Retailers, restaurants, airlines, and hotels reward their repeat customers through loyalty programs – and cruise lines do, too. If you have a favorite cruise line, its loyalty program will enable you to earn onboard discounts and other rewards. If you haven’t cruised yet, knowing more about loyalty programs may help you pick a line for your very first cruise. Most cruise lines automatically register passengers in their loyalty programs before, during, or immediately after your first cruise with them.
Cruise line loyalty programs are free to join, and members usually begin accumulating points right away. The programs are tiered, with rewards increasing in value as you go from one tier to the next.
Common rewards in beginning tiers include discounts on things like onboard beverage packages, laundry services, and WiFi access. Middle tiers often provide deeper discounts on a wider array of extras, along with benefits like early boarding privileges or early access to specialty restaurant reservations.
In the top tiers, you can earn even deeper discounts and more valuable rewards, such as free stateroom upgrades or spa treatments. On a few cruise lines, including the following, the top reward is a free seven-night cruise in a balcony cabin:
· Celebrity Cruises’ Captain’s Club offers a cruise to Bermuda or the Caribbean, with the potential to earn more free cruises.
· Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society offers a cruise to the Caribbean (or a credit toward a cruise to another destination). There’s the possibility of earning additional free cruises with this line, too.
· Norwegian Cruise Line’s Latitude Rewards Program offers free cruises to any of its destinations, which is a one-time only (but incredibly special) reward.
Most cruise line loyalty programs are limited to that specific cruise line, even if it’s part of a bigger organization that operates multiple cruise lines. Exceptions include Royal Caribbean, which allows loyalty program members to use loyalty program points on multiple cruise lines, including Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Cruises. MSC Cruises offers a “status match” program that honors loyalty program status with dozens of other cruise lines and travel brands.
A nice feature of cruise line loyalty programs is that they don’t discard unused points at the beginning of each calendar year. You can keep your points, and continue moving up the tiers, as one year rolls over to the next.
Cruise line loyalty program rules for redeeming points can be quite complex, so don’t hesitate to ask Anita, your professional travel advisor for advice.
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