May 3, 2012
From now on, flights from Heathrow and Gatwick airports in London will be included on all European and worldwide itineraries. Regional flights from Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester and Newcastle airports are bookable at an extra charge of either £149 or £199, depending on whether passengers fly coach or business class. The inclusion of flights will mean a slight increase in fares, according to an Oceania spokesperson. Which airlines will be used has not been confirmed; however, in a message to travel agents Oceania stated that it would not use low-cost airlines.
Additionally, any passenger who has already made a cruise-only booking with the line has the option to add flights to their reservation. As a spokesperson for Oceania told Cruise Critic in an email, "Existing customers who have booked cruise only can upgrade to flight-inclusive for a small additional supplement."
For new bookings, if clients choose to book only a cruise, they will receive what the line is calling an air credit.
Editor's Note, 10:15 a.m.: Originally, based on a press release issued by Oceania, we had reported that passengers who've already booked an Oceania cruise can also take advantage of the free flights offer. The line sent us a correction and we fixed the story.
"Full details of the air credit amounts can be provided upon request," said a statement from the line, "but as an example, Europe is £100 each way and long haul one way credits range from £300 (Dubai) to £800 (Auckland)." It is not clear how the credit will be applied -- whether to the cost of the cruise or given as onboard credit.
Including flights in the package is a growing trend among the luxury cruise lines, and although Oceania insists it's 'upper premium,' not luxury, it appears to be joining Crystal Cruises and its own sister company, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, in bundling airfare.
Among the remainder of the luxury lines, Silversea still charges for flights separately, as do SeaDream Yacht Club and Seabourn.
This is clearly a move by Oceania towards offering the passenger a more seamless way of booking a cruise, but it shouldn't be seen as a step towards the line going all-inclusive like the ultra-luxury operators. Although Oceania's various speciality restaurants (an ‘extra' on which a mass-market cruise line would make money) carry no supplement, drinks and gratuities are charged for, as are excursions. So are transfers between the ship and the airport, even with this new free flights offer.
--by Jamey Bergman, U.K. Web Content Producer