If you subscribe to any cruise line emails or join a cruise line loyalty club, sooner or later you'll get one that promotes a special "president's cruise" or sailing. You might wonder, what's this type of cruise all about and why would anyone be interested in sailing with a cruise line president?
We're here to tell you that these sailings can provide lots of perks and special events, especially if you're a repeat cruiser on the line. But even if a President's Cruise is your first time on a specific cruise line, you can still take part in the fun. Who knows… you might become one of those people who seek out a line's annual President's Cruise year after year.
Not all cruise lines do President's Cruises; some that have run recent ones in 2023 include Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Seabourn, Azamara and Windstar. Some river cruise lines, such as American Queen Voyages and AmaWaterways, have them too.
While the format can range from line to line, these President's Cruises have a few things in common. Here are six reasons why you should consider taking one.
The biggest VIP on a cruise line President's Cruise is, obviously, the president in question. But on these special cruises, the CEO doesn't travel alone. You're likely to also have access to other executives who make top decisions about things like the cruise line's food and beverage program; fleet deployment and new itineraries; ship refurbishments and even entertainment.
How you get to interact with these decision makers depends on the line. On a recent Presidential Cruise on Celebrity Solstice, Celebrity Cruises' Laura Hodges Bethge took questions at a roundtable discussion open to all passengers onboard. She was also the center of attention at meet and greets; cocktail hours and even special shore excursions.
Royal Caribbean executives -- and certainly president Michael Bayley -- are also very present during that line's President's Cruise. On a Symphony of the Seas cruise that also happened to coincide with Royal's 50th anniversary, the VIPs were everywhere, walking around the ship during the day, hosting dinners at night and showing up to passenger happy hours. (We're pretty sure Michael Bayley couldn’t move more than 10 feet at a time without being stopped by a passenger; he always graciously engaged in conversation).
The hands-on approach is by design. Royal Caribbean (and sister line Celebrity) aims to get passenger feedback from cruisers, whether they are new to the brand or already as loyal as they come. Each morning, the Royal Caribbean team met to talk about the conversations they'd had with passengers and decide which bits of feedback -- large or small - required action. Real time example: when passengers noted that there wasn't enough shade in the Solarium, umbrellas were out the next day.
If you're already in this category, get ready for some truly special events. On the Celebrity President's Cruise, those who earned Elite Plus or higher status were treated to special helipad sailaways and sail-ins, as well as special mixology events and a Moet Champagne party on the Lawn Club.
For those who are less frequent cruisers: Remember, that most veterans love to spread their knowledge. So why not ask those around you for some good recommendations, either onboard your current ship or for future sailings? After all, they've already figured out the best night to book dinner at Chops Grille or where you go to beat the crowds in St. Thomas. Don't be shy!
Riding shotgun with Celebrity's Bethge was her co-host: Capt. Kate McCue, a bona fide social media star who probably takes more selfies with fans than anyone else in cruising. In addition to scheduled events, passengers could book shore excursions with both women to have even more fun.
These excursions can show another side of a cruise line president. Who knew that Bethge was so proficient in axe throwing, a skill that she displayed during a special version of the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show in Ketchikan? (She hit the target every time, smoking McCue in a face off).
Wonder how some cruisers always seem to know what's going on (just check out the Cruise Critic forums and you'll see what we mean)? President's Cruises are great venues to tease out information on ships that have yet to launch.
On the Celebrity cruise, for example, we learned that the fifth Edge-class ship -- known internally as Edge 5, coming in 2025 -- would have a full 30 to 35% fewer infinite veranda cabins than its predecessors. Guests going on Royal Caribbean's next Presidential Cruise are likely to be treated to new food and dining menus debuting on that line's next big thing, Icon of the Seas.
Cruise lines will bring out the big guns for these big sailings. Royal is famous for bringing on a musical guest; on one Presidential Cruise, rock and roll Hall of Famers Daryl Hall and John Oates performed a set in the ship's uber-intimate venue, the Royal Theater. Afterward, Royal Caribbean unleashed a fireworks show so good, even the crew took a couple of minutes to head out to the deck to enjoy.
And even if the special guests aren't household names, they could still make the cruise. On our Celebrity sailing, passengers couldn’t rave enough about naturalist Celia Garland, who gave multiple wildlife lectures. A rising star within Celebrity's fleet -- besides Alaska, Garland also provides narration on the line's South America and Antarctica sailings -- Garland normally spends her summers on Celebrity Millennium. She came over to our ship especially for the President's cruise.
The swag on our Celebrity sailing has been first rate. Almost every night, a little gift or treat has been dropped off -- a tote bag, a tumbler embossed with Tlingit art; Alaska soaps and body lotion. We've seen some people using the items almost immediately in port; the sign of a good giftie.
On one Royal Caribbean President's Cruise, the line set up a dedicated book by the Schooner Bar for passengers to sign and share their favorite memories and stories about their vacations. Page after page was filled with names and anecdotes from family vacations and bucket list trips.