PF Stock, a personal finance blogger, has been outlining the perks for some time in his blog (as have members on the Cruise Critic boards). PF is a veteran of eight cruises and is quite bullish on the cruise vacation in general. PF's recent blog entries on shareholder benefits clearly struck a nerve, drawing thousands of visitors.
So how do the benefits work?
First of all, if you're a cruise line employee, travel agent cruising at the special agent rate, a tour conductor, or anyone cruising on a reduced-rate or complimentary basis, you're excluded. Not in any of these categories and own the prerequisite 100 shares? Let's move onto fundamentals:
Own Carnival Corporation stock (CCL), and you'll earn the credit for all Carnival brands in the following amounts: You'll get $250 for sailings of 14 days or longer on North American brands, including Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess, Holland America, Seabourn and Cunard; $100 for 7- to 13-day sailings; and $50 for six days or less.
If the ship uses euros (Costa, AIDA, Ibero) or Australian dollars (P&O Australia) onboard, simply replace the U.S. dollar sign with the euro and Aussie dollar sign, respectively.
If the operational currency onboard is pounds -- P&O, Ocean Village, and Cunard in certain instances -- half of the U.S. dollar credit applies (so £125, £50 or £25 respectively).
RCL asset holders will earn credits on Azamara, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity (but not Celebrity Xpedition) in the following amounts: $250 credit on sailings of 14 or more nights; $200 for sailings of 9 to 13 nights; $100 for sailings of six to eight nights; and $50 for five nights or less.
Carnival and Royal Caribbean credit is given per stateroom (not per person -- even if both cruisers sharing the stateroom each own the required number of shares).
As long as you own the stock at the time of sailing, you can enjoy the benefit every time you cruise. Apply for credit before your sailing. You must show proof of stock ownership. A photocopy of the shareholder proxy card, shares certificates, or a brokerage or nominee statement will do.
How about combining your onboard credits to create one giant mega-credit? With RCL, they can't be combined. For example, say you're a shareholder, and you book a special deal on a 10-night cruise that includes $150 in credit. You won't be able to tack on the $200 you're entitled to as a shareholder. Instead, the higher of the two will be used.
On Carnival, combination is fine.
Sadly, the onboard credit cannot be used in the casino on RCI or Carnival ships, or for the gratuities charged to your onboard account on Carnival ships. The standard "certain restrictions may apply" is also included.
But before you run to the rotary to dial your broker, read this little disclaimer from PF:
"I have a one final thought. At one time, I did own shares in both CCL and RCL. However, I have since sold off my shares. If you don't already own Carnival or RCL stock, they are both dividend paying stocks that might be an appropriate part of a diversified investment portfolio. However, I do not recommend buying the stock just to get the shareholder benefit. Make your investment decisions to buy CCL or RCL based on your investment needs, and not on your vacation needs."
For opinions from Cruise Critic members who own cruise line stocks, check out these message board threads: Carnival, Royal Caribbean
--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor