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Cruising is a multi-billion dollar part of the travel industry, yet when it comes to the loyalty world, it’s the airlines and hotels that seem to get all of the spotlight. In an attempt to level the playing field (seas?) a little bit, we are starting a series looking at the basics of the major frequent cruising programs. Warning: they aren’t nearly as lucrative as most airline/hotel programs, but if you’re hitting the high seas, you might as well join these programs- especially if you are an avid cruiser.
Celebrity Cruises, one of the six brands under Royal Caribbean LTD, currently operates 11 vessels and transports over 25,000 passengers a year. Last year they updated their loyalty program: The Captain’s Club with new tiers and pros for uber-cruisers. Like most other cruise programs, the program is not like your typical airline or hotel program. Elite status and points accrue for a lifetime (so no yearly requalification hassles) and the points never expire. That being said, you can’t actually redeem the points for anything- they simply qualifying you for different tiers where you get perks. The more you cruise, the more perks you get, though don’t expect free cruises and upgrades without having to really work for them.
Captain’s Club points are earned based on two factors: the stateroom category and the length of sailing. In the lowest stateroom category (Inside and Oceanview staterooms), you’ll earn 2 Club points per night, so a 12-night cruise in an Oceanview stateroom would earn you 24 Club points. Pricier staterooms earn more Club points; the Penthouse and Reflection suites, for example, earn 18 Club points per night. The chart below shows the number of Club points earned per night in each stateroom category.
As you can see, the higher tier levels require earning an exorbitant number of points. If you took two 14-day cruises each year (oh, to cruise for nearly a month a year!) in a lower level suite (Century, Sky, or Aqua), earning 112 points per sailing or 224 points annually, it would take you about 13 years to reach the Zenith tier level. Those staying in anything less than a suite can pretty much abandon the hope of ever even sniffing the higher tiers. You’d need to sail for 150 nights in an Inside/Oceanview stateroom just to reach the Elite level, or a ludicrous 1,500 nights (that’s about 4 years!) to reach the Zenith level.
Here are some of the highlights of each level:
Classic: 10% off on-board internet purchase and a small upgrade when available.. oh, and 1 Scoop of Complimentary Gelato from Gelateria!
Select: Priority embarkation, 25% off a single on-board internet package purchase, complimentary pressing of 2 items
Elite: Complimentary 90 minute internet package (~$65 value), one complimentary bag of laundry (~$30 value), private departure lounge
Elite Plus: Two bags of laundry (~$60 value), complimentary 200 minute internet package (~$120 value), 15% discount on specialty dining
Zenith: Concierge lounge on board, complimentary 1,600 minute internet package (~$750), complimentary 7 night Bermuda/Caribbean cruise when reaching Zenith (easily $1,000) and more.
Celebrity does have two Visa Signature credit cards offered by Bank of America, one of which carries no foreign transaction fee (though does have an annual fee of $69). They accrue “MyCruise Rewards Points”, which can be redeemed at $0.01 each for cruises and cruise related expenses. With the premium card, you get discounts on guest dining, beverage packages and excursions as well and depending on how often you cruise and how much you spend, it might be an option to consider because the perks can pay for the annual fee if you cruise enough.
There is a maximum number of points you can earn a year, which is rare to see on a rewards card: “Each Calendar Year, you may earn a maximum of five hundred forty thousand (540,000) MyCruise Points on qualifying transactions posting from January 1st through December 31st.
Other options that have more lucrative sign-up bonus and redemption options for cruising are Barclaycard Arrival and Capital One Venture- two programs that allow you to purchase whatever cruise you want (like through a trusted travel agent so you can get the best rates/perks) and then erase the expense off of your statement.
Are you a Captain’s Club member? Have any experiences to share?