Cruise line loyalty programs are the new front line in the battle to woo cruisers to switch from their favourites.

With bookings booming, lines are turning there attention to trying to tempt locked in clients by making a move to a new brand make sense when they have loyalty points or class upgrades.

Lines like MSC Cruises and Virgin Voyages will match the status guests have on other cruise lines so newcomers can unlock perks like priority embarkation, complimentary onboard services, and even extra onboard credit, depending on the level of membership.

Particularly for Virgin Voyages, which is the newest big cruise brand, their focus was to drive new to brand, especially launching in an already competitive market.

They ran a short promotion to match guests’ status with companies in other travel sectors like airlines and hotels.

“We will gladly status match any of Royal Caribbean’s three brands,” for example, said Michael Marino, head of loyalty for Virgin Voyages told Travel Weekly.

“We saw there’s plenty of interest amongst cruisers who go on other lines, but they’re also very loyal to those lines, right?” Marino said. 

“Our thought was, we introduce our product to people who like to travel, or at least their work makes them travel, and so, therefore, they are heavily statused somewhere else.”

Loyalty programs are now more important than ever, as the economy dips and travellers look for better value. Depending on your membership tier, cruise lines will offer things like discounted spa treatments, a drink on the house, free WiFi, access to member-only areas, priority boarding, and special hosted events with the Captain.

New cruise line loyalty programs

To get these loyalty perks, depending on the cruise line, guests will have to have sailed for a number of days or cruises with one line. Others reward cruisers points who book larger and more luxurious cabin categories.

Royal Caribbean launched a loyalty matching program where guests can transfer their highest status tier to their sister brands like Celebrity Cruises or Silversea. It means that if luxury Silversea cruisers like Grandma and Grandpa can then take their kids and grandchildren on a Royal Caribbean multigenerational holiday and still get the perks of their Silversea cruise.

Who doesn’t offer sister brand perks?

But others aren’t as lenient with their cruise line loyalty programs among their sister brands. The perks that are across Carnival Corporation’s nine brands are non-transferrable. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings brands also won’t match the loyalty statuses among Norwegian Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas, and Oceania Cruises.

But the line’s ultra-luxury brand Regent Seven Seas has a partnership with GHA Discovery, a loyalty program that includes hundreds of hotels. Norwegian Cruise Line partners with WorldPoints Rewards credit card.

The hotel luxury yacht space

In the luxury hotel yacht space, the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection which is part of Marriott Hotels means guests can redeem points across their hotels and resorts as well as use of the Mariott Bonvoy credit card.

The Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program functions for The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection much in the same way it would on dry land: Guests can earn five points per US dollar spent on their cruise fare; they can redeem points to reduce the cost of their sailing, with some limitations (an initial redemption of 180,000 points saves you US$1,000, and you may then continue to redeem at a clip of 90,000 points for each US$500 of savings).

Members will also earn one Elite Night Credit per night, which also counts towards Marriott Bonvoy elite status and guests can enjoy a private members-only reception. The higher your status, the more perks you’ll have access to. You’ll get priority boarding and departure, complimentary laundry services during your cruise and early access to reservations to S.E.A.

The new Orient Express yacht collection is part of the Accor and Belmond brand, so it will be interesting to see whether guests will be able to redeem points and access to the two brand’s properties.

The Four Seasons Yacht, which will soon launch, and it may also allow guests to redeem points across the group’s portfolio of properties as part of their cruise line loyalty programs.   

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