Cruise Line Pay for Perks Programs

It used to be that you could earn some VIP perks on cruises by booking a suite or by being very loyal to a particular cruise line.  Now, some cruise lines have come up with a new purchase option for guests that might want a little more of a VIP feeling when cruising but are not in a suite or have many past cruises.
Here is the list of cruise lines currently offering an option to pay for some type of extra perks.  I have put them in alphabetical order but it is good to point out that this list includes all 3 of the Mass Market Cruise lines and just 1 Premium Cruise line.  The Mass Market ships are going always be the biggest ships sailing with sometimes almost 6,000 guests so on those paying to avoid lines sort of makes sense.   Holland American is a Premium so their ships are smaller and offer a bit more upscale cruise so you will see the perks they offer in their program are a bit different.

Carnival – Faster to the Fun
What it includes – 
1. Priority Security, Check in, and Boarding.  You get to board the ship after Diamond and Platinum guests and those traveling in Deluxe Suites.  You do not get access to the Captains Lounge which is only for the Diamond, Platinum and Deluxe Suite guests.
2. First Access to your Stateroom.   Your room is ready to enjoy as soon as  you board.
3. Priority Luggage.   Your bags will be one of the first that get delivered.
4. Priority Guest Service. Your own line or phone extension to talk guest services onboard.
5. Priority Dining Reservations.   You get priority assignment for the Main Dining room and specialty restaurant reservations.  Platinum and Diamond get cleared first and does not apply to Your Time Dining.
6. Tender Priority.  When at a port with a tender to get onshore you will get priority times which can get you ashore faster.
7. Debarkation Choice.  At the end of the cruise you can choose either early or late debarkation.

What Does It Cost*
1. The price is per room and not per person so just one guest in the room has to purchase and everyone gets it.
2. It must be purchased prior to the cruise. It is limited to a certain number of guests so best to buy as soon as possible.
3. Prices vary based on cruise length and sometimes the ship.   Starting at $39.95 on a 2 day cruise up to $119.95 on an 8 day or longer cruise.
4. Not available on Carnival Journeys, Europe Cruises, or cruises out of certain ports.

Holland America – Club Orange
What it includes
1. Complimentary Stateroom Upgrade.  Upgraded to the best available stateroom within your category at time of purchase.   That means if you have an inside room your upgrade will still be an inside room but a better room.
2. Exclusive Dining Options and Premium in-room Breakfast.  Priority access to specialty restaurant reservations and a premium menu for in room breakfast.  The 2 newest ships have a private dining venue other ships get priority seating with expanded menu.
3. Priority Access.  Priority check in and debarkation.   Also have a priority line for guests services and shore excursions desk.
4. Tender Priority.  When in port with tenders you get priority access times that will get you ashore first.
5. Dedicated Concierge Hotline
6. Upgraded Amenities.   Get a welcome glass of sparkling wine at dinner the first night, premium bathrobes, exclusive Club Orange tote bag and Club Orange key card.
7. Special Event -Invitation to a special onboard event chosen by the ship’s captain. These exclusive experiences may include a behind-the-scenes tour of the ship; a private spa and beauty consultation; or a coffee chat with onboard musicians, performers or cooking show hosts.

What Does It Cost*
1. Club Orange cost applies to 1st and 2nd guests in a room but if there are 3rd or 4th guests they receive it at no extra cost.  The price listed is per person for the 1st and 2nd guests and both must purchase.
2. It is available for a limited number of non-suite guests on each sailing.  Guests in Neptune or Pinnacle Suites get all the benefits (except the room upgrade) of Club Orange at not extra cost.
3. Must be purchased prior to the cruise start.
4. Price is $35 per person, per day on the 2 newest ships Nieuw Statendam and Koningsdam.   All other ships are $25 per person, per day.

NCL – Priority Access
What It Includes
1. Priority Security, Check in, and Boarding
2. Tender Priority Access.
3. Priority Debarkation
4. Daily Complimentary Standard Room Service Breakfast
5. $50 Spa Discount (per person on port days only)
6. Complimentary Canapes (second day of cruise)

What Does it Cost*
1. The cost is per room
2. Guests staying in the Haven and Owners Suites along with Latitude Guests that are Platinum, Platinum Plus, or Ambassador levels cannot purchase but that is because they already get all of these benefits.
3. Only a limited number of Priority Access is available so best to book as early as possible
4. Prices vary by length of cruise

  • 3 to 5 Days – $99 per cabin
  • 6 to 9 Days – $179 per cabin
  • 10 to 15 Days – $249 per cabin
  • 16+ Days – $299 per cabin

Royal Caribbean – The Key
What it Includes
1. Priority Check in and Boarding
2. Exclusive Welcome Lunch in Main Dining room with menu from Chops Grille
3. Carry on Bag Drop off in Main Dining Room.  This means you can bring your carry on when you board and drop it off in the welcome lunch and it will be delivered to your stateroom for you instead of having to carry it around until rooms are  open to guests.
4.Private Hours at Onboard Activities like Rock Climbing and Flow Rider and more
5. Priority Departure at Port from ship to shore
6. Seats in the Exclusive VIP seating section for shows in the Main Theater, Aqua Theater, Studio B, and Two70
7. VOOM Surf and Steam 1 Device High Speed Internet – 1 package per paying guest
8. Exclusive Debarkation Day Ala Carte Breakfast and choice of departure time

What Does it Cost*
1. Must be Purchased Prior to your cruise
2. Price is per person and everyone over age 6 in the room must get it even if just one person wants it.
3. The number sold is limited.
4. Cost is $25 per person per night and must be purchased for all nights of the cruise

*prices and inclusions always subject to change at anytime

I have mixed feelings about these pay for perks options.  As a travel agent I want my client to have the best experience and if avoiding lines or getting some other perks that they are willing to pay for does that for them then I am glad to be able to offer that option.   However as a guest on certain cruise lines that I might have earned some of the perks the hard way I am not so sure I am happy about people being able to jump right to them just by paying more.  If I paid the big bucks for a suite on a cruise which entitles me to a lot of perks I would not like it that someone else can buy their way into those perks.  It doesn’t have quite the exclusive benefit feel when you open up to others to purchase.   I am also worried that this will start a new trend of cruise lines adding more to their nickle and dime list that I really do not like.  Personally I always liked the feeling of a cruise being mostly all inclusive but over the years it has changed a lot and now there are a many extras you might have to budget for on top of your cruise fare.  There are still some cruise lines that do offer a more inclusive up front fare however that makes them look a lot more expensive at first glance so my advice on this is to really look at what you are getting for that low up front price.  For example, instead of paying to avoid lines you could just choose a smaller cruise ship where there won’t be any lines for anyone.

What are your feelings on these pay for perks options?