CruiseMate Newsletter
 
More Cruise, Less Cash
Holland America Line

In every economy, the smart money goes somewhere. With our new Vacation Stimulus Plan, the smart money goes cruising. View our Special Offers to discover the cruise-vacation value of a lifetime with 7-day cruises from only
$449 per person.


7 NIGHT SOUTHERN CARIBBEAN CRUISES FROM $549
Ice-skate, climb rock walls & lounge poolside while the one of the most innovative ships at sea transports you to a Southern Caribbean paradise of mountains, beaches and more.

kiplingers

Kiplinger's Magazine named CruiseMates to its Top 25 Best Value Travel Sites

CruiseMates is the most useful cruise-review site. We especially like its advice columns, which are written for people of different ages and interests.

WHERE THE BARGAINS ARE

Last Minute Deals Looking for a deal? Check America's Vacation Center's last-minute cruise offers! Click for Details!

Other HOT Deals...
  • from $349
    Save up to 75% Off Alaska Cruises & Cruise/Rail Tours.
  • Kids $199
    Kids Sail for $199 to Alaska or Europe on all luxury suite categories - prepaid drinks and gratuities
  • Save $250
    Regent Seven Seas $250 Onboard Credit, Free Shore Excursions, Kids Sail Free, Free Air & 50% Savings - Ends April 30th

We want your cruise reviews!
CruiseMates started publishing our readers' cruise reviews long before other web sites even thought of it. We already have thousands of reviews online, but there are never enough! CruiseMates and our sister site cruisereviews.com both want more of YOUR cruise reviews. So, please send them to us: Euro Watch: 1 Euro = $1.29978 Dollar.
A stronger dollar means better better value in 2009 European cruises.


 
04.23.2009


Cruise line loyalty has its rewards

More on Cruise Line Benefits
We just published an extensive review of the various cruise line loyalty reward programs. Now we want to discuss some of our conclusions. We were pleasantly surprised overall as we picked the winners in each category, but we also want to advise you not to overlook the runner-ups. Cruise line loyalty programs are as varied as you are, and since we couldn't list every caveat in the article, we have more thoughts on loyalty programs to report below...

Even though the rewards behind each loyalty program can be substantial, they are just a part of any cruise purchase decision. You still have weigh the cost of the cruise itself, the value of the benefits and the effort required to track and obtain them.

We separated the cruise lines into three basic categories, mainstream, premium and luxury. In the mainstream category we cite NCL as having the best program. You scale to the top level with just 15 cruises and receive a complimentary dinner, bulk laundry services and a behind the scenes tour.

However, this pick shouldn't let you miss the benefits of Royal Caribbean, for example, which has a Diamond level at just 10 cruises. On the newer Freedom and Oasis-class ships you get a dedicated "Concierge Lounge" with a nightly happy hour of complimentary wine or champagne. Other Royal Caribbean ships offer a nightly happy hour and a daily concierge breakfast.

Carnival only requires 10 cruises to get to the top, but other than free laundry we don't see as much value. By the same token, we would like to see Royal Caribbean take up the free laundry benefit which they don't offer at any level.


7 NIGHT SOUTHERN CARIBBEAN CRUISES FROM $549
Ice-skate, climb rock walls & lounge poolside while the one of the most innovative ships at sea transports you to a Southern Caribbean paradise of mountains, beaches and more.
Royal Caribbean: 1-800-Royal Caribbean

Another important point - we don't compare the mainstream lines to the premium contenders; Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, Oceania, Princess and Windstar. But, since these premium cruise lines often have prices that compete it is only fair to compare them. Princess can beat NCL in many cases, in Alaska and the Caribbean for example, for loyalty benefits and price per cruise. The line has mega-ships that offer many of the family activities found on Carnival and Royal Caribbean.

By the same token, while we rate Holland America's loyalty program as one of the least rewarding, that doesn't mean we have less regard for Holland America as a cruise line -- quite the opposite. Some of the European cruises on Holland America this summer are a steal. Holland America ships are smaller and more efficient than any mainstream line and most Princess ships. Plus, Holland America is selling European cruises for about 20% less this year. The point is that loyalty has its rewards, but sometimes it also has a price that is greater than the rewards. Every cruise and every case is different.

Oceania, one of our favorite reward programs, is simple yet substantial. You get $200 shipboard credit on every cruise you take after five cruises, and after ten cruises you get a $400 credit plus prepaid gratuities (equal to a total savings of $700 or more per cabin). However, Oceania is often put in the "deluxe" category so it is more expensive than the premium Holland America or Princess cruise.


More cruise, less cash with Holland America Line
In every economy, the smart money goes somewhere. With our new Vacation Stimulus Plan, the smart money goes cruising. View our Special Offers to discover the cruise-vacation value of a lifetime with 7-day cruises from only $449 per person.
Holland America

Measuring loyalty programs can be more than just a value equation, they are a personal choice in how you want to conduct your vacation when the benefits go beyond their monetary value to become a personal consideration. Having your laundry done may have a relatively small dollar value, but having your room steward gather up your laundry and surprise you with clean clothes will brighten your entire vacation. You will be more likely to have your laundry done if it is complimentary.

Rewards programs get personal. Some people do not want to ruin a vacation by tracking the cost/value benefit of every little thing. For other people managing the budget is where the fun starts. Either way, you want to consider not only what benefits are offered, but how well they integrate with your cruise. Ideally, getting your benefits should be a pleasure, not a chore.

In that regard we report the Regent program gets high ratings for including the benefits to make your cruise far more comfortable. The program includes free Internet time, up to four hours of free phone time and a daily newspaper of your choice. This is a good example of the benefits not being especially high in monetary value, but making your cruise far more interesting and convenient.

By the same token, there isn't much to say about Seabourn giving a free cruise after so many days sailing, because that is the only major benefit. However, if you figure out the monetary value of that one reward it could be higher than the combined benefits of any other program. Therefore it is another personal choice - do you want personalized rewards or monetary value?

Finally - we have received a lot of comments from people and the cruise lines about this article, which is great. It is a very complicated subject that we found far more interesting than we orinally expected. We learned that there are far too many personal aspects to logically rate these programs as one better or worse than the other. But the good news is that most of these programs are both beneficial and attainable. They are well worth the time you spend to investigate them.


Read our cruise line loyalty rewards article. gray hr

new feature articles

I'm Asked If I Ever Get Tired of Cruising
In the past 15 years I've sailed on about 54 or so cruises. Unlike many I haven't actually kept track ... blue arrows

Cruise Line Loyalty Reward Programs
Every cruise line has a loyalty rewards program; here we rate and review cruise line repeat passenger benefits. blue arrows

Updated Norwegian Jade Review
CruiseMates' cruise director Kuki gives us an online review of one of the state of the art "Free-style" cruise ships from NCL. blue arrows

Travel Props for 2009
More of my favorite practical travel accessories to make your adventures more convenient and comfortable. blue arrows

gray hr

Read about CruiseMates

NEW YORK TIMES:
"Many sites that offer reviews are selling cruises, which raises questions about impartiality. An exceptions is CruiseMates."

FORTUNE MAGAZINE:
"The Web's best site for articles, advice, or chatting with Cruise People. Self-financed and run independently of the industry, so their opinions are impartial"

blue arrows

gray hr
Reader Contributed Cruise Reviews!
We have thousands of cruise reviews written by people like you. This week's review:
Cruise West Pacific Explorer
by Jim Thornton
This was an enjoyable cruise on a small ship that is able to go into small ports that are inaccessible to the larger cruise ships.

gray hr

NEW CRUISEMATES CRUISES!

Snoozeman's Galveston Conquest Cruise
Join your CruiseMates Host Snoozeman on the Conquest of Galveston! Travel from the Lone Star harbor to the Western Caribbean: Galveston to Montego Bay Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel.

Ruby Princess Venetian Fantasy
Travel down the canals of Venice to the Inter-coastal Waterways of Ft. Lauderdale! 18 Amazing nights and six glorious 25 hr. sea days on the most stunning Princess ship yet.