Some cruise lines go to remarkable lengths to tempt you back on board, year after year. But whose reward scheme offers the finest freebies? Mitchell Symons investigates…
How loyal are you? Speaking as a veteran of some 90 cruises aboard 35 ships operated by 12 different lines, my own answer has to be “not very” – at least when it comes to choosing my cruising. But if there’s one thing the big operators want more than our custom, it’s our repeat custom – and to get it, they each have incentive schemes to reward their regulars.
Goodies on offer range from free ice-cream (just the one) and slippers (no thanks) to entire complimentary cruises (where do I sign?). Naturally the more you spend, the more you get, and to qualify for the juiciest freebies you need to be counting your time afloat in years, rather than weeks.
For keen cruisers who rack up an average sort of mileage, the benefits fall somewhere between
the extremes. I’m a Platinum member of Princess’s Captain’s Circle which entitles me to – among other things – preferred check-in, a special disembarkation lounge and 150 free internet minutes. I’m also a member of P&O’s Peninsular Club (7.5 per cent off my on-board spend and a free glass of Champagne) and Select on Celebrity (25 per cent off a single internet package, and priority embarkation).
I probably speak for many cruisers when I say it’s free internet time, pre-paid gratuities and priority embarkation that really put a spring in my step on the gangplank. You can keep your “collectible gifts” and personalised luggage tags, and I would actually pay to avoid those “exclusive” cocktail events where you sip a glass of nasty sparkling wine, ruin your appetite with canapés and make awkward conversation with people
who are equally ill-at-ease. As for the member discounts offered on future cruises, savvy travellers know they can do far better by searching the web.
But we’re only human, and we’ve all felt that sneaking sensation of pleasure when we step through the velvet rope to enjoy some little privilege that’s denied to the common herd. Each cruise line has its own idea of what constitutes a tempting reward, but here’s what you can expect from the most popular operators. I’ve cherrypicked, so the lists are far from comprehensive, and I’ve also covered a couple of six-star lines – Crystal and Regent – who include most other operators’ extras as standard.
Look hard and you’ll find there are some genuinely useful discounts to be had. And if a chocolate-dipped strawberry floats your boat, step right this way…
One point for every day sailed.
Shared scheme with Royal Caribbean;
SELECT (150-299 POINTS)
ELITE PLUS (750-2,999)
100 points per night sailed, plus 40 for every €52
CLUB ACQUAMARINA (1-2,000 POINTS)
CLUB CORALLO (2,001-5,000) :
CLUB PERLA (5,001-13,000)
PERLA ORO (13,001-26,000)
PERLA DIAMANTE (26,001+)
One credit for each day up to 15 days; two per day
LEVEL 10 (10 CREDITS) : $200 shipboard credit
GOLD (2 VOYAGES/20 NIGHTS) 2 hours’
DIAMOND (15 VOYAGES/ 150 NIGHTS)
One point for every day sailed
BLUE (1-30 POINTS): Introduce-a-friend reward
STAR MARINER (AFTER 1 CRUISE)
2-STAR MARINER (30-74 DAYS): 10% discount
5-STAR MARINER (500+)
(AFTER ONE CRUISE) Members-only onboard
Minimum 200 points awarded per cruise
CLASSIC (1 TO 2,199 POINTS): On-board special offers
One point for every cruise night
BRONZE (1-19 POINTS): Priority check-in
Cruises up to 24 days earn one credit;
BRONZE (5-9 CREDITS)
10 points for each night sailed
PACIFIC (150-500 POINTS): 5% off onboard
BALTIC (2,501+): 50% laundry discount
Shared scheme with Celebrity; one point
GOLD (3-29 POINTS): Priority check-in
DIAMOND PLUS (175-699)
PINNACLE CLUB (700+ ):Free 7-night cruise in a balcony stateroom