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Old January 5th, 2011, 12:29 PM
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Default Seabourn's Approach to Upgrades

There has been some foot stamping, roll in the aisle tirades and general questions about Seabourn and why it has pretty much eliminated the free upgrades.

First, Seabourn hasn't eliminated complimentary upgrades and, honestly, never will. If you purchase a Guarantee suite you are assuring yourself of a suite no lower than the category you booked. So you are, in fact, putting yourself in a queue for a possible upgrade. (Note: On Cruise Critic there is - believe it or not - a huge amount of misinformation on Guarantee Suites. GTYs are not immediately available and, in fact, may never be available on a particular cruise. They tend to become available after most of certain particular category(ies) has/have been sold...not sold out...and then only if Seabourn's calculations are that suites will become available through cancellations, etc....and I am not going into how that is figured!)

Second, it is always good to know someone who, in turn, knows someone. People that book directly through Seabourn's reservation system aren't helping themselves.

Third, while complimentary upgrades may seem like great PR there is also a downside...When those who got the upgrades tell everyone and the next person goes, "So Seabourn thinks so little of me?!" There is a balance and that balance isn't always assured.

Fourth, while airlines do provide complimentary upgrades to their best customers on domestic flights, very few provide them on International flights. Why? Because the premium paid on international flights is higher, so assuring the value of the luxury end - and hence its pricing - is overall more important to the airlines. So, as with some airlines (BA, for example) certain classes of fares are allowed to purchase discounted upgrades close in to the time of the flight.

Seabourn has implemented the discounted paid for upgrade system for certain travel agents and it has been working very well. The Guest gets a good value and Seabourn protects the pricing on its upper suites. This counters the recent phenomenon of booking a lower suite (less revenue) and then pushing for what the passenger really wants...for free (even less revenue).

(Remember the days about a decade ago when people would line up at the Purser's Desk on all the cruise lines begging for a complimentary upgrade...or a highly discounted one? Those days are gone to, aren't they.)

So, yes, once in a while someone will get a complimentary upgrade, but overall, it is just not going to happen.
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Old January 6th, 2011, 11:43 AM
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Excellent points. Thanks for clarifying.
My airline of choice does give me 6 free international upgrades per year. I agree with your point that the difference in fares and comfort between coach & business or first class probably requires them to be more specific & transparent about who gets an upgrade.
I do hope Seabourn is using upgrades for rational business reasons. It isn’t that big a deal to me to get an upgrade since I am very comfortable in the suite I bought. I must confess that when I learn that someone gets an upgrade who is not as important, intelligent, or good looking as I am (that would include most everybody on the planet) for no rational reason, it does reduce my loyalty to Seabourn. Maybe they should require them to sign a non-disclosure before giving them the upgrade.
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Old January 6th, 2011, 11:56 AM
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We always tell people in articles that when you buy a guarantee you should expect to be in the category you paid for. If you get upgraded then it is fortunate - but not to be expected.

I am not familiar with Seabourn's repeat passenger policy, but I do know MANY of the lines use upgrades as a reward for frequent cruisers. You get one when you earn one.

These days when ships almost always sail full you shouldn't ever expect an upgrade and you should consider yourself lucky if you do get one.

I also agree that it really helps to use a good travel agent (we say this everywhere in CruiseMates). The thing is that a good agent deals in volume which means purchasing power. Especially if they sell a lot of one cruise line. The agent is going to pass that on to his customers because it helps his business.

We always tell people "why not use an agent? all you are adding is an extra level of service to your cruise purchase at no extra cost to you."
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Old January 6th, 2011, 12:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iamboatman View Post
Seabourn has implemented the discounted paid for upgrade system for certain travel agents and it has been working very well.
Eric - I don't follow what this means. Can you please re-phrase this?

Diebroke: I fly fairly often but I never seem to have enough points for an upgrade. How many points does it take for an international upgrade, generally, and what is the most frugal and expeditious way to get one?
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Old January 6th, 2011, 01:45 PM
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The paid for upgrade system works as follows: A travel agent is sent a notification that a particular guest presently in, say, a French Balcony Suite can upgrade to an Owner's Suite for $x per person or a person in an Oceanview Suite can upgrade to a Veranda Suite for $Y per person.

This is not something that is available to every travel agent nor is it available to every client of that travel agent that is on the particular sailing. Seabourn decides which travel agent and which guest the paid for upgrade will apply to.

As for the airline upgrades, certain airlines (like United and now Continental) will provide its highest level frequent flyers with a certain number of confirmed upgrades. In other words, you do not need to be on a standby upgrade list nor do you need to use your frequent flyer miles. You must be at the highest level to receive international confirmed upgrades.

For most mere mortals in the frequent flyer world, like me, I do not get the opportunity for complimentary upgrades internationally, but do have the ability to standby for upgrades on an unlimited number of domestic flights (as would frequent flyer gods like Diebroke) without using any FF miles.

I can also use miles and money to upgrade internationally (generally $500 + x miles each way). This is an option on paid for tickets, but they must be in certain classes because the lowest discounted priced tickets do not qualify for this perk.

And then there is the use of FF miles for tickets and domestic upgrades, which is what most people are limited to because they do not fly the 25,000 to 75,000 miles needed to reach the various Elite or Gold/Platinum levels.
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Old January 6th, 2011, 01:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iamboatman View Post
The paid for upgrade system works as follows: A travel agent is sent a notification that a particular guest presently in, say, a French Balcony Suite can upgrade to an Owner's Suite for $x per person or a person in an Oceanview Suite can upgrade to a Veranda Suite for $Y per person.

This is not something that is available to every travel agent nor is it available to every client of that travel agent that is on the particular sailing. Seabourn decides which travel agent and which guest the paid for upgrade will apply to.
This is basically an "Upsell" that many cruise lines are now using. It looks like complimentary upgrades are becoming an endangered species on the mass market lines all the way up to the luxury lines. There are still a few of them around but they are rarely seen.

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Old January 6th, 2011, 02:14 PM
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That's right - most people refer to this "paid for" upgrade as "the upsell".

The difference (it seems) is that on mainstream lines they often call the customer directly, not go through the travel agent.

My guess is that the mainstream lines have a higher success rate that way solely because if the agent calls and says the same thing it seems a little more like the agent is just trying to upsell himself. But if the cruise line calls it seems more like a legitimate "special perk" just for that customer.

The lux lines are (rightfully so) more agent-oriented, though. Anyway - you can tell if it is really a worthwhile (discounted) upgrade by looking at the price. If it is below what you could have gotten originally it is the real deal.

This makes total sense, and is another reason why the "lucky upgrade" has all but disappeared. Why shouldn't the cruise line make more money for a better cabin if people are willing to pay for it?
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Old January 6th, 2011, 02:41 PM
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I am wondering if the TA earns additional commission on an "Upsell" with Seabourn? On the mainstream the upsell is non-commisionable.

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Old January 6th, 2011, 02:47 PM
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Yes. Seabourn treats its travel agents that have this opportunity very well. But remember the cost of the upgrade unless to a top suite is not that significant
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Old January 6th, 2011, 03:12 PM
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Reminds me of the fuel surcharge brouhaha - Vicki Freed thanked me personally for writing an article pointing out how unfair it was to ask travel agents to collect these for the cruise lines back when they were implemented the first time.

I know, it seems like they should get a commission on anything they sell. But they don't.

I hate to say it, because Eric doesn't qualify, but if you are going to find an agent that isn't just about customer service first (more about the green) it is more likely to happen in the lux categories.

They figure their clients are rich, sometimes they are old and not very good at confrontation (think widows and people with bad memories) and so they sell them things that cost more just to make more.

Like Eric said, Regent has no NCFs (non-commissionable fees) and they include airfare, tips, liquor, shore excursions and even hotels in the cruise fare. This means a hefty commission for the agent. (now I am assuming some things here, as I am not an agent).

So - it would make a lot of sense for agents to want to sell Regent over a line that does not operate this way. But it may not always be the best choice for the customer.
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Old January 6th, 2011, 04:22 PM
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I think we get a pretty bum deal here as far as Frequent Flyer benefits. From what I have read, to get an upgrade for a flight, you already have to have paid for a ticket in Economy (Coach)....then later can apply for an upgrade using points....of course that doesnt mean you will get one....I would actually doubt that you would....so then you would be stuck with a very long flight in Coach!! Just not worth the risk. To get a Frequent Flyer flight using your points, we have to book at least 330 days prior....and even then its very slim pickings.....we usually just give up and pay! (This is with Qantas)
We actually got upgraded once on Malaysian Airlines from KL to Beijing.....we were thrilled when the check in bloke told us he was upgrading us to FIRST CLASS!!! Well we were thrilled until we looked out the window of the Departure Lounge and saw a pre war, plane on the tarmac...pre WW1 that is! That is our entire experience in 20 something years of plane upgrades!

We got an upgrade on our very first Seabourn cruise, which was wonderful....from the cheap seats to a "french balcony" suite. Now they know they have us, we dont get upgraded anymore....:???: oh well, I have even offered to do dishes and sleep in the cew quarters to be able to stay onboard longer....so far they havent taken me up on that offer either!

Oh yeah....the time we did get an upgrade I had just booked direct with Seabourn....didnt use a TA at all!
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Old January 6th, 2011, 06:36 PM
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Like Kuki said in another thread - his theory is that they give upgrades to NEW customers to catch you, and then they have you and no more upgrades.
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Old January 6th, 2011, 08:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Motter View Post
Like Eric said, Regent has no NCFs (non-commissionable fees) and they include airfare, tips, liquor, shore excursions and even hotels in the cruise fare. This means a hefty commission for the agent. (now I am assuming some things here, as I am not an agent).

So - it would make a lot of sense for agents to want to sell Regent over a line that does not operate this way. But it may not always be the best choice for the customer.
Now I was being good, but Paul: DING. DING. DING. DING. You get the prize!!!! :o

It is exactly, and unashamedly, what Regent does. Further many travel agents are lazy, so if the lazy or greedy travel agent can make a bigger commission doing less work which way do you think they are going to push their clients? Duh!

To be fair, Silversea in the past has offered huge commission rates for certain sailings. I find that equally offensive. I mean I like big commissions, but don't think a travel agent's recommendation should be based upon the potential commission.
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Old January 8th, 2011, 04:28 AM
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I really don't see why people book a guarantee,it is only a form of gambling.
You could in theory get a really bad positioned suite that might upset your vacation.
I always book a specific suite and pay the price that the agent gives me.
That way I always get what I want, and will never have any nasty suprises.
If you like a low down mid ship suite and you are on a crossing, then that is probably the best position.If you were upgraded to a high deck forward suite then you might be in for a rough ride on a crossing,so the upgrade in fact becomes a worse deal.
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Old January 8th, 2011, 08:58 AM
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Well, m'lord...

Along the same lines, I think we all agree that the practice by many lines of just saying a suite that is higher up is "an upgrade" is bogus.

We see that in pricing all the time, the exact same suite is priced $50-$100 higher just because it is a deck higher, when in fact that just adds to the motion of the ship.

Usually that motion is not a big deal, but neither is "the view" or whatever it is they think they are selling us by having the suites higher up. You are closer to the buffet & pool deck, but farther from the lower public rooms.

And I have heard stories where people were not allowed to turn down an upgrade.
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Old January 8th, 2011, 10:53 AM
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Quote:
To be fair, Silversea in the past has offered huge commission rates for certain sailings. I find that equally offensive. I mean I like big commissions, but don't think a travel agent's recommendation should be based upon the potential commission.
I agree - it seems a little underhanded on the cruise lines' part. If they need to sell the itinertary lower the cabin price.

I guess they do whatever works. The question is - did that trick by Silversea work?
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Old January 8th, 2011, 01:21 PM
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There are many people that are not that particular about where they are as long as they are...on the ship.

There are also people that want a particular cruise, but the suite they really want isn't available so why not pay less and take whatever. It is not like if you don't get your particular suite the cruise will be a disaster...for many people that is.

To be sure luxury cruising has those that save up for their only, annual or semi-annual experience and then there are those that go when they want regardless of price and then there is everything in between.
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