NEW YORK -- Travel agents said they're quickly finding space for
former Premier passengers on other cruise lines, a few of which are
offering incentives to pick up the business.
Steve Cosgrove, owner of Dynamic Travel in South Lake, Texas,
and a former member of Premier's agent advisory board, said several
factors are making the rebooking process easier, including the time
of year -- fall is traditionally cruising's slowest period.
"This would have been worse if it were April and we were trying
to rebook passengers for summer cruises," said Cosgrove.
Fall also has the lowest rates of the year. As a result, said
Cosgrove, Premier passengers have been receptive to re-booking on
"The majority of these passengers are price-conscious anyway,"
Carnival Cruise Lines was among the earliest to contact agents
with passengers booked on Premier in the wake of the company's
demise. Carnival representatives e-mailed Carnival sellers to offer
assistance in rebooking Premier passengers on Sept. 14, the same
day Premier suspended operations.
Carnival acted quickly because "Premier was doing itineraries
that are similar to ours," said Carnival president Bob
Princess is offering credits of up to $200 per person on 15
Caribbean cruises aboard Dawn Princess and Ocean Princess. Premier
passengers with deposits of up to $400 can have that amount applied
to seven 12-, 14- and 15-day cruises to the Orient, Australia and
South America aboard Regal Princess and Royal Princess.
"We understand the disappointment facing Premier passengers in
light of recent developments," said Dean Brown, executive vice
president of sales, marketing and customer service. "We hope to
give them the opportunity to continue their vacation plans."
Norwegian Cruise line's field sales force is offering some
incentives to agents who rebook clients on NCL, but the offers do
not include price breaks.
A spokesman said, "We are generally offering sailings on similar
dates at our current rates."
Disney Cruise Line, the arch rival of Premier's family-oriented
Big Red Boat operation at Port Canaveral, has not extended any
special offers to former Premier passengers, said company spokesman
"We don't want to appear as though we would try to take
advantage of the situation," he said. Disney's bookings have been
strong for the fall, he added, so it's difficult to tell how many
bookings are coming from former Premier passengers.
Royal Caribbean isn't offering across-the-board incentives,
either. "We are receiving some calls from people previously booked
on Premier; mostly for cruises departing from Port Canaveral," said
spokesman Michael Sheehan.
He said Premier's failure "hasn't had any effect on our prices
or rates," adding that "Premier's fleet made up about 3% of the
North American market. The impact of their [absence] is very
For the longer term, however, Carnival's Dickinson said the
absence of Premier's 7,000-plus berths from the cruise marketplace
will help curb discounting. "It certainly won't hurt pricing, and
it should stabilize it," he said. "With the financial situation
they were in, Premier's pricing strategy was certainly
Cosgrove said he and his fellow agents are "going to notice
they're gone because the lead-in cruise prices will be higher." He
added that Premier will also be missed as a low-price option when
compared with other types of vacations.
"Premier gave us a product to compete against [land] charter
packages to Las Vegas and Cancun," said Cosgrove. "It was a great
teaser product to get people to try cruising because of the low
When we send people to the Caribbean from this part of the
country, the air fare is as much as the cruise."
Another party expected to miss Premier is Port Canaveral, Fla.,
home base for the line's Big Red Boat. It was Premier's popularity
with cruise vacationers that helped Port Canaveral become the
second-largest port in cruising.
"This is a loss for our community because Premier has been an
anchor at Port Canaveral," said Port Authority chairman Joe
Matheny. "Our concern is with those whose jobs and businesses will
be adversely affected."
Still unclear, however, is whether other cruise lines will seek
to fill the void at the port. "It's too early to tell if we will
deploy more ships in Port Canaveral," said Tim Gallagher, a
Carnival spokesman. "We know [Premier] was selling pretty much on a
price basis at the port. We have to wait to see what the impact of
their absence will be."
Process set for refunds to customers
WASHINGTON -- Greenwich Insurance Co., which is establishing a
process for compensating Premier customers, will post refund
information on the Federal Maritime Commission's Web site, located
Sept.22 or Sept. 25, the FMC said.
Claimants should keep their original documents but send
high-quality copies via certified mail, said Curt Ohlsson, an FMC
Refunds will not be affected if Premier seeks bankruptcy
protection from creditors, said Ohlsson. Premier is required to
notify the FMC if such an action takes place, he said.
Ohlsson said Premier's refunds could be the largest in the
34-year history of FMC's bond program.