Cruise Line Loyalty: Elite Status Reciprocity and Matching

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Thinking about a cruise line status match? Historically, cruise line’s have not matched elite status the way the airline programs you may be more accustomed to have. However, elite status reciprocity is a term loyal cruisers should get to know, especially if they frequently cruise with Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. subsidiaries Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, and Royal Caribbean International. Elite status reciprocity simply 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.

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Elite Status Reciprocity

Let’s start with the Carnival Corporation cruise lines. Carnival refers to its program as Vacation Interchange Privileges (VIP). If you hold elite status on one of the Carnival companies, you are eligible for past passenger discounts on sister lines, but that is the extent of the benefit. In contrast, the reciprocal elite benefits program offered by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, offers more of the trappings of elite status for program members of three of its brands. Reciprocal benefits 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. Likewise, if you are most loyal to Celebrity and have achieved the Elite level of status, Royal Caribbean will match you to the Diamond level in their Crown and Anchor society. The table below details reciprocal status across the Royal Caribbean brands. (Table courtesy of Azamara)

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Notably, the very exclusive highest tiers in each program (Discoverer Platinum, Zenith, and Pinnacle) are not available through the reciprocity program. That said, the benefit of not being at the “bottom of the ladder” is real. For example, a Diamond Plus member of Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society will enjoy “Elite” status in Captain’s Club. When sailing Celebrity, you are treated as a past passenger even if it’s your first Celebrity cruise and will receive invites to various parties and receptions as well as benefits like internet credits, free laundry, and others.

Of course, there is a downside to this benefit. When you sail on a sister line, you are not earning points in your “home program,” you are simply afforded equivalent status recognition and will earn points in the program of the line you are sailing.

Elite Status Matching Has Arrived

Pure status matching the way most airline loyalty fans might be familiar with has not historically existed in cruising. However, MSC Cruises recently changed that. Earlier in 2015, MSC introduced the first true “status match” by a cruise line and is offering equivalent status in their MSC Voyager’s Club to members of other cruise line and hotel loyalty programs. Unfortunately, airline programs are currently excluded from this offer.

Whether through elite status reciprocity or a newly available elite status match, trying a new cruise line does not necessarily mean starting over at the bottom of the elite status ladder. Enjoy your cruise!

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