Royal Caribbean has quietly rolled out some changes to its credit card lineup. The biggest change is the rollout of the MyCruise® Rewards Program, and the ability to use points interchangeably between the three major brands of Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Azamara Club Cruises.

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The most interesting twist is that Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. has “tri-branded” it’s credit card product, each offered by Bank of America’s FIA Card Services. In other words, you can apply for a MyCruise® Rewards Program card product with the Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, or Azamara Club Cruises brand and they share many of the same characteristics. The Royal Caribbean product is a no annual fee card, while the Celebrity product offers a no-fee and a premium version with a $69 annual fee. The Azamara card is only the $69 annual fee product.

The difference is that the annual fee cards offer some additional perks. For example, the Celebrity card with the $69 annual fee offers a two-for-one annual airfare, a $300 discount off a future cruise in a Concierge Class or greater stateroom after $5,000 in purchases in the first 60 days. Interestingly, it also offers a 10 percent discount on the purchase of premium beverage packages. That might sway me…. 🙂 While the Azamara card lacks the beverage package discount (alcohol is generally included with Azamara), it offers 15,000 bonus points upon first purchase as opposed to 10,000 for the other cards. I understand a few kinks are still being worked out, but you can review the reward chart for the new combined program here.

This is an interesting development, and I have to wonder if it could lead to a more “combined” view than is out there already of the elite programs across the three lines in the future? I tend to doubt it, but this tells me it could at least be considered. As you are likely aware, cruise line loyalty programs do not work like the airline programs you may be familiar with. The loyalty programs tend to be perk focused with increasing benefits as you take more cruises. Most of the lines offer an affinity card product where you accrue points based on dollars spent that can be used for cruise rewards like onboard spending money or even free cruises. The two are not really related. Earlier this year, I authored a series on cruise line loyalty programs and elite status.

While my first impression of the new MyCruise® Rewards Program is that it is a net plus, there are other credit card alternatives out there that may be more beneficial to you and your cruise vacation. More to come this week, along with a little math exercise on getting the most cruise benefits from your card spend.

-MJ, August 26, 2013