I write relatively often on cruising. It’s something I enjoy doing, and I like sharing my thoughts on it. I also enjoy hearing from readers about their cruise vacation tips too. I recently wrote a series on most of the cruise line loyalty programs. The programs aren’t that dissimilar to the airline elite status programs you are already familiar with. The more cruises you take, the higher your elite status climbs. With higher status comes a higher level of  perks. That’s where the similarity stops. First, once you attain elite status with a cruise line loyalty program, you keep it….for life. Second, there is no corresponding “points” program where you’re earning points while you cruise that you can amass and then cash in for a “free” cruise.

Most of the big lines do offer a credit card product that offers a certain number of points for each dollar charged. You can cash in those points for onboard spending money, upgrades, and even a free cruise. However, I think I have demonstrated over time that these card products are not necessarily  the most lucrative when it comes to earning and burning your hard-earned points.

The benefits of loyalty at sea are numerous. My own experience with being “loyal to Royal” has been worth the effort. The benefits start small, but have increased noticeably as I have climbed the status ladder. Now, as a Diamond Plus member of Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society, I receive significant discounts on balcony and suite cabins, access to priority reservations, priority boarding and disembarkation, onboard parties, etc. One of the benefits I value most is onboard concierge access. Think of that as access to the best agent in your favorite airline’s lounge. They can make things happen. In the evenings, I enjoy complimentary libations and snacks on ships that have concierge lounges. Finally, Royal Caribbean offers elite status recognition among its three primary brands, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, and Azamara Club Cruises. In other words, I get top tier status on three cruise lines for the price of one.

However, all of this comes with a cost, and it’s not entirely unlike the cost of earning and maintaining elite status with your favorite airline. Sometimes the quest for status can keep you from experiencing other products, or perhaps you pay a little more than you might otherwise have to. Mostly, I’ve found the benefits I receive to be worth it, and I expect that to continue. On the other hand, I’m missing out on some pretty good cruise products, and the opportunity to share new content with you. Like most things in life, cruise loyalty comes with its benefits and its costs. YMMV. Next spring, MrsMJ and I along with our friends and their children will be trekking to Canaveral for a 7-night Disney Cruise! Yes, DINKS Cruise Disney sounds like a nice Cruising with MJ Series to me. On my bucket list – Princess, NCL, and yes….Carnival! Stay tuned.

-MJ, September 22, 2013