Skip to content

A beginners guide to cruise line loyalty programs

Aug. 23, 2022
35 min read
Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas and Carnival Valor in Philipsburg, Saint Martin
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, updated with new information and offers.


If you show loyalty to a specific cruise line, you can earn some wonderful rewards.

While entry-level tiers of cruise line loyalty programs usually don't offer much in terms of valuable perks, midlevel tiers can bring everything from spa discounts to free meals at extra-charge restaurants on the ship. The perks only get better from there.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

At the very top tier of some programs — such as Royal Caribbean's Crown & Anchor Society and Norwegian Cruise Line's Latitudes Rewards — you can even get what we at TPG consider one of the truly great loyalty perks: a free cruise for two.

Unlike most airline or hotel loyalty programs, cruise loyalty programs don't usually require customers to requalify every year.

For more cruise guides, news and tips, sign up for TPG’s cruise newsletter.

Members of most cruise line loyalty programs keep their points at the end of each year and continue to accrue points indefinitely. That means that someone who hits the top tier in a cruise line loyalty program will remain there forever (or until the line makes a change to the program).

Still, not all cruise line loyalty programs are created equal. Some are very robust with lots of great perks even at low-tier levels. Others only are modest in what they get you.

Here, TPG brings you a guide to cruise line loyalty programs at eight of the most popular cruise brands, with an overview of their main attributes. For more detailed information on each of the programs, click on the links in the text below that will take you to our main loyalty guide for each of the brands.

Related: The ultimate guide to picking a cruise line

Carnival Cruise Line: VIFP Club

(Photo by Gene Sloan / The Points Guy)
Carnival Sunrise docked in Bermuda. GENE SLOAN/THE POINTS GUY

Ways to earn points

The VIFP Club points-earning system is super simple. You earn one point for every day you cruise on a Carnival ship. If you take a three-night cruise, you’ll get three points. If you take a seven-night cruise, you’ll get seven points. You don’t have to worry about different earning levels for different cabin categories or different types of bookings, as is the case with some lines.

Note that certain charter sailings and nonrevenue fares do not get you any points.

Insider tip: After sailing on one of Carnival’s ships in Australia, you won’t automatically get points for the trip deposited in your account. You’ll need to log in to your account online, click on “Missing a Cruise?” and request the VIFP points be awarded for the days you earned on that voyage.

Program tiers and benefits

There are five tiers to the VIFP Club program:

  • Blue (your first sailing).
  • Red (second sailing to 24 points).
  • Gold (25 to 74 points).
  • Platinum (75 to 199 points).
  • Diamond (200 or more points).

One of the nice little surprises of Carnival’s loyalty program is that you hit the first tier level, Blue, the moment you walk on board your first cruise with the brand. Unlike many lines, you don’t have to complete a cruise to get to the first level. In fact, you can get to the Blue tier even before taking a cruise. All you have to do is sign up in advance.

Related: The ultimate guide to Carnival Cruise Line ships

That said, the Blue tier of the program brings almost no perks. There are only two: You are eligible for members-only cruise offers and you’ll receive a members-only electronic newsletter.

The next two tiers in the program are almost as stingy when it comes to perks. The second tier, Red, offers the same two perks as the Blue tier with just one additional perk: a complimentary, 1-liter bottle of water delivered to your cabin during sailings. (Don’t go drinking it all at once.) Gold adds a complimentary appreciation drink, and that's only if your cruise is more than five days long.

The elite level that makes a difference

The Platinum level of the VIFP Club is where your loyalty to Carnival finally starts paying off.

Many of the perks that kick in at this level offer priority access of some kind, including:

  • Priority check-in and boarding.
  • Priority spa reservations.
  • Priority water shuttle boarding (ship-to-shore only).
  • Priority line at onboard Guest Services desk and priority assistance by phone.
  • Priority debarkation.
  • Priority reservations at the Main Dining Room and specialty restaurants.

In short, once you’re at the Platinum level, you’ll suddenly find yourself bumped to the front of the line from the moment you arrive at a ship until the moment you leave. This is no small thing. Priority boarding means that you’ll get on the ship more quickly than other passengers, giving you more time on your first day to enjoy its offerings. Priority access to restaurant reservations means you’ll get the best table times.

Best elite perk

Even at the highest Diamond level of its VIFP Club program, Carnival still is a little stingy with the perks. Unlike Royal Caribbean and some other lines, it doesn’t give members a free cruise upon reaching this pinnacle of loyalty status. That said, Diamond status does bring a few nice privileges.

We definitely appreciate the free cabin upgrade (or third-and-fourth-passengers-sail-free offer) that comes when you first reach Diamond status; however, we’re disappointed this is a one-time-only benefit. Another good but one-time-only perk of Diamond status is a complimentary meal for two at a specialty restaurant of your choice.

The best elite perk of the VIFP Club program, in our eyes, is the unlimited wash-and-fold laundry service that comes with Diamond status. Unlike the above two perks, you’ll get this every time you sail once you reach Diamond level.

For more details on Carnival's VIFP Club, including a full list of benefits at every tier, see TPG's ultimate guide to the Carnival Cruise Line VIFP Club.

Celebrity Cruises: Captain’s Club

Celebrity Cruises Eclipse
Celebrity Eclipse in Willemstad, Curacao. NAN728/SHUTTERSTOSCK

Ways to earn points

The number of Captain’s Club points you earn for cruises will vary depending on both the length of the sailing and the type of cabin you book.

When staying in the most basic cabins, such as windowless “inside” cabins, you’ll earn 2 points for each day you sail. When staying in a top suite, you can earn as many as 18 to 24 points per day.

Staying in balcony cabins, which the line calls Veranda cabins, will get you 3 points a day.

Here is a breakdown of the point structure:

CELEBRITY CRUISES

As you can see, you’ll earn far more points by staying in a suite than by staying in a less pricey regular cabin. The Captain’s Club program is designed to reward Celebrity’s biggest-spending customers the most.

There’s also one more way to earn Captain’s Club points. In 2020, Celebrity launched a new program called Power Up Points that allows Captain’s Club members to earn bonus points by filling out online surveys, participating on social media or booking specific promotions.

Related: The ultimate guide to Celebrity Cruises

Taking part in such activities will get you Power Up Points, which then can be converted into Captain’s Club points at a ratio of 10 to 1. For every 10 Power Up Points you earn, you’ll receive 1 additional Captain’s Club point.

Program tiers and benefits

There are six tiers to the Captain’s Club program:

  • Preview (0 points).
  • Classic (2 to 149 points).
  • Select (150 to 299 points).
  • Elite (300 to 749 points).
  • Elite Plus (750 to 2,999 points).
  • Zenith (3,000 points or more).

The good news here is that you'll qualify for the program’s first tier (Preview) before you even take a single cruise. All you have to do is sign up for the program. At the Preview level, you gain access to the online Captain’s Club newsletter and the Loyalty Desk. You also can book Captain’s Club promotions once you’re on board your first cruise.

The next level up, Classic, brings:

  • An invitation to a Captain’s Club welcome event.
  • Access to exclusive events on specialty sailings (like the President’s Sailing).
  • One pre-cruise category upgrade to AquaClass (based on availability).
  • 10% discount on a drinks package or a premium drinks package upgrade.
  • 10% discount on Wi-Fi packages and upgrades.
  • 5% discount on small-group discovery shore excursions
  • 5% discount on Hollywood Hot Glass.
  • 25% discount on any digital or print photo package.
  • $100 off The Studio photo packages.
  • One free scoop of gelato.

The Select tier adds bigger discounts on internet and photo packages (25% and 30% off, respectively) and priority status for the shore excursion waitlist. You’ll also get 10% savings at the spa as well as a discounted price for one standard bag of laundry (wash, dry and fold), if your cruise is 12 nights or longer. Finally, you’re invited to a free wine seminar event.

The elite level that makes a difference

Being loyal to Celebrity really starts paying off when you reach the Elite and Elite Plus levels.

One of the great perks of Elite status is gaining access to the Captain’s Club Coffee Lounge, where you can enjoy a coffeehouse-style breakfast each morning. This is a particularly big deal on shore excursion days, as it means you have a relatively quiet and uncrowded place to grab a quick breakfast before heading out for a tour.

Related: The 4 types of Celebrity Cruises ships, explained

Elites also get unlimited free drinks from the Captain’s Club menu each day between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. at most bars and lounges on the ship. All you have to do is present your Sea Pass card. This isn’t quite the perk it used to be, since a basic drinks package is included with all bookings now as part of the line’s new Always Included fare structure.

If you’re sailing on a Solstice-class or Millennium-class vessel, reaching the Elite tier will get you free access to the Persian Garden spa zones — home to steam rooms, saunas and heated loungers — on one port day of your choice.

The Elite level also brings:

  • 30% off Wi-Fi packages and upgrades, plus 90 complimentary stream minutes.
  • 40% off a digital or print photo package.
  • $200 off The Studio photo packages.
  • 10% discount at the ship’s spa.
  • 15% discount on a drinks package or a premium drinks package upgrade.
  • Complimentary dry cleaning for one item.
  • One complimentary bag of laundry on every sailing.
  • Access to a private lounge on departure day serving continental breakfast.

Elite Plus kicks things up by offering a lot of these same benefits plus another free bag of laundry, additional discounts for onboard services (including a 15% discount on specialty dining cover charges) and free cappuccinos, lattes, espressos and teas throughout your sailing.

Best elite perk

The ultimate perk for Captain’s Club members comes when you reach the top Zenith tier. You’ll get a free seven-night Bermuda or Caribbean cruise in a balcony cabin. Yep, that’s right: a free cruise.

Of course, you’ll need 3,000 points to reach the Zenith tier — a number so high it’s out of reach for most cruisers. For someone who always stays in balcony cabins and prefers seven-night sailings, it would take an almost inconceivable 143 cruises to reach the Zenith tier. Put another way, you’d have to spend 1,000 days at sea with Celebrity to hit the Zenith mark.

Related: Everything to know about Celebrity cabins and suites

Still, for those who always stay in top suites, getting to Zenith after just a few years of heavy cruising is not out of the question. For those travelers in Penthouse and Reflection suites, it would require 167 days at sea. Take a few long sailings of 20 or 30 days, and you’ll be well on your way.

Once you hit the Zenith level, you’ll get another free Bermuda or Caribbean cruise after every 3,000 points you accumulate. Plus, there’s an added twist for your second free cruise and any others you accrue after that: The additional free sailings will be in an upgraded AquaClass cabin.

For more details on Celebrity's Captain's Club, including a full list of benefits at every tier, see TPG's ultimate guide to the Celebrity Cruises Captain's Club.

Disney Cruise Line: Castaway Club

Disney Dream. SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

Ways to earn points

Earning status in the Castaway Club loyalty program is about as simple as can be. You get a credit for every cruise you take — whether it’s three nights long or 10 nights long. That’s it. No muss, no fuss. Your status, as we’ll explain below, depends entirely on how many cruises you take.

Program tiers and benefits

There are just three tiers to the Castaway Club program:

  • Silver (after one cruise).
  • Gold (after five cruises).
  • Platinum (after 10 cruises).

Once you reach the first tier of the program (Silver), you will be entitled to exactly seven perks. Perhaps the most notable of these is the ability to make advance bookings for onboard cruise activities such as ticket-only character greetings and specialty restaurant dinners up to 90 days before sailings. This is a big deal in the world of Disney cruises, where some of the hottest activities on ships sell out quickly.

Related: The ultimate guide to Disney Cruise Line

Silver members will also be able to book new Disney cruise itineraries one day ahead of the general public. That may not seem like much of a head start, but it can be a real advantage when trying to snag the perfect cabin on a hot new itinerary. Disney fans are known to snap up the best cabins — if not all the cabins — on unique new sailings very quickly.

In addition, Silver members get:

  • Exclusive Castaway Club communications.
  • A members-only direct phone line to call for information and assistance.
  • A members-only check-in line at the cruise terminal.
  • A welcome-back-aboard gift.
  • Early access to select port arrival times (this perk is temporarily paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

Upon reaching the Gold level, members get all the above perks with two notable upgrades. For starters, they will have the ability to make advance bookings for onboard cruise activities up to 105 days before sailings. That’s 15 days earlier than Silver members. They also will be able to book new Disney cruise itineraries two days ahead of the general public.

The elite level that makes a difference

It isn’t really until you hit the Platinum level of the Castaway Club that the perks start to get interesting. The big perk at this level is that you can book new itineraries earlier than everyone else. You also have the earliest possible access to reserve onboard activities.

Specifically, you can make reservations for newly announced itineraries three days before the general public, and you can book activities up to 120 days in advance of sailing.

In the world of Disney, this is a very big deal. As mentioned above, Disney fans are known to snap up all the good cabins for a popular sailing the moment a trip goes on sale. Ditto for onboard activities.

In addition, Platinum status also brings access to members-only voyage discounts and priority check-in at the terminal. Only Concierge-class passengers board Disney ships ahead of Platinum members.

Best elite perk

Unlike some lines, Disney doesn’t offer any truly over-the-top elite perks such as a free cruise. It’s also skimpy when it comes to handing out big discounts on shore excursions, spa treatments and other cruise line-sold services to elite members. However, there are a few perks that get us at least modestly excited. The most enticing offer in our view is the free dinner at Palo — an adults-only, high-end Italian restaurant found on every Disney ship — that comes with Platinum status. The invitation extends to the elite member and any other adult passenger staying in the same cabin. Assuming there are two of you, that’s an $80 value. Palo normally costs $40 per person.

For more details on Disney's Castaway Club, including a full list of benefits at every tier, see TPG's ultimate guide to Disney Cruise Line's Castaway Club.

Holland America Line: Mariner Society

Nieuw Statendam
Nieuw Statendam’s pool. HOLLAND AMERICA LINE

Ways to earn points

The Mariner Society points-earning system is also a relatively simple one. In most cases, you will earn one “cruise day” credit for every night you're on a ship.

The only exception is for passengers staying in top accommodations. Customers staying in a suite or penthouse on a Holland America ship will get double cruise day credits. One caveat here is that you must have paid the normal fare for the suite or penthouse to get the double credits.

You won’t get double credit if you're staying in a suite or penthouse due to a complimentary cabin upgrade.

Note that you will also get cruise day credits for the days you spend touring on land with Holland America cruisetours in Alaska. Holland America cruisetours in Alaska typically combine a seven-night Alaska cruise with a few days touring the state in motorcoaches or by train.

Related: The 4 classes of Holland America ships, explained

In addition, there is an unusual bonus way to earn Mariner Society cruise day credits. You can earn one additional cruise day credit for every $300 you spend on board a ship — for things such as shore excursions and shop purchases (with a limit of one extra cruise day credit for every day you sail).

The extra credit is calculated based on the combined folio charges for all passengers on a single booking, regardless of who signs each charge and who pays the bill. Only the first two passengers on a booking will receive the bonus credit.

Some purchases — future cruise deposits, cash advances and casino charges — are excluded from the onboard purchase bonus. All other onboard purchases count — even the hotel service charges, beverage service charges and taxes that show up on final bills.

Program tiers and benefits

There are five tiers to the Mariner Society loyalty program:

  • Star Mariner (after one cruise).
  • 2-Star Mariner (30 to 74 cruise day credits).
  • 3-Star Mariner (75 to 199 cruise day credits).
  • 4-Star Mariner (200 to 499 cruise day credits).
  • 5-Star Mariner (500-plus cruise day credits).

As with several of the other cruise line loyalty programs mentioned above, the first tier of the Mariner Society loyalty program (Star Mariner) doesn’t come with too many valuable perks.

Star Mariners receive:

  • Up to $400 per cabin onboard spending credit when booking a cruise within 90 days of a new season launch.
  • 15% discount at shophollandamerica.com.
  • A special welcome lunch.
  • An onboard gift.
  • A voucher for an onboard cocktail.
  • 50% off cruise fares for kids and extra guests in your cabin on select sailings.

In addition to all the above, the big add-on for 2-Star Mariners is discounts on Holland America-branded items. Loyal Holland America cruisers at the 2-Star level will get a 10% discount on select Holland America clothing sold on ships. They also receive a complimentary photo of their ship.

The elite level that makes a difference

The sweet spot in Holland America’s program is the 4-Star Mariner status level. This is where you really start to see some great perks, including:

  • Complimentary cruise fare for kids and extra guests staying in your cabin on select sailings.
  • A 50% discount on specialty restaurant surcharges and specialty coffees in dining venues, Sommelier Suites packages and all minibar purchases.
  • Complimentary laundry and pressing services.
  • Priority access to ship-to-shore tenders.
  • Priority check-in.
  • A complimentary James Suckling regional wine tasting.
  • A 15% discount on select Holland America Line logo clothing sold in onboard shops (may exclude already discounted merchandise).
  • A 25% discount off the $49-per-person surcharge in Rudi’s Sel De Mer eatery.

We love that Holland America will let kids sail free on select journeys at this tier. The line isn’t necessarily known as a family line, but if you have kids and you’re a Holland America fan, this could save you a lot of money.

You’ll also save a lot of money with the 50%-off specialty restaurant perk at this level and the other 50%-off discount options.

Best elite perk

If you cruise with family or friends, we think the best perk in Holland America’s program is the complimentary cruise fare for kids and extra guests staying in your cabin on select sailings. As noted above, this is a 4-Star Mariner perk that also carries over to 5-Star Mariners.

We should note that all Mariner Society members get discounts of some sort for the third and fourth passengers staying in their cabins. During the booking process, type in your Mariner ID to view your discount for this.

For more details on Holland America's Mariner Society, including a full list of benefits at every tier, see TPG's ultimate guide to Holland America's Mariner Society.

MSC Cruises: MSC Voyagers Club

MSC Meraviglia
MSC Meraviglia. MSC CRUISES

Ways to earn points

The points-earning system for MSC Voyagers Club is a bit convoluted, as the number of points you earn on any given cruise depends on all sorts of factors.

For starters, you earn points based on the length of the cruise you take and which MSC Cruises “experience” you book for the cruise. As regular MSC Cruises customers know, there are five experiences available when cruising with the line, each with different inclusions and at different price points. Bella is the most basic — and least expensive — experience available. MSC Yacht Club is the top experience available. Experiences called Fantastica, Wellness and Aurea fall in between.

The chart below lays out your points earnings depending on cruise length and experience type:

MSCCRUISES.COM

Note that every person in your stateroom will earn points for the cruise based on the chart above.

In addition to the above, you can also earn points when spending money on MSC Cruises ships for extras or when booking extras in advance of sailing. You’ll earn 100 points for every $150 you spend on prepaid expenses and onboard expenses.

One caveat: Only the MSC Voyagers Club member who makes the final payment for onboard expenses will receive those points. In regard to expenses for prepaid services that apply to all cabin occupants (and not single occupants), points will be equally distributed among the cabin occupants. For example, say the total amount of prepaid onboard services that apply to all cabin occupants before the cruise is $600. If there are four cabin occupants, the spending for the points calculation of each member will be $150, which is equal to 100 points.

Related: The ultimate guide to MSC Cruises

The final way to earn points is by updating your contact details up to 72 hours before departure on your next cruise. This will earn you 100 points.

Program tiers and benefits

There are four tiers to the MSC Voyagers Club program:

  • Classic (1 to 2,199 points).
  • Silver (2,200 to 4,299 points).
  • Gold (4,300 to 9,999 points).
  • Diamond (10,000 or more points).

Again, the entry-level tier (Classic) doesn’t bring many truly valuable rewards. By far the most alluring benefit at this level is the 5% discount that members get when booking future sailings (but this discount is not valid on Tandem and MSC Grand Tours). That's real savings every time you book a cruise.

In addition, Classic members get:

  • An additional 5% discount on Voyagers Exclusives sailings made six to nine months before departure.
  • An MSC Voyagers Club e-newsletter.
  • MSC Voyagers Club personalized luggage tags for embarkation in the e-ticket.
  • An MSC Voyagers Club card.
  • An invitation to a "welcome back" cocktail party.
  • A dedicated number to call on board.
  • Discounts on many packages and amenities including onboard pictures, digital accessories, Wi-Fi and spa and fitness offerings.
  • MSC Shops discount (for each $50 spent in any onboard shops, you will receive a $10 discount).

Note that the MSC Shops discount has a lot of fine print. You cannot combine this discount with promotions available on board, and it is not available for spending on tobacco products and electronics. It's also only valid on the first day of a cruise. That prompts us to downgrade the value of this perk considerably.

Upon reaching the second tier of the program, Silver, you get a couple more perks. The most notable to us is a $50 onboard credit, per person, plus double MSC Voyagers Club points, for all bookings made more than 12 months before departure. (If you book nine to 12 months in advance, you get the $50 credit but not the double points.)

The elite level that makes a difference

Being loyal to MSC Cruises starts paying off in a noticeable way once you reach the Gold level of the MSC Voyagers Club program. Even here, though, the rewards are still relatively modest.

The Gold level comes with one solid perk: priority disembarkation in ports where a tender boat is required. This can make a real difference in your cruising experience, as it means you can get off the ship much faster in some cases than the majority of other passengers. That will allow you to maximize your time in tender ports.

In addition, Gold status brings:

  • A complimentary one-hour thermal-area session once per cruise.
  • A complimentary gift.
  • A complimentary photo during the "welcome back" cocktail party.
  • A complimentary birthday cake when it's your birthday.

Best elite perk

Alas, there isn’t one “wow” perk in the MSC Voyagers Club menu. As noted above, unlike some lines, MSC Cruises doesn’t award top-tier members truly high-value perks such as a free cruise. Still, the MSC Voyagers Club's top Diamond status tier does come with a few enticing benefits.

Our favorite perk in the entire MSC Voyagers Club program is the complimentary dinner at a specialty restaurant that comes with Diamond-level status. That said, be warned that it's a complimentary dinner that comes with a lot of fine print (so much fine print, in fact, that to us it verges on the ridiculous).

For more details on MSC Cruises' MSC Voyagers Club, including a full list of benefits at every tier, see TPG's ultimate guide to MSC Cruises' MSC Voyagers Club.

Norwegian Cruise Line: Latitudes Rewards

The top deck of Norwegian Encore includes a sprawling go-kart track and an outdoor laser tag area. NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE

Ways to earn points

Earning points in the Latitudes Rewards program is relatively straightforward. You will get:

  • One point for every night you spend on a ship.
  • An additional one point per night when staying in a Concierge-level cabin, full-fare suite (not minisuites or Club Balcony suites) or The Haven rooms.
  • An additional one point per night when on a cruise booked via a Latitudes Rewards Insider Offer. These are special offers for Latitudes Rewards members.

Note that the extra point per night for suites only applies to stays in suites booked when a reservation is originally made. It doesn’t apply to stays in suites that result from an upgrade.

Related: The ultimate guide to Norwegian Cruise Line

Program tiers and benefits

There are seven tiers to the Latitudes Rewards program:

  • Bronze (1 to 19 points).
  • Silver (20 to 44 points).
  • Gold (45 to 74 points).
  • Platinum (75 to 149 points).
  • Sapphire (150 to 349 points).
  • Diamond (350 to 699 points).
  • Ambassador (700 or more points).

The Latitudes Rewards program is one of the more robust cruise line loyalty programs, with some decent perks available to almost all members.

After just one cruise, as a newly minted Bronze member, you will receive a 10% discount at onboard duty-free shops — not a bad perk for a low tier. You’ll also get early access to new product information and exclusive offers, a signature pin and a few other minor things.

Moving up to the Silver level of the Latitudes Rewards program will bring all the above plus:

  • An invitation to a complimentary onboard cocktail party.
  • A 10% discount on shore excursions.
  • A 20% discount on photos.
  • A 15% discount on spa treatments performed when the ship is in port.
  • A higher 15% discount at onboard duty-free shops.

The Gold level bumps up the discounts on photos and spa treatments to 25% and 20%, respectively. It also brings valuable perks such as a 50% discount on a bag of laundry, priority tender tickets (for applicable ports) and priority disembarkation (for U.S. citizens only).

The elite level that makes a difference

Once you reach Platinum, you’ll get everything in earlier tiers plus a 15% discount on internet packages, which is a great perk. Internet packages on Norwegian can be pricey.

Related: The 5 best destinations you can visit on a Norwegian cruise

Another great perk at the Platinum level is free dinners at some of the top restaurants on Norwegian ships on every voyage of five nights or longer. Platinum members get a free dinner for two at either Cagney’s, the line’s signature steakhouse, or Le Bistro, its signature French restaurant — which includes a bottle of wine. They also get a free dinner for two at either churrascaria restaurant Moderno or Italian eatery La Cucina (on some ships, the restaurant offerings differ).

Platinum members also get:

  • Priority check-in and embarkation.
  • Access to a concierge to help with dining, entertainment and shore excursion reservations.
  • Chocolate-covered strawberries delivered to their room.
  • A Wines Around the World tasting.
  • A behind-the-scenes ship tour.
  • A higher, 30% discount on photos.
  • A higher, 25% discount on spa treatments.
  • A dedicated pre-cruise service desk.

Best elite perk

The ultimate perk for Latitudes Rewards members comes upon reaching the top Ambassador tier. You’ll get a one-time, complimentary seven-night cruise in a balcony cabin. You can pick any destination, but you can’t select a holiday sailing (Christmas and New Year's).

The free cruise is for two people. You can bring a third and fourth guest, but you’ll pay for their fares. You’ll also pay for all taxes, fees and service charges (including gratuities). You have one year to take advantage of your free cruise after becoming an Ambassador elite member.

For more details on Norwegian's Latitudes Rewards program, including a full list of benefits at every tier, see TPG's ultimate guide to Norwegian Cruise Line's Latitudes Rewards program.

Princess Cruises: Captain’s Circle

The Princess Cruises ship Pacific Princess sails in the harbor of Sydney, Australia. (Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises)
Pacific Princess in Sydney Harbour. PRINCESS CRUISES

Ways to earn points

The points-earning system for the Captain’s Circle program is one that is a bit convoluted, as it involves two separate tracks — either of which will allow you to rise through its tiers.

For starters, members earn one “cruise credit” for each cruise they take. Also, members earn one “cruise day” for every night spent on a ship. So, on a typical seven-night cruise, you would earn seven cruise days in addition to one cruise credit.

Related: The ultimate guide to Princess Cruises ships and itineraries

Just to make things a little bit more complicated, Princess also doubles your cruise credit earnings if you sail in a full suite (minisuites, Club-class suites and upgrades to suites are excluded) or if you sail solo. However, it doesn’t double your cruise day count.

So, if you sail in a suite on a seven-night cruise, you would earn two cruise credits and seven cruise days.

While convoluted, this system actually works to your advantage, as you have two ways to reach higher tier levels. As we’ll explain below, you can qualify for elite status either through your cruise credit count or your cruise day count, whichever number gets you to your goal first.

Program tiers and benefits

There are four tiers to the Captain’s Circle program:

  • Gold (after your first completed cruise).
  • Ruby (from your fourth or fifth cruise credit, or 31 to 50 cruise days).
  • Platinum (from your sixth to 15th cruise credit, or 51 to 150 cruise days).
  • Elite (from your 16th cruise credit on, or 151-plus cruise days).

The entry-level tier (Gold) is very limited in what it brings. One of the most alluring benefits at this level is the Preferential Pricing Offer for select sailings that the line extends to Captain’s Circle members. The early booking discounts, known as Captain’s Circle Launch Savings, are also a plus.

In addition, Gold members get:

  • Invitations to members-only onboard events.
  • Access to a Captain’s Circle onboard host.
  • A members-only magazine.
  • A recognition pin.

Upon reaching the second tier of the program, Ruby, you get a few more perks. However, this tier is a bit ho-hum, too. In addition to the Gold-level rewards, you get a new recognition pin, access to a shoreside Captain’s Circle Help Desk phone line, and an upgrade to Princess’ Platinum Vacation Protection plan when you purchase a Princess travel insurance plan at the standard rate.

The elite level that makes a difference

Being loyal to Princess finally starts paying off in a bigger way once you reach the Platinum level of the Captain’s Circle program. Even here, though, the rewards are still relatively modest.

The Platinum level comes with five solid perks:

  • Priority boarding.
  • 50% off MedallionNet internet packages.
  • 10% off spa treatments.
  • 10% off photo packages.
  • Early access to Dine My Way reservations.

Priority boarding is a great perk as it means you don’t have to wait with the hordes upon arriving at a ship and, in theory, can board more quickly — increasing the amount of time you have to enjoy the vessel’s offerings on the first day. We’re just a little surprised that Princess doesn’t offer this perk until the third tier of its loyalty program.

Best elite perk

Alas, there isn’t a truly spectacular perk in the entire Captain’s Circle menu. Still, the Captain’s Circle’s top Elite status tier does come with a few enticing benefits. Our favorite, by a hair, is the complimentary laundry service that comes with Elite-level status. This can come in handy (and save you a lot of money) on longer voyages.

For more details on Princess's Captain's Circle, including a full list of benefits at every tier, see TPG's ultimate guide to Princess Cruises' Captain's Circle program.

Royal Caribbean: Crown & Anchor Society

Outdoor AquaTheater on Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas. ROYAL CARIBBEAN

Ways to earn points

Earning points in Royal Caribbean's Crown & Anchor Society program isn't too complicated. You will get:

  • One point for every night you spend on a ship.
  • One additional point for every night you spend in a suite.
  • One additional point when cruising solo in a cabin meant for two.

Note that the extra point per night for suites only applies to stays in suites booked when a reservation is originally made. It doesn’t apply to stays in suites that result from an upgrade.

Program tiers and benefits

There are six tiers to the Royal Caribbean Crown & Anchor Society program:

  • Gold (3-29 points).
  • Platinum (30-54 points).
  • Emerald (55-79 points).
  • Diamond (80-174 points).
  • Diamond Plus (175-699 points).
  • Pinnacle Club (700 or more points).

The most alluring benefit at the entry-level Gold tier is the exclusive rates available to members for specific sailings of specific ships.

In addition, Gold members get:

  • Crown & Anchor Society onboard offers.
  • SeaPass card recognition.
  • Private departure lounge with continental breakfast.
  • Priority notice of special offers, new ships and itineraries.
  • Exclusive email offers.
  • Access to a Crown & Anchor phone line for membership inquiries.
  • A member newsletter.

Upon reaching the second tier of the program, Platinum, you get a few more perks. The most notable, to us, is access to special member discounts on balcony cabins and suites. That can bring real savings. The Platinum tier also brings matching status in the loyalty program of Royal Caribbean's sister line, Celebrity Cruises.

The elite level that makes a difference

In our view, the Diamond Plus level is where the Royal Caribbean loyalty program hits its stride.

Once you reach Diamond Plus, you’ll get all the aforementioned benefits plus priority access and seating at main theater shows, ice shows and AquaTheater events, which is a great perk.

Diamond Plus status also brings a 50% reduction in the single-supplement charge for solo travelers — albeit only after your points total in the program hits 340 points. If you're a solo traveler, this is a very big deal, as it will save you a considerable amount of money when sailing Royal Caribbean.

Diamond Plus members also get:

  • Access to exclusive top-tier events.
  • A personalized gift/amenity (one per household).
  • Exclusive access to Diamond Plus call center staff.

Best elite perk

The ultimate perk for Crown & Anchor Society members comes upon reaching the top Pinnacle Club tier. You’ll get a complimentary seven-night cruise to the Caribbean in a balcony cabin.

The free cruise is for two people. You can bring a third and fourth guest, but you’ll pay for their fares. You’ll also pay for all taxes, fees and service charges (including gratuities). Look out for other restrictions as well.

After hitting the Pinnacle Club level, you'll get an additional free cruise every time you accumulate another 350 points. In other words, you'll get an initial free cruise after hitting 700 points and then additional cruises at 1,050 points, 1,400 points, 1,750 points, etc.

The first two cruises are in a balcony cabin. After that, you quality for a junior suite.

If you don’t want to sail the Caribbean, you can ask for a cruise credit to use toward an itinerary somewhere else. Royal Caribbean will give you $2,400 toward the purchase of a cruise at 700 and 1,050 points, and $3,200 toward the purchase of a cruise at 1,400 points and above.

For more details on Royal Caribbean's Crown & Anchor Society, including a full list of benefits at every tier, see TPG's ultimate guide to Royal Caribbean's Crown & Anchor Society.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

Featured image by Docked in St. Martin, Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas on the left and Carnival Valor on the right. (Photo by Yevgen Belich/Shutterstock.com)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

TPG featured card

Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points60,000 points
For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent, Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases