Americans seem to love installment payments. That has led to the rise of a number of companies that offer credit-card-like loans without the steep interest.
Frequently called "buy now, pay later" (BNPL) companies, these middlemen essentially finance your purchase by collecting payment, usually with interest over anywhere from a few months to a full year.
It has been a popular model as BNPL companies usually finance your purchase at much lower rates than credit card companies. In general, it's also a pretty easy process as, in most cases, the consumer picks how many payments to split their purchase over and the money is then automatically withdrawn from their account.
BNPL has become so popular that many websites, including Amazon (AMZN), offer a form of it. That can get silly when the online retail giant offers to let you spread out the payment for small orders, but it's clearly something people want when it comes to larger orders.
Booking a cruise is generally a large expense for most people and Royal Caribbean (RCL), Carnival Cruise LInes (CCL), and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) all offer BNPL through Uplift. Now, Royal Caribbean has another way to pay that some of its customers may want to take advantage of since it won't come with interest charges.
How Does Paying for a Cruise Work Now?
It can vary based on when your ship sails, but broadly when a consumer books a cruise, he or she must pay a deposit to essentially hold the reservation. Once that happens, the passenger has until a set "final payment" date (roughly 75 days to three months before the ship sails) to pay in full
With Royal Caribbean, you can pay in dribs and drabs if you like, but there's no direct way to set up an installment plan through the cruise line. Carnival, however, offers "EasyPay" on some cruises, which breaks up payment into multiple installments with no interest being charged. In addition, all three major cruise lines offer BNPL, which works a bit like financing a trip through a credit card, but not exactly.
"While some credit cards charge interest on interest, Uplift charges only simple interest. If you carry a balance on a credit card, it can be hard to understand what it will cost you. With Uplift, the cost is clear at the time of purchase, with simple interest, predictable payments, and no fees," the company shared on its website.
Royal Caribbean does not (at least until now) offer any sort of company-sponsored installment plan with no interest charges.
"You can make as many partial payments as you like between the time of making a reservation and the balance due date. We do not offer formal payment plans," the cruise line shared on its website.
That, however, has just changed, but it's only for some customers.
Royal Caribbean Tries Something New
Royal Caribbean has added an installment plan program, but to use it, customers must book their cruise through a travel agent, Matt Hochberg first reported on The Royal Caribbean Blog.
"Travel agents were always able to take partial payments prior to final payment date, but it required the client or the agent to arrange for those payments to occur on their own. With the new FlexPay program, this can be scheduled and set up in advance," Hochberg, who has no affiliation with the cruise line, reported. "At this time, it is only available if booking a cruise through a travel advisor. This means someone who books their cruise directly with the cruise line instead of a travel agent can not use this feature."
The cruise line has been looking for ways to improve its relationship with travel agents coming out of the pandemic. Doing this gives that important audience a tool that might cause them to steer more customers toward Royal Caribbean.
"Travel partners can now pre-schedule up to 10 automatic payments that can be arranged by date, amount and can even accept more than one credit card," Hochberg reported.
There is no fee for the service.