What's the deal with loyalty programs?

by Kristen O'Neal

What's the deal with loyalty programs?

by Kristen O'Neal

Like airlines and hotel chains, cruise lines reward travelers who stick with their brand. So if you find Carnival's party-friendly ships or Royal Caribbean's adrenaline-pumping activities are all you could ever want in a cruise, you can sign up for the loyalty program and start racking up points. While all major lines have a program, each line differs a bit when it comes to fare discounts and perks — and how quickly you earn bonuses such as cabin upgrades, priority boarding, drink packages, and free Wi-Fi. So how much does it really pay to be loyal? Read on to find out what the major lines offer.

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Celebrity Solstice's Solarium / Celebrity Cruise Line
Spa on Carnival Liberty
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1. Carnival Cruise Line

Name: VIFP Club
Points: 
Every day you sail earns you one VIFP point.
Cruise Discount:
Members get access to exclusive discounts on select sailings.
Extras: Carnival’s VIFP Club ranges from Blue (first sailing) to Diamond (200 or more points). Perks for the lower levels include small things like Carnival luggage tags and pins, and the real bonuses begin when you hit Platinum (75 to 199 points). Those include priority check-in and boarding, plus first dibs at onboard reservations. Diamond guests get additional, one-time perks, such as two free guests or a cabin upgrade.

Name: VIFP Club
Points: 
Every day you sail earns you one VIFP point.
Cruise Discount:
Members get access to exclusive discounts on select sailings.
Extras: Carnival’s VIFP Club ranges from Blue (first sailing) to Diamond (200 or more points). Perks for the lower levels include small things like Carnival luggage tags and pins, and the real bonuses begin when you hit Platinum (75 to 199 points). Those include priority check-in and boarding, plus first dibs at onboard reservations. Diamond guests get additional, one-time perks, such as two free guests or a cabin upgrade.

Pirate Party
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2. Disney Cruise Line

Name: Castaway Club
Cruise Discount: None
Points: You'll get points for every cruise you take, no matter the length. For example, a two-night cruise will earn you the same as a two-week cruise.
Extras: Racking up Castaway Club points earns you early access to reservations, priority terminal check-in, and priority booking on board. Tiers range from Silver (one to four sailings) to Platinum (10 or more sailings). Platinum members get perks like priority check-in and boarding, plus complimentary childcare at the nursery, spa packages, and meals in specialty restaurants.

Name: Castaway Club
Cruise Discount: None
Points: You'll get points for every cruise you take, no matter the length. For example, a two-night cruise will earn you the same as a two-week cruise.
Extras: Racking up Castaway Club points earns you early access to reservations, priority terminal check-in, and priority booking on board. Tiers range from Silver (one to four sailings) to Platinum (10 or more sailings). Platinum members get perks like priority check-in and boarding, plus complimentary childcare at the nursery, spa packages, and meals in specialty restaurants.

Celebrity Silhouette's Martini Bar
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3. Celebrity Cruise Line

Name: Captain’s Club
Cruise Discount: Up to $150 per person off select sailings
Points: Points are earned for every night you cruise. And the higher the room category you book, the more points you receive. 
Extras: You'll get instant gratification with Celebrity's program. In the Classic tier (two to 149 Club Points), cruisers get one free category upgrade and discounts on things like onboard Wi-Fi (there are also private members events during sailings). With Zenith (3,000 or more Club Points), perks include complimentary drinks, internet access, and laundry service. When you reach 6,000 Club Points, you get a complimentary seven-night cruise — and another for every 3,000 points after that.

Name: Captain’s Club
Cruise Discount: Up to $150 per person off select sailings
Points: Points are earned for every night you cruise. And the higher the room category you book, the more points you receive. 
Extras: You'll get instant gratification with Celebrity's program. In the Classic tier (two to 149 Club Points), cruisers get one free category upgrade and discounts on things like onboard Wi-Fi (there are also private members events during sailings). With Zenith (3,000 or more Club Points), perks include complimentary drinks, internet access, and laundry service. When you reach 6,000 Club Points, you get a complimentary seven-night cruise — and another for every 3,000 points after that.

Friends on Eurodam
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4. Holland America Line

Name: Mariner Society
Cruise Discount: There are exclusive deals on select sailings only.
Points:
Every day you cruise earns you credits, as do onboard purchases. Credits are doubled if you book an upper-tier suite.
Extras: Like on Celebrity, you can see rewards right away on Holland America. As a Star Mariner (one to 30 credits), you can get 50 percent off your third and fourth guests, as well as other discounts. Make it up to 5-Star Mariner (500 or more credits), and you'll get half-off internet packages, as well as complimentary specialty restaurant dinners, classes, laundry service, and wine tastings.

Name: Mariner Society
Cruise Discount: There are exclusive deals on select sailings only.
Points:
Every day you cruise earns you credits, as do onboard purchases. Credits are doubled if you book an upper-tier suite.
Extras: Like on Celebrity, you can see rewards right away on Holland America. As a Star Mariner (one to 30 credits), you can get 50 percent off your third and fourth guests, as well as other discounts. Make it up to 5-Star Mariner (500 or more credits), and you'll get half-off internet packages, as well as complimentary specialty restaurant dinners, classes, laundry service, and wine tastings.

Pool on Pride of America
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5. Norwegian Cruise Line

Name: Latitudes
Cruise Discount:
Only certain sailings are discounted through the program, and the amount depends on the cruise.
Points: 
You earn one point per night, and additional points for early booking and for booking a high-level suite.
Extras: Norwegian's tiers range from Bronze (one to 19 points) to Platinum (76 or more points), giving members perks like priority check-in, discounts on board, and a cocktail party. Higher levels can get spa discounts, priority disembarkation, and laundry service. 

Name: Latitudes
Cruise Discount:
Only certain sailings are discounted through the program, and the amount depends on the cruise.
Points: 
You earn one point per night, and additional points for early booking and for booking a high-level suite.
Extras: Norwegian's tiers range from Bronze (one to 19 points) to Platinum (76 or more points), giving members perks like priority check-in, discounts on board, and a cocktail party. Higher levels can get spa discounts, priority disembarkation, and laundry service. 

Couple on Caribbean Princess
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6. Princess Cruise Line

Name: Captain’s Circle
Cruise Discount:
Up to $100 off per person
Points: 
You earn points per day or per cruise, with longer cruises earning more points.
Extras: From Gold (one cruise) to Elite (16 or more cruises or 151 or more cruise days), Princess's perks aren’t as wide-reaching as those on other lines. The middle tiers include some internet credits and preferred check-in, and the Elite class includes a complimentary minibar, afternoon tea, and discounts in the ship's boutique. 

Name: Captain’s Circle
Cruise Discount:
Up to $100 off per person
Points: 
You earn points per day or per cruise, with longer cruises earning more points.
Extras: From Gold (one cruise) to Elite (16 or more cruises or 151 or more cruise days), Princess's perks aren’t as wide-reaching as those on other lines. The middle tiers include some internet credits and preferred check-in, and the Elite class includes a complimentary minibar, afternoon tea, and discounts in the ship's boutique. 

Mini-golf on Royal Caribbean
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7. Royal Caribbean International

Name: Crown and Anchor Society
Cruise Discount:
Up to 25 percent off select sailings
Points: 
Members receive one cruise point per night and earn double points for suites.
Extras:
Gold members (three to 29 points) get priority check-in and access to the members-only departure lounge; Pinnacle Club members (700 or more points) can book a free seven-night cruise — which can be repeated when another 350 points are earned. The line also partners with Hertz and MGM Resorts for discounts on land-based travel.

Name: Crown and Anchor Society
Cruise Discount:
Up to 25 percent off select sailings
Points: 
Members receive one cruise point per night and earn double points for suites.
Extras:
Gold members (three to 29 points) get priority check-in and access to the members-only departure lounge; Pinnacle Club members (700 or more points) can book a free seven-night cruise — which can be repeated when another 350 points are earned. The line also partners with Hertz and MGM Resorts for discounts on land-based travel.

Costa Fortuna in Geirangerfjord
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8. Costa Cruises

Name: CostaClub
Cruise Discount: 10 to 20 percent off select cruises
Points: Points are earned per day of your cruise, with more points added for higher-category cabins and flights booked through the line.
Extras:
 You have to reach the top levels of Costa's program before you get benefits like priority luggage delivery, meals in the Club Restaurant, and a complimentary spa day. That means earning more than 26,000 points, though, and points expire after three years — which means you have to be a very frequent cruiser to see the benefits.

Name: CostaClub
Cruise Discount: 10 to 20 percent off select cruises
Points: Points are earned per day of your cruise, with more points added for higher-category cabins and flights booked through the line.
Extras:
 You have to reach the top levels of Costa's program before you get benefits like priority luggage delivery, meals in the Club Restaurant, and a complimentary spa day. That means earning more than 26,000 points, though, and points expire after three years — which means you have to be a very frequent cruiser to see the benefits.

Lunch on MSC Sinfonia
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9. MSC Cruises

Name: Voyagers Club
Cruise Discount: 5 percent off all cruises, up to 20 percent off select cruises
Points: You earn points for every cruise, with the amount depending on both the duration of your cruise and the category of stateroom booked.
Extras: On MSC, Classic Membership (one to 2,199 points) will get you a welcome cocktail, while the top-tier Black Membership (10,000 or more points) earns you priority boarding and complimentary meals and classes. You have to keep cruising to keep your points, though. They expire if you don't take at least one cruise every three years.

Name: Voyagers Club
Cruise Discount: 5 percent off all cruises, up to 20 percent off select cruises
Points: You earn points for every cruise, with the amount depending on both the duration of your cruise and the category of stateroom booked.
Extras: On MSC, Classic Membership (one to 2,199 points) will get you a welcome cocktail, while the top-tier Black Membership (10,000 or more points) earns you priority boarding and complimentary meals and classes. You have to keep cruising to keep your points, though. They expire if you don't take at least one cruise every three years.

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