Want to maximize the points you earn in cruise line loyalty programs? You’re in luck. There are some simple techniques you can use to earn more points per dollar spent. That means you can earn more points for less money, and potentially reach higher status levels even faster.
If you’re sailing one of the major cruise lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, or Norwegian Cruise Line, then they all have loyalty programs. These programs are relatively simple. You cruise with the line and earn points with each night that you sail. Take a 7-night cruise? You earn seven points.
The more points that you earn, the higher your status level on the ship. Earn enough points, and depending on the loyalty program, you can earn freebies and perks like dinners, priority embarkation, discounts, and even free cruises.
But to reach the upper tiers can take months at sea and cost tens of thousands of dollars, if not more. For example, reaching Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society’s Diamond tier takes 80 nights of cruises. With one point a night, that’s nearly a dozen weeks of sailing.
Even at a relatively modest cost of $1,000 per week, that’s more than ten grand — and potentially years of vacations — to reach that status level.
However, there are some techniques you can use to drastically reduce the cost and time needed to earn higher status on the ship. These can potentially save you thousands of dollars and take years off the process of earning the highest levels.
Sail in Suites for Double Points
The main way of earning points from cruise line loyalty programs could not be simpler. You sail a cruise and earn points for each night you sail.
But within the fine print of some programs is a sweetener for sailing in higher-end cabins. For instance, with Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society and NCL’s Latitudes Rewards, passengers earn double points if sailing in suites.
So instead of earning seven points for taking a cruise for a week, passengers in suites earn 14 points. That puts you on track for status levels at twice the normal pace.
And when it comes to suites, they do cost more than lower-tier cabins, however, the cost likely won’t be double a balcony cabin. So if you are interested in piling up points the fastest way possible, moving from a balcony to a suite puts you on a much faster track.
Keep an Eye on Double Point Offers
With some cruise line programs, you earn double points when booked in a suite. But that can be a much more expensive way to earn a higher status, although it does drastically reduce the time it takes.
As an alternative, keep an eye out for special cases where the cruise line offers more reward points for sailings. They are rare, but from time to time there will be special offers with double-point cruises. With these offers, you can earn double points for booking any cabin on the ship — including the least expensive interior cabins. Obviously, this is an affordable way to wrack up reward points and put yourself in a higher tier of the loyalty program.
To be sure, these specials are rare. We saw them from one line early in the return to cruising after the pandemic pause, but don’t see them come up regularly. However, if you see one of these offers, take advantage. It’s the fastest way to build up your status without spending a fortune.
Make Sure Past Cruises Are Entered in Your Account
After every cruise, your trip should be automatically entered into your account. You will be able to login and see a complete history of past cruises and the points earned.
But it doesn’t hurt to double check about a week after you take a cruise. While everything should be handled without you doing anything, there may be a cruise that doesn’t appear — for whatever reason.
In that case, it pays to check your account after the trip. If you look and see your cruise and points listed, then you’re good to go. However, if your cruise isn’t listed or the amount of points is different than what you expected, then you’ll want to contact the cruise line.
One important point — many programs have a 12-month window for when you can contact them to add past cruises to your account. After that, you run the risk of losing your earned points from the trip if they are missing. That’s why it’s smart to check shortly after your trip instead of waiting until later.
Sail in the Off-Season to Earn Points for Cheaper
One of the tricks to earning more points with cruise loyalty programs is knowing that you earn points and status based on nights sailed… not money spent.
That’s why if you want to earn points for less money, it makes sense to sail during the low season when prices are much cheaper. Say a 7-day cruise costs $1,200 during the peak summer season, but the same trip costs only $800 in October. In this case, you can have the same vacation, earn the same number of rewards points, but do it for $400 less.
Obviously not everyone has the flexibility to sail when prices are cheapest, but if you do, it can save you plenty of money as you increase the number of points in your loyalty account.
Older Ships Offer Points for Cheaper
Remember, the number of points earned all rests on the number of nights sailed, not the dollars spent. So get more points for your dollar by sailing older ships.
Newer ships offer a lot for passengers, but the price tag can be higher. Older ships can offer cheaper fares for itineraries that can be largely similar to new vessels. In other words, just like you can sail in the low season for cheaper and earn the same points, you can sail an older ship for less money and still earn the same points.
It doesn’t matter if you sail the newest ship in a cruise line’s fleet or the oldest ship. A night will earn you the same amount of points regardless. Being able to maximize the points you earn compared to the dollars spent means you can reach that new loyalty status — and the rewards offered — for less money.
- Carnival VIFP Club: How It Works, Benefits, and More
- Full Guide to Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society (Benefits, How it Works, and More)
- NCL Latitudes Rewards: How the Loyal Program Works, Benefits, and More