Cruise line loyalty programs have traditionally offered good benefits to travelers—things like complimentary WiFi and laundry, cabin upgrades, and even free cruises. But, those same programs often offered few, if any, ways to leverage your participation if you cruised aboard a competing line.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Bank of America are looking to change the face of affinity programs by launching an improved loyalty program, MyCruise Rewards, and co-branded credit cards that will offer shared benefits for fans of Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, and Royal Caribbean.
MyCruise Rewards allows members to redeem points on all three cruise lines—no matter which co-branded credit card (Azamara, Celebrity, or Royal Caribbean) the traveler earned the points through.
MyCruise Rewards points can be used to redeem cabin upgrades or converted to onboard credit. You can also use points to buy logo gift items and book onboard packages like the Royal Caribbean Grand Romance Package. You can also trade in your points for a free cruise once you amass enough of them. For example, 50,000 points will earn you a three- or four-night Caribbean sailing for two (not to exceed a $1,000 value) on a Royal Caribbean ship. You'll need 240,000 points to get a seven- to eight-night Caribbean sailing for two on a Celebrity ship (not to exceed a value of $2,400).
Each cruise line-branded credit offers slightly different benefits. For example, Bank of America offers two flavors of Celebrity Cruises credit cards. Both card types award double points for purchases on Azamara, Celebrity, and Royal Caribbean as well as one point for every dollar spent elsewhere. And, both cards came with a 10,000-point bonus after your first qualifying purchase.
The first card has no annual fee. The "upgraded" version carries a $69 annual fee but comes with additional perks. For example, the Celebrity Cruises credit card also offers two-for-one annual airfare (students not eligible), a $300 discount off a future cruise of at least 7 nights or more in a Concierge Class stateroom (after $5,000 in transactions within your first 60 days of card ownership, a 10,000-point bonus annually when you spend at least $10,000, 50% off second guest at any specialty restaurant, 10% discount on a Private Journeys shore excursion, 10% discount on Premium Beverage Packages, and no foreign transaction fees.
There's only one Royal Caribbean-branded credit card and it comes with no annual fee plus the opportunity to earn double MyCruise Rewards points for every $1 spent on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Azamara plus one point per dollar spent on everyday purchases. You'll receive 10,000 bonus points after your first qualifying transaction. You'll also get two-for-one airfare after spending $3,500 within the first 90 days of holding the card.
Azamara offers one credit card and it carries a $69 annual fee. It's similar to the fee-bearing card from Celebrity with one important difference. The bonus you'll receive after your first purchase is 15,000 MyCruise Rewards points instead of 10,000.
And if you end up with more points than you can use yourself, you can donate the cash value of MyCruise Rewards points to nonprofit organizations that the cruise lines support, like the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Andrea M. Rotondo is a freelance writer based in New York City. She covers cruise news and luxury travel trends for Fodors.com and writes for a variety of outlets, including her website Luxury Travel Mavens. Follow her on Twitter: @luxtravelmavens.
Photo credit: Photos courtesy of Celebrity Cruises