Loyalty programs have been much discussed on the Cruise Critic boards over the past year. With Royal Caribbean having changed its loyalty program last year and Carnival just changing its program this week, there’s been lots of back and forth about the merits of various programs.
For my part, I’ve never much cared about the perks I get from a loyalty program. Maybe that’s because I’ve generally associated loyalty programs with airlines and hotels, and despite working in the travel industry, I’ve never actually flown enough or had enough control over which hotels I stay in to really rack up enough points to get the “real” perks. The same has been true of cruising…until recently.
For my birthday I and eight others sailed aboard Norwegian Gem. It was my third cruise with Norwegian over the past four or five years. I knew I had a past passenger number because you get one automatically after your first cruise, but beyond that I had never paid attention to the loyalty program.
Even standing on line to embark and realizing we were on a semi-priority line because I had bronze status, I didn’t really care about loyalty perks. And then they gave me my pin. That stupid little pin that so many people, including me, have dismissed as silly.
It says Norwegian Gem. It says Bronze. And suddenly I was hooked. I couldn’t wait to put the pin on my backpack. I still didn’t care about what the perks of being bronze were — I’m not a drinker, so I rarely attend free cocktail hours and don’t need a free drink coupon. But I loved getting the pin. I wondered what the silver pin looked like. I wondered how many more times I’d have to cruise to get that silver pin. And suddenly I understood some of the hullabaloo about loyalty programs. Would I stop cruising a line if they took away my pin or said I wasn’t bronze anymore or that silver was no longer just one cruise away? No. But truth is getting that pin felt good, and I honestly can’t wait to sail again so I can get my silver level pin.
Does your favorite cruise line’s loyalty program inspire you to remain loyal? If so, how? If not, why not? Tell us below.
What will you get for always sailing on the same cruise line? We’ve got the details on cruise line past-passenger programs.
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