Ditching paper documents will benefit cruisers by speeding things up during the check-in process, but as part of the Princess eTickets program, passengers will also receive their travel documents and flight confirmations earlier than ever before. The new technology allows for:
Personalized voyage summaries available online 24/7 up to 120 days prior to voyage, with the ability to print boarding passes within 75 days of debarkation, as long as immigration information and final payments have been collected; travel details can also be forwarded to family and friends. Note: Suite passengers and Elite members of the Captain's Circle loyalty program will receive a Preferred Boarding Pass for expedited check-in at the pier.
Princess Air flight information will be added 75 days prior to debarkation -- a full 45 days before the industry standard (30 days). Passengers and travel agents can make sure the itinerary is exactly what they want; if not, they can call and change their air arrangements for a fee: $50 for modifying a domestic flight, $75 for international.
Important notices from Princess about their particular voyage. "If we have to make a last-minute tweak to departure time, or there's something we want everybody to know," says Jan Swartz, senior vice president of customer service and sales, "we send out an emergency notification to travel agents. But at the same time, we'll post it in their travel summary."
Guests can continue to book shore excursions (fleetwide) and spa treatments (on Crown, Caribbean, Coral, Diamond, Golden, Grand, Island, Sapphire and Sun Princess) online a full 120 days before setting sail. Though exact numbers are not available, Swartz tells us that the majority of passengers take advantage of at least one if not both. "Part of why they're buying a cruise with all of its all-inclusive components is to rest assured that all the details are handled," Swartz tells us. "Cruisers really value having this information in advance."
Princess eTickets go into effect fleetwide for most sailings departing on or after November 17 of this year, with the exception of Golden Princess, which will begin with the December 16 sailing.
Passengers without Internet access can receive their boarding pass in one of two ways: by requesting a print out from their travel agent or by contacting Princess directly for documents by mail.
"We expect that most passengers are going to take advantage of this. We have had this in beta test for about six months now with a select group of travel agent partners and their clients. What we found by and large is that most consumers today are comfortable with e-tickets [for air travel] ... I suspect we'll find the same thing with cruise tickets." The International Air Transportation Association is pushing for 100 percent electronic ticketing across the globe by January 1, 2008 (air travel by e-ticket totaled 54 percent at the end of June).
All passengers will still receive a "welcome" packet in the mail that contains luggage tags, shore excursion booklets, their passage contract and Princess Travel Care details if applicable; this packet will be shipped 75 days prior to sailing date -- earlier than Princess' current 60-day-prior mailings.
"I think people have always researched cruises well in advance of the actual voyage," says Swartz. "Once they make a commitment to buy, they really value the convenience of seeing that all of the details have been taken care of."
--By Melissa Baldwin, Associate Editor