Cruise Repeater Programs

In this day and age, everyone is competing for your loyalty.  For a long time we have had frequent flyer programs, grocery store reward plans and other discount cards.  Cruise lines are no different, but their programs are very different.

Many of these programs are automatic, meaning once you cruise you are automatically a member of the program.  Some, however must be applied for after your first cruise, like Royal Caribbean and Celebrity.  Your membership is automatic after you apply, but you must take the steps.

Some of the programs are based on the number of nights you have sailed, but most are based on the number of cruises you have taken.  Celebrity takes this one step further and is therefore our favorite plan for calculating benefits.  On Celebrity Cruises, if you cruise one for less than 12 nights, you get one credit.  If you are in a concierge stateroom or higher, you get one additional credit.  If the sailing is 12 nights or longer, you get another credit.  If you cruised on a 12 night sailing in a concierge room, you would get three credits!  This rewards you for the longer sailings and for spending more on your room.

Disney Cruise Line revamped their program a couple years ago and upset a lot of people because of this way to calculate the level of benefits.  My argument to this is that Disney could have calculated this based on the number of nights onboard or any number of other factors, but in the end, the levels would have been roughly the same.  Those who have only been on a few cruises, but all were long cruises may have more days onboard than someone who has cruised 10 times on three night sailings.  But for the most part if you totaled up the number of nights for everyone who has cruised with DCL and then divided the group up into the same percentages currently used, the categories would be pretty much equal.  In other words, DCL like decided that X percent would be Silver members, Y percent would be Gold and Z percent would be Platinum.  After totaling the number of nights for everyone and applying the percentages, it probably would have been very close to the same division.

The other thing that really makes a distinction between the loyalty programs are the benefits received.  Some of these programs offer so much more than others.  With Disney, Silver Castaway Club members have access to a dedicated area of their website, can start planning select onboard activities 90 days prior to sailing, have a dedicated phone number, separate check in at the terminal and a stateroom gift.  Gold members have all this plus they are able to start planning select onboard activities 105 days prior to sailing, early booking opportunities, have a special onboard reception and onboard credit offer with shopping.  Platinum members get all of this plus they are able to plan at 120 days prior to sailing, get priority check in at the cruise terminal, exclusive platinum experiences (like a backstage theater tour or interaction with animal trainers on Castaway Cay) and complimentary dinner at Palo.  There is no discount for Castaway Club members when booking a new Disney Cruise except while onboard.

Princess has a great loyalty program called the Captain’s Circle.  The levels are calculated on the number of cruises or the number of cruise days.  The Gold members get launch savings with reduced deposits, preferential pricing, member pin, a Princess passport with collectible destination stamps, members only onboard events, a quarterly magazine, an online site dedicated to them plus have an onboard host to help with all the benefits.  Platinum members get all of this plus a cruise atlas, upgraded insurance options, preferred check in and phone line, dedicated disembarkation lounge and complementary internet packages, shoe polishing and laundry services.  Elite members get all these benefits plus a free mini bar set up, deluxe canapes selection of formal nights, afternoon tea, upgraded bathroom amenities, shopping discounts and complimentary wine tasting.

Celebrity Cruises offers upgrades if available, onboard coupons and celebrations for the Classic members.  Select members get discounts on internet packages, pressing and laundry discounts, wine seminars, cocktail parties and enrollment in Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society at the Platinum tier.  The Elite tier adds in more laundry services and internet packages plus the Captain’s Club Lounge access and one day pass to the Persian Garden on a port day along with a priority tender, embarkation and disembarkation services, Elegant Tea Service event.  Enrollment in the Crown & Anchor Society for Elite Members is at the Diamond Tier.

Royal Caribbean has more levels of benefits, starting at just three cruises and on up to 700 cruises.  All levels get onboard booking bonus, onboard coupons and a welcome back party.  Starting at 30 sailings, benefits increase to include breakfast in the departure lounge, priority check in, exclusive events and onboard robes.  More benefits are added with each level of membership.

The bottom line is if you cruise the same cruise line multiple times, you will want to make sure you are in their loyal program to earn perks on each sailing.  I wouldn’t base my decision on who to cruise solely on the loyalty programs, it’s just an extra benefit for you.

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