Once you have sailed with a particular cruise line, that cruise line would very much like for you to sail with them again. Repeat cruisers make up a good portion of the billions of dollars per year cruise ship business and whoever you sail with would prefer you come back to them rather than sailing with someone else next time around.
The big ships keep passengers coming back to them by giving good deals to people who book their next cruise while onboard. After all while you are on that ship the future cruise staff is only going to show you deals aboard that line so you won’t be comparing with what anyone else has to offer. They usually have some sweet deals with low prices on particular cruises they need to fill as well as general deals for any cruise booked. These deals often include things like onboard credit for either the current or future cruise that you only get if you book during your cruise. Terms vary from one cruise line to another. Some will let you transfer the booking you made on board to a different time, ship, or destination while with others you can’t change what you booked.
Another thing cruise lines have to keep people coming back to them is loyalty programs. The more you sail with any one cruise line the higher status you gain in their loyalty program and the better perks you get. Most lines automatically enroll you at your first sailing, but some will let you sign up in advance while others don’t let you in until you have reached the minimum level of points required to achieve their lowest level.
Perks themselves vary greatly from one line to another. Some people stay with only one line because of the perks. Personally I just consider any perks I might get as a bonus and cruise with whatever line works out best for any given cruise. Some ships offer more things for younger children like waterslides and splash parks while others have things like enrichment programs and cooking classes for adults so who sails with you can also make a difference on which ship or cruise line you choose.
Perks at the highest levels tend to include things like free laundry service, priority boarding, and priority tender. Not every line offers the same things though. For instance you never get free laundry service on P&O, but then the washers and dryers in their self-serve laundries are free where some ships don’t have passenger laundries at all and most that do charge to use them.
Different lines also score the points in different ways with the most simple (and in my opinion the most fair) being one point per person regardless of age or room category for each night you spend on the ship. Some let you buy your way to higher status by giving extra points for things like booking suites or dollars spent onboard giving people with more money an advantage over those without. Others either exclude children or give kids a parent’s status they didn’t earn for themselves, neither of which seems fair to me.
Loyalty Programs of Major American Cruiselines
Carnival calls their loyalty program the VIFP Club – for Very Important Fun Person. You earn one point for each night sailed on a Carnival ship. Their levels go by colors. Your ship’s card, which is called a sail and sign card on their ships, reflects the color of your current level. If at any point during the cruise you will achieve a higher level you are given the higher card at the start of the cruise. First time cruisers have a blue card and can receive members only offers and newsletter if they sign up prior to cruising. Benefits at higher levels include what the level before got plus something additional. From the second sailing to 24 points is red and gets a complimentary 1-litre bottle of water per sailing. 25-74 points is gold and they get to add a free drink and a gold pin to their benefits each cruise. At platinum, which is 75-199 points the real benefits begin. Platinum members get priority check-in and debarkation, priority tender, a free beverage, a party, chocolate delight delivered to the stateroom, a ship pin, a limited amount of free laundry service, a variety of other priority services, and buy one get one free slot or blackjack tournament. Diamond is the highest level at 200 points and their main advantages over platinum are unlimited free laundry service and a special event. There are also several one-time things awarded at entry to diamond level.
Celebrity has the Captain’s Club. Club points are earned according to stateroom category and length of cruise on Celebrity or Azmara with a max of 18 points per night. Solo cruisers get double points if they paid full fare. Besides the perks you get when sailing with Celebrity, their Captains Club has partnerships outside the cruise line where members can get discounts for products and services offered by Celebrity’s partners. Celebrity’s categories are called tiers and start with the Preview Tier which people who have not yet sailed with Celebrity can join. At that level you get a newsletter, access to the member’s service center and Captain’s Club promotions, and partner benefits. At each successive level you add more benefits. After the first sailing you move up to Classic membership. New benefits include a free scoop of gelato each cruise, one category upgrades on future bookings, access to reunion and President’s cruise events, 10% discount on internet and photos, and access to the onboard loyalty host. At 150 points you move up to the select tier where the discounts go up to 25% for internet and 15% for the photo package. You also get complimentary pressing of 2 items and one free bag of laundry on cruises of 12 days or more, priority embarkation, complimentary wine seminar, cocktail party, and platinum level enrollment in Royal Caribbean’s Crown and Anchor society. At 300 points you become an elite member with breakfast in the Captains Club Lounge, 90 free internet minutes, one free bag laundry on every sailing, 20% discount on photos, one free port day access to Persian Garden (spa thermal suite), priority tender, elegant tea invitation, and Diamond level membership at Royal Caribbean. It takes 750 points to move up to Elite Plus where the free internet minutes expand to 200. At that level you get complimentary espresso, latte, coffee or tea, 10% discount on wine or beverage packages and 15% discount on any specialty restaurant, two complimentary bags of laundry and free dry cleaning of one item. It takes 3000 points to reach Zenith, their highest level where you get access to Michael’s Club Lounge, 1600 internet minutes, complimentary laundry, free beverage package, 25% off specialty dining, priority theater seating, upgraded bath amenities, complimentary luggage to airport service, and a complimentary 7-night Caribbean or Bermuda cruise in a veranda stateroom. At 6000 points and every 3000 points thereafter you get a free 7-night Caribbean or Bermuda cruise in an Aqua Class stateroom.
Disney – Yes the mouse has a cruise line. They call their loyalty program the Castaway Club. They don’t list the specifics of it on their website, just that the benefits include advance booking of shore excursions, child care, fine dining and spa, a welcome back stateroom gift, exclusive Disney cruise news and newsletter, Complimentary lanyard and key to the world card, dedicated Castaway Club toll free number, and more unnamed benefits that “add more enchantment the more you sail.”
Holland America‘s loyalty program is called the Mariner Society. You get one cruise day credit daily on your cruise, double if you booked a suite. You also get a bonus credit for each $300 spent onboard. Mariner levels are done by stars starting with one star on your second cruise. One star Mariners get embarkation lunch in the dining room, Mariner Champagne Brunch, a special gift, free subscription to Mariner magazine, special offers, and discounts for 3rd or 4th guests on select sailings. 30 cruise day credits moves you up to 2 stars where you add a complimentary photo of the ship, discounts on Holland America line clothing, and an annual cruise planner to your benefits. 3 star level is reached with 75 cruise day credits and new benefits include a Mariner welcome reception, 25% discount on restaurant surcharges, specialty coffees, wine packages and mini bar purchases, a lapel pin, and advance information on new itineraries. 200 cruise day credits brings you to 4 stars where you add the major benefits. The discount on specialty restaurants etc goes up to 50%. You get priority check-in, tender, and disembarkation and free laundry service. The discount on logo clothing bought onboard goes up to 15% instead of the previous 10%. You get a complimentary wine tasting, spa discounts, and a free 1-year subscription to either Travel & Leisure or Food & Wine magazine. It takes 500 cruise day credits to reach 5 stars, their top level. New benefits include 50% discount on 100 internet minutes, 2 complimentary dinners at Pinnacle Grill, free cooking class, and a complimentary 1-day pass to the spa thermal suite.
Norwegian‘s Latitudes Rewards Program requires participants to be 18 or older so children under 18 don’t rack up any points no matter how often they sail. Guests 18 and up get one point for each night sailed plus one bonus point for each of the following: Booking a suite, booking 9 months or more in advance, or booking a latitudes insider offer. They have 4 tiers with Bronze for 1-19 points, silver 20-47 points, gold 48-75 and platinum 76 and up. Special gifts are given at 250, 500, 700, and 1000 points. Benefits for all levels include Lattitudes online magazine, insider offers, priority check-in, onboard discounts, members cocktail party, and ship pin. Silver and up also get discounts on photos and spa, nightly chocolates, and an onboard gathering with ship’s officers. At gold you get priority tender, priority disembarkation, 25% laundry service for one bag, and a welcome gift. Platinum gets one bag of laundry for free and chocolate strawberries, concierge, behind the scenes tour, a bottle of sparkling wine, and a complimentary bistro dinner. Sailings must be 5 days or longer for benefits besides the ship pin and discounts to apply.
Princess gives points in their Captain’s Circle for number of cruises or cruise days so you can move up with either long or frequent cruises. They also count time spent on P&O. Levels start with gold upon completion of your first cruise. Benefits include special offers and member discounts, member only onboard events, magazine, newsletter, and recognition pin. At your 4th cruise or 31 cruise days you move up to Ruby and add an automatic upgrade when purchasing Princess’ vacation insurance, Captain’s Circle shoreside help desk phone number, and 10% discount on cruise DVD from your voyage. At your 6th cruise or 51 cruise days you become platinum and add a complimentary cruise atlas, preferred check-in, platinum disembarkation lounge, and some complimentary internet minutes to your benefits. Their top tier is elite at 16 cruises or 151+ cruise days, which adds priority tender, priority disembarkation, free laundry service, shoe shining, elite stateroom package which includes one complimentary mini bar set-up and upgraded bathroom amenities, and a preferred discount package with complimentary wine tasting event. Eligibility is on the next cruise after completion of a tier.
Royal Caribbean calls their loyalty program the Crown & Anchor Society. You get one point for each night you cruise with them and double if you book a suite. They will match your tier status at Celebrity or Azamara. Children get the same status as their parents after completing their first cruise except for the very highest tier. Member benefits include discounts on certain cruises and with Royal Caribbean’s partners on shore. They have 6 tiers starting with gold. Gold benefits start at 3 points. Onboard benefits include priority check in, private departure lounge with continental breakfast, and exclusive trivia. Platinum starts at 30 points with the added benefits of an exclusive top tier event, robes to use onboard, and a lapel pin. At 55 points you move up to Emerald and gain a welcome gift. 80 points is diamond and new benefits include priority departure, behind the scenes tour of the entertainment area, various gifts, amenities, and events and a milestone recognition. 175 points is diamond plus where you get a behind the scenes tour, concierge lounge and priority theater and show seating. 700 points brings you to the Pinnacle Club, their top tier which brings free cruise certificates from 700 and every 350 points thereafter. Some benefits like upgraded bathroom amenities and a meal with an officer started at 340 points.
P&O – P&O is British rather than American, but I included them anyway. Their loyalty program is called the Peninsular Club. It has 6 tiers. Each night spent onboard a P&O ship earns you 10 points. Once you have spent 15 nights onboard you automatically become a member with access to the members only hotline, magazine, and member discounts on select cruises. Onboard benefits start on your next cruise. Each tier gets what the one before got plus more. Pacific Tier 150-500 points. 5% discount on onboard spending and access to the loyalty manager. Atlantic Tier 501-1000 points. Discount increases to 7.5% and upon entry to each new tier from this one on you get a glass of champagne and a lapel pin. Mediterranean Tier 1001-2000 points onboard spending discount increases to 8.5% and you get slippers in your cabin, and a cocktail party on cruises of 8 days or more. Caribbean Tier 2001+ points. You get 10% off their travel insurance, priority booking and an annual gift. Onboard spending credit increases to 10%. You get priority embarkation with a private embarkation lounge onboard and you get half a bottle of champagne per cabin and an officer hosted lunch on cruises 8 nights and over. Baltic Tier 2501 + 80-200 nights onboard in the previous 3 years. You get priority on preferred airline seats on Caribbean fly-cruises, senior officers at the luncheon, and 50% discount on laundry service. Ligurian Tier 2501 + 201 or more nights onboard in the previous 3 years. Hospitality lounge to await embarkation, early embarkation, and complimentary formal attire pressing service. Sailings on P&O Australia do not count for P&O UK.