MIAMI -- For airlines, e-tickets are old hat. For cruise lines,
they could be the next big thing.
Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCCL) last month began sending cruise
tickets via e-mail; its so-called "e-docs" now are the norm for
clients who book within 21 days of sailing.
Lines like Carnival and Princess, meanwhile, could be just a few
months away from rolling out e-ticket programs of their own.
Holland America Line also is studying the e-tickets issue.
Princess is targeting first-quarter 2004 for its e-ticketing
A Carnival spokeswoman, meanwhile, said a plan to automate much
of the check-in procedure is coming "within the next couple of
Cruise e-documents won't usurp paper ones, at least not yet.
Princess executive vice president Dean Brown said the line will
continue to mail a package with an air schedule, a shore-excursion
booklet and other forms after final payment. But the ticket
package, which contains tickets and other final details, will be
distributed via e-mail.
"I'm sure both [paper documents and e-docs] will be the rule for
several years to come," said Dan Bohan, chief operating officer of
Fairfax, Va.-based Omega World Travel, which owns Cruise.com. "But
they'll change, and agents already are changing.
"This is something all cruise lines are going to have to go
along with," he said.
A conversion to e-documents would save the lines money, Bohan
said, but it also will benefit agents, who often receive their
clients' documents from the cruise line and forward them.
Bohan's agency, for example, has a department that "does nothing
but documentation. They put all the stuff together, put our stuff
in there. It's a job."
The documents typically are then sent via overnight mail to the
clients, at the agency's expense.
And, that process that can cost quite a bit, according to
RCCL already is making an effort to persuade agents and clients
to accept e-tickets. On Nov. 1, RCCL brands Royal Caribbean
International and Celebrity Cruises will begin adding a $35 "rush
fee" when agents who book a cruise within 21 days of sailing
request those clients' documents by mail.
"When you're 21 days in, it's easier to send an electronic
ticket booklet," a spokeswoman said.
The RCCL e-documents contain the same information as a regular
cruise-document package except for baggage tags, which clients pick
The line also requests that clients with e-mailed documents
print them and bring them to the pier.
To contact reporter Rebecca Tobin, send e-mail to [email protected].