they don't want my business, there are lots more to choose from. An agent may have gripes with Carnival, but that is their problem, not mine, and they shouldn't try to make it mine..

green_rd January 31st, 2013 10:46 PM

Turn the clock back to before you took your first cruise. If your TA had not mentioned Carnival, or had told you that Carnival probably wouldn't make you happy, you might never have cruised Carnival and would have been none the wiser. January 31st, 2013 11:37 PM

As I said, Carnival tried this same approach several years ago and it didn't work for several reasons. First, their sales went down. While they thought they could try to circumvent the agents and make more money, the opposite happened. Also, they were getting more calls to their Call Centers and passengers became extremely frustrated because the people on the other end of the phone were more interested in making the sale than in providing a service and answering all the many questions people have, especially first-time cruisers. An agent will not hesitate to spend time helping the client understand all the ins and outs of cruising. We'll spend an hour or two with them answering all their questions and talking to them about the various ports. Whereas these people in the Call Centers have never been on a cruise and know absolutely nothing about the ports. Their job is to sell - nothing more.

Which brings us to the number two reason; their Call Center staff became overwhelmed and they could not answer alot of the questions. This caused alot of complaints from passengers and lost sales due to frustrated clients, so they had to hire more staff and more supervisors. And those who were tasked with helping clients with problems became even more overwhelmed and it caused a downward spiral. Even those who thought they could just simply book directly on Carnival's website and bypass all the drama encountered problems and frustration not previously realized.

So thinking this strategy will make it better for passengers or that nothing will change for those who don't use agents could not be further from the truth. As proven in the past, eventually it will have an impact on everyone and not for the good of anyone.

And third, they lost sales due to clients listening to their travel agents and booking with other cruise lines.

They eventually realized their strategy was causing more problems than it solved as well as damaging their reputation. Even long-time loyal customers were going elsewhere. Carnival learned there is more to the bottom line than just looking at the dollars.

My personal belief is that they feel the current environment has changed and they can now try the same strategy again and expect a different outcome. I think eventually they'll again realize this is a bad strategy. It's amazing how bad press can have an impact on things, so it'll be interesting to see how things play out this time and how long it will take them to realize that this new strategy is as bad as the last time.


CDrescher February 1st, 2013 07:46 AM

Not sure if it may be the same issue as a few years ago but wouldn't surppise me. Carnival issued rules to TA's serval years ago to stop them from advertising prices less then the lowest fare Carnival was charging. At that time it was Liberty travel who was the big abusser. They had negoitaged with Carnival for each person booked thru them to get I belive it was $50 OBC. Then they would kickback a poration of their commision. Would run ads such as 5 day cruise $zzz/person thru Carnival------Book with Liberty for $yyy/person.

green_rd February 1st, 2013 10:01 AM

Hmm, Pete's latest informative post makes me think the Carnival price bubble will pop, not that Carny is expensive, and we should be ready to book again when the sales start :)

lhp February 1st, 2013 10:28 AM

Personally, I think anyone who is not well traveled should always use a travel agent.

Unfortunately, this "world of the internet" has created yet another problem of the "less traveled" just popping onto the Internet and booking a cruise directly with any cruise line without the proper information to make a truly informed decision.

They don't know about things like the importance of travel insurance, cabin selection, that ports can be missed for a variety of reasons etc.

These are the areas where a good Travel Agent can actually save Carnival a lot of future headaches.

Because the more informed a cruiser is, the less likely they will have problems. And IF they have problems, the more informed they are, the better they handle any issues that arise.

zydecocruiser February 1st, 2013 05:23 PM


Originally Posted by green_rd (Post 1463102)
Turn the clock back to before you took your first cruise. If your TA had not mentioned Carnival, or had told you that Carnival probably wouldn't make you happy, you might never have cruised Carnival and would have been none the wiser.

My first cruises were not on Carnival (Holland, Princess, French, maybe others). I discovered them on my own via the Zydecocruise that got shifted to Carnival Inspiration after Commodore sank.

I have booked directly and through TAs. I don't think I have ever heard a Carnival PVP criticize TAs, but sure have heard TAs criticize PVPs and other TAs. I'm more than a little tired of the finger pointing.

And it doesn't seem to matter what Carnival does - many TAs are still giving kickbacks.

JoeMo February 2nd, 2013 07:09 PM

Most of my cruising has been escorting groups, from as few as 9 to as many as 100, I would work with my T/A to put togther a package deal and he would sell it as an escorted cruise vacation. Long, Long ago, Carnival would "comp" the agency cabins based on number of cabins sold. I used to cruise for very little cash. That has all changed. The incentive for me to use MY vacation to babysit newbies is gone. I have decided to use MY vacation to travel with MY friends rather than those assigned to me. I sailed Carnival twice in November, December of last year, but I'm done taking groups. I have no doubt Carnival and the other ships will have little trouble selling cabins without me, but, how many more like me are out there?
It could be that newbies traveling alone spend more on alcohol, art, excursions, and gambling than an escorted group. I may not be the ideal cruiser they look for. . .

laffnvegas February 5th, 2013 08:36 PM

I know I have not posted here a very long time but thought I would weigh in here. I totally agree with Pete. I too work for an Amex agency. I basically saw this coming for a while and expect this to back fire on Carnival. I cannot tell you how many times I have talked to a client that had been on the phone with Carnival and they were talking the client into 1A interiors or a 7C balcony and not explaining what they were getting. I once talked to a couple celebrating their 50 yr wedding anniversary that called with a price on a 1A cabin. After I explained what Carnival was offering I asked them to call Carnival and call me back if I was right. I ended up selling them a Holland America. While we are asked to not sell Carnival I will still sell to my regular Carnival Clients because I am not about to lose a sale but have to admit Carnival has done a lot of things in the past year to not make me a fan. I have a Spring Break sailing that has now had 10 price reductions with Early Saver on of all ships the Breeze. Something must not be going well if they have to drop prices this low and this frequently while others for the same date are basically sold out. I guess only time will tell. I honestly do not think they have not felt the full repercussion of allowing Travel Agents to give Ship Board credit as gifts. I think eventually their on board revenue will continue to drop because many clients don't have the extra funds that were once given to them to spend on board. Carnival would prefer to have all new first time cruisers that are naive and will spend lots of money on board because they do not know any different. Which is why they want to get rid of the Travel Agents we were giving them too much information. February 5th, 2013 11:27 PM

I had pretty much the same thing happen just today. A new cruiser called and asked me for a quote on a Carnival cruise - said they had talked to Carnival and gotten a rate from them, and wanted to see if I could beat the deal. I asked them what was the fare code and the cabin category for the rate they got - she said she wasn't given any of that information. I was able to figure it out by the quote she provided and then I asked her if the Carnival agent informed her that the rate was for a non-refundable guarantee cabin. She said she was not told any of that and had no idea what a guarantee cabin was. After I provided her all the information, she was flabbergasted that Carnival really did not provide her anything except the rate for a cabin she wasn't interested in. Needless to say, she booked through me and swore she'd never book directly with a cruise line.

Bottom line is, you get what you give. And right now, Carnival is not giving much, so they shouldn't expect much in return.


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