(5 p.m. EDT June 9, 2014) -- Update: Cruisers who use CruiseCompete will find Norwegian Cruise Line cruises on the site once more. To address the concerns Norwegian had raised in spring 2013, CruiseCompete agreed to modify its consumer process for the cruise line.
Those searching for cruises on all other lines will view the information directly on the CruiseCompete site. Those searching for Norwegian cruises will click through to travel agent sites.
"CruiseCompete is pleased to once again offer consumers a convenient way to find the best values on Norwegian Cruise Line sailings," Bob Levinstein, CEO and cofounder of CruiseCompete, said in a statement.(3:52 p.m. EDT) -- Fans of CruiseCompete.com can no longer request that cruise agents bid on their desired Norwegian Cruise Line sailing. As of last week, Norwegian severed ties with the site, which allows users to obtain fare quotes for a cruise from multiple sellers. The line did not have a contract with CruiseCompete, but warned travel agencies it would revoke their contracts if they bid for Norwegian business on the site. In response, CruiseCompete has removed Norwegian Cruise Line from the list of available cruise lines.
The reason: According to trade publication TravelMarketReport.com, CruiseCompete encourages sellers to rebate -- give a portion of their commission to the customer -- something the cruise line strictly forbids.
In a letter to its travel agency partners, and excerpted by TravelMarketReport.com, Camille Olivere, Norwegian's senior vice president of sales, wrote that cruise sellers with certain advantages "bid down," essentially discounting Norwegian cruises. Advantages include group rates individual agencies get through partnership with larger companies and higher commissions for selling more cruises.
Norwegian, like other cruise lines, wants to be the only entity dictating what prices customers pay for their cruises.
But Bob Levinstein, CEO and cofounder of CruiseCompete.com, told Cruise Critic that offering the lowest price possible on a cruise doesn't tell the whole story of what the site does.
"This idea that it's just discounting is not correct. It isn't only about price," he said. "It's really about value. Cruise lines allow a lot of amenities to be offered, like cabin upgrades."
Personal service and extensive cruise knowledge is also something CruiseCompete members value, he added.
And while he admits CruiseCompete does make it easier for cruisers to shop around to multiple sellers in one place, he emphasizes that the site is very clear with participating agencies that they must conform to each line's rules and policies when quoting that particular line. Most cruise lines -- Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity included -- have strict rules forbidding price discounting.
Levinstein told Cruise Critic that, in light of Norwegian's decision to pull out of the site, he has reached out to several cruise lines to address any concerns they may have.
"We have had some very positive conversations with a number of cruise lines to allow them to be more proactive in the monitoring of their policies. We remain willing to work directly with any cruise line to help them enforce their policies."
A spokesperson for Norwegian declined to comment on the cruise line's decision.
--by Dori Saltzman, News Editor