UPDATED 10/1/2014 – Azamara has made some improvements to Le Club Voyage based on guest feedback. Therefore parts of this post are no longer valid. Please click here for updated information.
Azamara Club Cruises, a subsidiary of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., has announced some changes to its loyalty program, Le Club Voyage. In an era when cruise lines, including RCCL subsidiaries Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises, seem to be improving their loyalty programs, Azamara’s changes seem out of step at first glance. A little background might be in order.
Most BoardingArea readers might be inclined to ask how many cruise miles do I earn per cruise, and how many does it take to get a free cruise? That’s not really the way cruise line loyalty programs work. Cruise programs tend to be more perk based, with the value and cachet of those perks rising higher as you cruise more. The perks range from anything like discounts on future cruises to complimentary internet minutes to special dinners and lounge access are the reward for loyalty. There are ways to earn points towards a free cruise from cruise line credit card rewards cards, but those programs generally are separate from the loyalty program. Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s take a look at what’s new, and what’s going away with Azamara’s loyalty program on January 1, 2015, courtesy of azamaraclubcruises.com.
EFFECTIVE ON VOYAGES DEPARTING ON OR AFTER JANUARY 1, 2015, LE CLUB VOYAGE MEMBERS WILL ENJOY THESE NEW BENEFITS:
- The support of our new onshore Le Club Voyage Ambassador, Nicole Lukacs. (MJ notes: I think it’s interesting that they named their primary loyalty program ambassador) You’ll love Nicole’s enthusiasm and singular focus on enhancing your Le Club Voyage experience.
- Earn complimentary nights* when you advance to a new member tier, ranging from two nights (Explorer) to ten nights (Discoverer Platinum).
- Stateroom category upgrades for $199 USD per person*, or $398 USD per stateroom for singles.
- Quarterly savings of 10% on select voyages.
- Savings of 3%* to 10%* on open and reserved passage voyages when booking onboard. Plus, a $200 onboard credit for the future voyage when a reserved passage is booked.
- Priority check-in for Discoverer members and above at select ports.
- A dedicated onshore Le Club Voyage desk for all your membership inquiries.
- Ongoing Club communications and social media engagement to keep you connected and in-the-know.
- And best of all, two new annual Le Club Voyage voyages filled with exclusive events, socializing, and a few wonderful surprises. You’ll love these exciting voyages created with our most loyal guests in mind!
IN ADDITION TO YOUR NEW BENEFITS, THESE LE CLUB VOYAGE BENEFITS WILL CONTINUE:
- An onboard Le Club Voyage hostess on every voyage.
- A welcome Le Club Voyage party on every voyage.
- An exclusive Le Club Voyage get-together with senior officers and staff for Discoverer members and above at select ports.
- Savings of 5% when spending $1,000 or more in Fine Jewelry, or 10% when spending $2,000 or more for Discoverer members and above.
- Spa savings of 10% to 25% depending on member level.
- Internet savings, now 30% to 50% based on member level.
WHAT’S BEING DISCONTINUED?
Our top priority has always been to deliver an extraordinary travel experience. Your Le Club Voyage benefits enhance that experience, and we try to make them meaningful and valuable. And yet it’s a balancing act. As we introduce new benefits on voyages departing on or after January 1, 2015, we’ll be discontinuing some others:
- Sparkling wine in staterooms upon arrival
- “Welcome home” gift when advancing to the next tier
- One bag of free laundry
- Complimentary wine tasting on voyages of ten nights or more
- Free Internet service. (Note that while the “free” is going away, we’ll continue to offer Internet savings based on your member level.)
We expect mixed reactions to the discontinued benefits. It wasn’t an easy decision, but we believe it’s the right long-term decision for our guests and brand. Look at it this way: you’ll be earning points toward free nights instead of free laundry or Internet minutes. Plus stateroom upgrades, savings on select voyages, and other new benefits. As a Le Club Voyage member, we never want you to question your value to us…or our desire to create value for you.
Is It Really as Bad as Some on the Cruise Fan Message Boards Make Seem to Think?
The complimentary nights option when advancing between loyalty tiers is interesting, but other than that, this seems to be moving Azamara’s loyalty program more towards those of its larger market brethren. On the other hand, even Royal Caribbean provides me with a complimentary bag of laundry during a cruise, and I get a few minutes of free internet too. You can review all benefits of Le Club Voyage by elite status level here.
Most telling, I think, is a look at the loyalty programs of other small ship lines. It’s important to note that Azamara Club Cruises is a 2-ship cruise line, with both vessels having capacity for around 600 passengers. Mass market it is not. Regent or Oceania might represent a better, if not completely equal, comparison. Each of these lines appear to offer similar benefits to Azamara with the addition of some quite generous onboard credits ($1000 for top tier Diamond members) in the case of Oceania and free unlimited laundry for top tier customers at Regent. Azamara’s Le Club Voyage doesn’t quite measure up to these other small ship line loyalty programs. In their defense, now that Regent and Oceania are likely to be purchased by NCL, one can be forgiven for wondering much longer the most generous parts of their loyalty programs will last?
The Most Interesting Development
Personally, I think the advent of free cruise nights as part of a cruise line loyalty program is the most interesting development of all. In fairness, those free nights are tied to progression between elite tiers, but I can’t help but wonder if this could be a sign of things to come in cruise line loyalty? I don’t know….and I am not even speculating, yet.
Coming up – a deeper look at loyalty in the cruise market.
-MJ, September 3, 2014