Cruise Lines Loyalty Programs Review

By ,   May 4, 2015 ,   Tips & Tricks

Cruise lines often re­ward their loy­al cus­tomers. This is a way to en­cour­age re­peat busi­nesses. There is little chance loyalty programs to in­flu­ence your first choice, but on most cruise lines, af­ter the first cruise, you are au­to­mat­ical­ly en­rolled in cruiselines loy­al­ty pro­grams.

It means a bunch of e-mails which ad­ver­tise fu­ture cruis­es. Be­fore you dis­miss the new sta­tus, remember that re­peat cruis­ers are of­fered between 5% and 10% dis­count (some­times even high­er) on fu­ture sailings. You have a reason now for reading the next lines. Most of the cruiselines loyalty programs have common features - they start right after your first cruise and offer "repeat cruisers club only" free drinks' onboard reception. Each member gets subscription to the line's magazine and can receive special offers and inside news by mail or email.

What do cruiselines loyalty programs offer?

 Some loyalty programs are generally far more rewarding. However, all cruiselines loyalty programs worth joining. The special offers and onboard amenities will save your time and money. Take advantage of the loyalty programs representatives onboard - they'll help you manage your benefits.

  • Loyalty programs discounts and upgrades

More and more cruise lines reward their loyal passengers with discounts on voyages and cabin upgrades (Carnival), but some even provide free sailings (Silversea). Cruisers can also look for reduced prices on specialty dining (MSC), wine packages and shore excursions (Seabourn), fares for third/fourth passenger (Holland America). Dis­counts through cruiselines loy­al­ty pro­grams will in­crease the more and more you cruise. Cruising 25 times with Car­ni­val, will get you 25% off the cruise fare; sailing 50 times - 50% off; 75 times - 75% off; cruise 100 times - your week­long voyage is free (which is the ul­ti­mate prize for passengers' loy­al­ty). Mem­ber­ship perks vary by lines. For ex­am­ple, “Princess Captain’s Circle” loyalty pro­gram enrolls you as Gold Cir­cle mem­ber af­ter the first cruise. If you book ear­ly on se­lect voyages, you re­ceive $100 dis­count per per­son. Another advantage is that you're el­igi­ble for half off stan­dard de­posit. When as­sess­ing loy­al­ty deals, better be aware of some catch. The offered dis­counts may not be com­bin­able with the pric­ing deals you have found through a cruise trav­el agent or on­line. Com­pare prices - check elsewhere to be sure you are getting the best deal. And be­fore book­ing, read the fine print first.

Multi-tiered loyalty programs

Cruiselines loyalty programs vary according to the lines, especially the advanced levels. Only two tiers are offered by Carnival and 10 cruises are required to get to the top. NCL will get you to the second level after five cruises; the top tier is reached after 15, but the benefits include everything provided by Carnival and much more. Similar is Royal Caribbean loyalty program, but with more levels and cruises required for getting to the top. The bot­tom tier of Carnival "Very Important Fun Person" includes Red-mem­ber ben­efits, reached af­ter one cruise. All past guests are of­fered com­pli­men­ta­ry bev­er­age at break­fast, lunch, or at George Lopez' Punch­lin­er Com­edy Brunch; and e-newslet­ter, as well. On top are the Di­amond mem­bers (with 200-plus days at sea). They are guar­an­teed spe­cial­ty restau­rant reser­va­tions and din­ing times; invitation to the cap­tain's spe­cial cock­tail par­ty; com­pli­men­ta­ry din­ner for two of their choice in the spe­cial­ty restau­rant; com­pli­men­ta­ry pass­port hold­er and lug­gage tag; one-time up­grade or a third/fourth guest sailing free; $100 con­tri­bu­tion to St. Jude Chil­dren's Re­search Hos­pi­tal; all the ben­efits of Red, Gold, and Plat­inum mem­ber­ship. Each line's version of perks is quite different. If you reach Princess Plat­inum sta­tus (after com­plet­ing at least 51-day period at sea) your Cap­tain Cir­cle perks will in­clude free In­ter­net pack­age. Elite sta­tus (150 cruise days) will al­so get you up­grad­ed bath­room ameni­ties, free dry clean­ing, shoe pol­ishing, canapés and af­ter­noon tea in your cab­in, and 10% dis­count in shops onboard.

  • Faster embarkation and disembarkation

Cruise lines don't keep their most precious guests waiting. Several companies, including Princess and Carnival, offer embarkation and disembarkation priority privileges. Certain passengers are allowed to board the ship before the others, access their cabins first and avoid the long lines during debarkation. All Carnival passengers have an option to purchase the package "Faster to the Fun", which allows early boarding and other perks, no loyalty status is needed. While loyal Carnival members might not have rights to priority boarding, however benefit by not paying $50 like general public. Do you want to feel like VIP? Many cruise lines allow guests access to members-only special lounges, such as Royal Caribbean Diamond Lounge and Celebrity Captain's Club Lounge; give invitations to some exclusive events (Carnival Gold, Platinum, Diamond Parties, P&O Portunus Club Party). Amenities in the restricted areas include free breakfast, appetizers, alcohol, or captain's recognition. Reaching the level of exclusive access can take time and money. Think in advance if the free glass of Champagne you'll take is worth the price of eight cruises.

Luxury cruiselines loyalty programs

When the word comes about lux­ury lines, you'll be more like­ly to get free cruises if you sail fre­quent­ly. Seabourn, for ex­am­ple, re­wards the members of Seabourn Club with a free 7-days cruise af­ter you've sailed 140 days at sea. Af­ter 30 sail­ings with Crystal, you can qual­ify for a free cruise. Each Sil­versea Vene­tian So­ci­ety mem­ber gets a free 7-days cruise af­ter completing 350 days at sea. Regent Seven Seas offers one of the best loyalty programs. Considering spirits and gratuities are included in cruise fare, after you add up to four hours phone time, free Internet access and a daily newspaper, their loyalty program represents the most inclusive experience in cruising business. Oceania, often put in "deluxe" category, is simple yet substantial - it offers true value benefits. You'll get progressively shipboard higher credits with each of the tiers, plus free spa treatments and free gratuities. Oceania gives $200 shipboard credit after five cruises on every next voyage you take. After ten cruises you can get $400 credit and prepaid gratuities - this equals total savings of $700 and even more per cabin.

Mul­ti­line Loyalty Programs Ben­efits

Repeat passengers may be able to use their loyalty programs sta­tus for dis­counts on an­oth­er line in some cases. Two are the parent companies which own lots of cruise brands and provide interchangable benefits. Sail on Princess, Car­ni­val, Cos­ta, Cu­nard or Seabourn and you qual­ify as Hol­land Amer­ica Mariner pro­gram's member. All the listed companies share same own­er - Car­ni­val Cor­po­ra­tion. For that reason, some of the loy­al­ty pro­grams ben­efits are re­cip­ro­cal. These six cruise lines will oc­ca­sion­al­ly of­fer loy­al­ty dis­counts un­der the "World's Lead­ing Cruise Lines" joint ban­ner. However, the details about these interchangable benefits are too vague. For example, Seabourn Cruises promises free 14-days cruise after completing 140 days Seabourn cruising, but nowhere is indicated that it is exempted from WLCL VIP program. Royal Caribbean International owns Celebrity, Azamara Cruises, and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. The Royal Caribbean method to transfer benefits is more clearly defined and the benefits for Azamara and Celebrity are fully transferable. The guests of Celebrity can join Royal Caribbean program at any time at the same level. Royal Caribbean passengers can transfer rewards to Azamara or Celebrity. However, neither Royal Caribbean International, nor World's leading Cruise Lines lets combine points from all cruises into a single master acount. With Royal Caribbean you must pick whichever line has given the most points and claim for equal status at some of the other lines. WLCL rules are vague and not documented anywhere publicly available. Reciprocity is reserved for select cruises only. Don't rely on anything interchangable unless you check specifically with the line first and better get everything in writing. Other cruise lines are independent businesses, like NCL, Crystal, Oceania, Silversea and Regent. Each of these has no loyalty status transferability to any other line.

  • Free services and amenities

Those cruisers who are loyal to the line can benefit from a number of complimentary offerings, which including photos and casino play onboard Costa, Internet access onboard Seabourn and Princess, laundry service onboard Carnival and Norwegian, Holland America Champagne breakfast and alternative dining at NCL Le Bistro restaurant. After you start buying photos, win at the casino or surf the Web, you'll find that you cannot stop, even after you have used all freebies. Before you know it, quite a hefty bill will be accumulated. In addition to the stellar service on most ships, some cruise lines provide the most loyal members with concierge services (NCL), which can help in case you're trying to book spa treatments or shore excursions.

  • Gifts and swag

Get cab­in up­grades, pri­or­ity check-in, print and e-mail pro­mo­tions, de­pend­ing on the times you've sailed. What you may also benefit from are ship­board perks as casi­no vouch­ers, in­vi­ta­tions to cock­tail par­ties, lo­go sou­venirs, splendid treats (choco­late-cov­ered straw­ber­ries), or free laun­dry. World Club mem­bers on Cu­nard, for ex­am­ple, on­ly need to com­plete 20 days or two voy­ages and on sub­se­quent sail­ings get two hours free In­ter­net time. Peo­ple who like to show their cruise love on the lapel, can get a pin which in­di­cates the loy­al­ty lev­el sta­tus. The more you cruise, that sta­tus in­creas­es. Lines often thank their guests by exclusive line-branded trinkets and tokens. For example, Holland America is famous for the specific line's commemorative tiles, RSSC doles out logowear, NCL offers branded pins, and Disney - lanyards. Branded items, though not quite as elite, can also be snagged - try the onboard competitions like bingo and trivia. These items are meant to display, and it's free advertising for the cruise line. Hit top loyalty programs re­ward on any line, even though not guar­an­teed, is an in­vitation to sit at cap­tain's ta­ble.

Cruiselines Loyalty Programs Ratings

  • NCL gives the most exciting benefits among mainstream lines as they start with the sixth cruise; just 15 cruises are required for reaching the highest level and receiving a complimentary dinner, laundry services, "behind the scenes tours".
  • Royal Caribbean benefits are also good, but may be not so much as NCL. RCCL requires 25 cruises for the highest level; the Diamond level is reached just after 10 cruises. On Oasis and Freedom-class ships guests get a "Concierge Lounge" and a nightly happy hour with complimentary champagne or wine. Other RCCL ships offer nightly happy hours and concierge breakfast.
  • Carnival requires just ten cruises to get to the top level. However, that level doesn't include a number of the better amenities you can get at NCL and RCCL top levels.
  • Princess program is number one in premium category with benefits like free Internet access and laundry services, wine tasting, "behind the scenes tours", and more.

Loyalty programs are a personal choice about your vacation and the benefits go beyond monetary value - measuring them must be more than value equation. Having the laundry done has small money value, but when the steward surprises you with clean clothes, it brightens the entire cruise experience. Better don't ruin your trip by tracking the value benefit of loyalty programs little things. Consider not only the benefits offered, but how they integrate with the cruise you have chosen. Getting the benefits should be pleasure. Cruiselines loyalty programs provide a variety of rewards. Every cruise is different. Even though rewards behind the different loyalty programs can be substantial, they're just a part of the decision about cruise purchase. You still have to weigh the cost of your cruise, the value of benefits and your efforts required to obtain them.