Cruise Line Loyalty Rewards Programs (Part 2)

| April 20, 2009

We used to rate NCL as one of the best of the mainstream loyalty programs, while Carnival's two tier program is on of the simplest for attaining top tier status although rewards are a bit slim.

Carnival Cruise Lines' Rewards Program

Carnival's program appears to be the least complicated. It doesn't have a cute name and has only two membership levels, gold and platinum. You become a gold member after your first cruise, and you reach platinum status with your 10th. This is not too many cruises to reach the top tier, the problem is we feel like cruisers who do more (like 15 or 20 ) cruises should get more benefits.

Your status is signified by a matching color for your keycard -- gold for Gold members and platinum for Platinum. This provides instant recognition every time you use your card. If there are any special benefits available to you just flash your card to prove it. Don't expect much attention from the gold card, but platinum will get you places after 10 Carnival cruises.

Basic gold members do not get much beyond a subscription to a free magazine, "Carnival Currents," and an invitation to a free cocktail reception on every cruise of five days or longer. Most cruise lines start giving more than this with just five cruises. With Carnival the benefits begin with cruise number 10 - the top tier Platinum club:

Platinum members (10 or more cruises) receive the following:

  • Access to the Carnival Concierge Club
  • Personalized stationery
  • A special Carnival logo item
  • Guaranteed dining times and supper club reservations
  • Complimentary $20 entry fee into blackjack or slots tournament
  • Spa Carnival priority reservations
  • Petit fours and/or canapés delivered to cabin one evening
  • Complimentary wash and fold laundry service
  • Priority tender boarding
  • Priority embarkation and debarkation
  • Complimentary arcade tokens valued at $5 dollars for guests under 18 years of age

Carnival offers special "reunion cruises" for gold members at special rates a few times each year, available in the members' area on the Carnival web site. There are also special offers available to loyalty club members on the web site at all times.

When Platinum members reach a milestone cruise -- i.e., with every 25th cruise -- they get a shipboard credit representing the equivalent percentage of the cruise fare. That is, you get 25% of your cruise fare in onboard credit on your 25th cruise, 50% on your 50th cruise and 75% on your 75th.

The Carnival program says you get enrolled in the World's Leading Cruise Lines VIP (Vacation Interchange Privileges) program for all lines in the Carnival Corp. family, including Costa, Cunard, Holland America, Princess and Seabourn. We already addressed our concerns - the range of benefits between lines is far too great to make this feasible for the luxury lines in the group.

All in all, we rate the Carnival loyalty program as the least beneficial in the cruise industry solely because it requires 25 cruises just to reach level two. The most enticing benefit you get after 10 cruises is free laundry services; no free restaurant dinners, onboard credit, ship tour, wine tasting or free internet like many other programs. Most programs begin giving added benefits beyond level one after just five cruises, Carnival has no middle tiers at all.

Norwegian Cruise Lines

We rate NCL's Latitudes Club as among the best among the mainstream lines. It is a full-featured program with real value benefits, including a free dinner in the exclusive Le Bistro Restaurant and free laundry services onboard -- rewards that make your cruise more convenient and enjoyable.

The program has four levels, with increasing benefits from Bronze (up to 5 cruises) to Silver (6-9), Gold (10-14) and Platinum (15 cruises or more). This is one of the fastest progressing loyalty programs in the cruise industry.

The progressive benefits and faster advancement to each new level makes working your way through this program more worthwhile than its competitors. For example, while every member gets invited to the standard onboard cocktail party, at level two you get an additional, more exclusive gathering of only members at your level. Level three gives you priority status for restaurant reservations, tenders and disembarkation. At level four (just 16 cruises) you are treated like royalty with free laundry service, a free dinner in the exclusive Le Bistro Restaurant, and a free behind-the-scenes tour of the ship.

What's more, each level is easily attainable and many benefits of the Platinum top tier are not even offered on competing cruise lines. The free laundry includes dry cleaning and regular wash with dry and fold, the behind-the-scenes tour is a $55 option for non-loyalty club members and you get a free dinner at one of the better restaurants on each ship.

It is interesting that Latitudes' first promise is that you will receive the benefits to which you are entitled. Is this a comment on complaints by cruisers on other lines that they sometimes don't get the benefits they deserve? This is best accomplished with onboard reps for the loyalty program, as NCL offers.

Access this page for the fine points on this program.

Bronze Level -- One to Four Cruises:

  • Exclusive Latitudes Offers and Announcements: To make sure each and every Latitudes member gets exactly what the are entitled to -- the best saving possible.
  • Priority Check-in: When you arrive, you and your guests will be escorted to the Priority Check-in desk to expedite your embarkation and your vacation.
  • Complimentary Online Latitudes Magazine subscription
  • Members-only Cocktail Party (this is not offered on Norwegian Epic)
  • On-board Latitudes Representative: Our reps are ready to share their cruise expertise and knowledge of our ships and itineraries exclusively with our Latitudes guests.

Silver Level -- Five to Nine Cruises: You get all of the above perks plus these below:

  • Exclusive On-board Gathering: Share your love of Freestyle Cruising with seasoned travelers who can't get enough of doing whatever.
  • Exclusive On-board Discounts: Details for a variety of exclusive discounts will be provided once guests are on board.

Gold Level -- 10 to 14 Cruises: You get all of the above perks plus these below:

  • Priority Restaurant Reservations for the best seating available at any of the specialty reservations, up to 72 hours in advance.
  • Priority Tender Tickets for no unnecessary waiting.
  • Priority Disembarkation: an expedited disembarkation process for Gold and Platinum members to help you do it faster.

Platinum Level -- 15 or More Cruises: You get all of the above perks plus these below:

  • Complimentary Laundry Service: Platinum members receive complimentary bulk laundry service when the special laundry promotion is offered.
  • Complimentary Dinner in Le Bistro: Enjoy a dinner for two and a complimentary bottle of wine at the beautiful French restaurant, Le Bistro.
  • Complimentary "Behind the Scenes" Ship Tour: A true insider's tour, for Platinum members only.

Continue Article >> Royal Caribbean Crown and Anchor Society Loyalty Program (Part 3)

Page 1: Introduction to Cruise Loyalty Programs Page 2: Mainstream Lines, Carnival, NCL Page 3: Royal Caribbean Page 4: Premium Lines: Celebrity and Azamara Page 5: Disney and Holland America Page 6: Oceania, Princess & Windstar Page 7: Luxury Lines: Crystal Page 8: Cunard Lines Page 9: Regent Seven Seas Cruises Page 10: Seabourn, Silversea and Rating all Reward Programs

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