Princess Cruises has launched online cruise booking services for consumers in South-east Asia, but its director for South-east Asia, Farriek Tawfik, insists that travel agents remain "the mainstay of business".
When booking online, guests have the option of choosing the location of their cabins and view fares for the various categories of cabins. They have three payment options: to hold the booking with no deposit; book with a deposit; or make payment in full. Payment modes include via credit card.
"Since beginning homeport cruising from Singapore three years ago, we have seen an increase in the number of repeat cruisers and our website aims to attract these guests," said Tawfik.
"The digital age has brought a surge in travel-related online activity and we believe Internet-savvy travellers in Asia are ready for a direct online booking capability."
Guests in mature cruise markets such as North America, the UK and Australia are already able to book their cruises online.
Tawfik added: “This does not in any way, change the important role that travel agents play as they continue to provide valuable resources to our guests and remain the mainstay of our business."
He stressed that guests still have the option of booking their cruises with their preferred travel agent and this channel is recommended for guests who have more complex itineraries such as those requiring airline bookings, pre- and post-hotel accommodation, ground transportation and visa applications. First-time cruisers are also recommended to go through travel agents who will be able to answer queries by phone or face to face.
According to a Princess Cruises statement, various sources estimate online cruise bookings to be less than 10 per cent of the market globally, and the percentage is lower for longer sailings.