Silversea Cruises' decision to eliminate noncommissionable fees from all cruises starting in 2012 came as welcome news to retailers.
The policy change by the six-ship, ultra-luxury line means that all costs, such as port charges and taxes, will be rolled into the cruise fare. Additionally, Silversea said that the rates for most of its cruises next year will include economy airfare, and 13% commission will be paid on that, too.
"It sends a big message," said Vicky Garcia, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Cruise Planners/American Express. "It's a bold move that enables agents to make money doing what they do."
Some agents suggested that Silversea eliminated NCFs to keep pace with competitors.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises in 2010 began paying commissions on port charges, government fees, taxes and shore excursions that are included in the fare.
But Steve Tucker, Silversea's vice president of field sales, who revealed Silversea's policy change during Vacation.com's annual conference in Las Vegas last week, said the move was not a reaction to any competitor's program.
"It was a company decision based on wanting to properly remunerate our travel partners," he said.
Ross Spalding, president of Crown Cruise Vacations in Princeton, N.J., said Silversea's elimination of NCFs "is a good thing, even though at the luxury level the difference isn't so much."
Spalding said that with mass-market cruises, the NCF portion for his agency can be as high as 23% to 25% of the fare, but on a higher-priced Silversea cruise, the NCFs amount to about 3.7% of the total fare.
"The taxes, for example, are going to be the same regardless of whether it's a low-priced inside cabin on a mass-market line or a suite on Silversea," he said.
"But it's still positive. It's still a benefit."
Bettie Harding Lee, of Woodlake Travel Store in Houston, agreed. "It often is discouraging when you sell a deluxe product and commission is reduced by the noncommissionable items. We're very pleased about the new policy," she said.