As we approach the conclusion of MJ on Travel’s cruise line elite status series, I thought it was important to speak to a question I get from time to time. Do the cruise lines status match the way that airlines do? Answer – not to my knowledge. What you will find in some cases is something called elite status reciprocity. Elite status reciprocity means that if you are elite with a cruise line owned by a parent company, another cruise line owned by the same company will honor your elite status.
Let’s start with the Carnival Corporation lines. If you hold elite status on one of the Carnival Corp lines, you are eligible for past passenger discounts on sister lines, but as far as I can tell (I’ve reading and searching for two weeks), that’s it. It’s referred to as Vacation Interchange Privileges (VIP). I have seen some reports on Cruise Critic from guests indicating they received an amenity or two based on their elite status, but this appears to be more a function of a dedicated hotel director, than any clear elite benefit. The other big US cruise company, NCL, does not appear to offer any elite reciprocity within the Star Cruises family.
In contrast, the reciprocal elite benefits program offered by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, offers more of the trappings of status for program members of three of its brands, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Azamara Club Cruises. I’m going to speak from the perspective of a Royal Caribbean elite, which I am, and hopefully tie things together in a way that makes sense. I’ll start with a couple of excerpts from the Royal Caribbean website.
Reciprocal benefits (referred to as Equivalent Recognition) begin at the Platinum level of Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society. Platinum and Emerald members enroll in Celebrity’s Captain’s Club at the Select level. Diamond and higher members enroll at the Elite level in Captain’s Club. You can read about Celebrity Captain’s Club here. Here’s the complete fine print.
While I did not cover the benefits of Azamara Club Cruises’ Le Club Voyage program in this series, I will touch upon it and a few others in my summary which will post next week. The fine print above refers to Azamara’s levels as Select and Elite, and I think they may have once been identical to Celebrity’s program. However, a review of Azamara’s website indicates that Platinum and Emerald members of Crown & Anchor receive Explorer status while Diamond and higher are afforded Discoverer status. Azamara’s website also includes a very easy to understand table that describes reciprocal elite benefits across the three lines.
Speaking from experience, it is very nice to be able to enjoy your Royal Caribbean elite benefits when sailing on Celebrity. As a Diamond Plus member of Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society, I enjoy Elite (that’s the name) status in Captain’s Club. I am treated as a past passenger of Celebrity, invited to various parties and receptions, and receive benefits like internet credits, free laundry, and others. Frankly, I’m looking forward to trying Azamara and their smaller ships someday soon as well. Elite status reciprocity within the Royal Caribbean family makes it far more likely that I will try the other brands within the family rather than defect to another cruise line to “try something else.” The downside of all this? When you sail on a sister line, you are not earning points in your “home program,” you are simply afforded equivalent status recognition. In other words, when I sail on Celebrity, I’m afforded Elite status in Captains Club, and I’m earning points for that sailing in Captain’s Club, not Crown & Anchor. I’m OK with that, but it is something for cruisers to consider.
In summary, cruise lines do not historically “match” elite status in the same way you might be accustomed to with your favorite airline or hotel loyalty program. Some do offer reciprocal elite benefits that vary in value. If any readers are aware of a benefit that I have missed with the Carnival Corporation or NCL lines, please comment to the post. Up next – my series summary, a mini-review of some of the elite programs not covered in the series, and the cruise line I’ve yet to try that I’d most like to sail with based on my research in this series.
-MJ, December 6, 2014