Norwegian Cruise Line wants sellers to shun CruiseCompete

Norwegian Cruise Line is asking travel agents to stop working with CruiseCompete, the 10-year old firm in Des Moines, Iowa, that solicits bids from agents on cruises sought by consumers.

In a memo sent to some travel outlets the week of March 18, Norwegian Vice President of Sales Camille Olivere said Norwegian would not sign new contracts with agencies that use CruiseCompete.

Further, under some circumstances, Norwegian said, it could cancel existing contracts with agents found to be participating in CruiseCompete auctions.

“I very much appreciate your willingness to support our decision as it relates to CrusieCompete,” the memo said.

Olivere could not be reached to elaborate. A Norwegian spokeswoman said she was traveling and unavailable.

Account holders at CruiseCompete can request bids on cruises on a particular itinerary or ship, specifying dates and cabin preferences. The company tells consumers that more than 300 agencies are available to bid on the cruises. Consumers are notified of the bids and can contact the agencies when and if they want.

Olivere’s memo cited several frustrations with the way agents interact with CruiseCompete. In particular, she said, contracted accounts have access to higher commissions than smaller retail accounts, can use group discounts and get marketing funds from Norwegian.

She said a contract partner’s ability to sell its own “packaged product” during periodic timeframes is disrupted by having Norwegian cruises on a “facilitated site” like CruiseCompete. She also said rebating can’t be monitored in such an environment.

In addition, some Norwegian travel partners have bid down commissions or have offered net rates intended for packaging purposes.

“Not only is this activity a breach of the sales and marketing agreement that travel partners like you have signed with Norwegian, it is also negatively impacting the great progress we have made with the Norwegian brand and business,” Olivere’s memo said.

Olivere said Norwegian officials would “avail ourselves of all contractual remedies” up to and including the cancellation of accounts found to have bid on the site.

In a statement, CruiseCompete CEO Bob Levenstein said, “We have reached out to Norwegian Cruise Line to address their concerns. The door is still open, as far as we are concerned, to find a solution. We are all about providing the consumer with choices and fair competition in the marketplace, as mandated by ethics and the law.”

Follow Tom Stieghorst on Twitter @tstravelweekly.

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