ABOARD THE REGAL PRINCESS – Now I know why Robert and Sharon Amoruso always seem to look so happy. They have cruised an amazing 1,336 days with Princess Cruises.
That is more than three and a half years of being pampered on a Princess ship.
“We did that over a span of 11 years,” Robert hastens to say. “Our first Princess cruise was in September of 2005. We have been returning ever since.”
What keeps bringing them back? “The ships and the friendly crew,” Robert says.
“The delicious food,” adds his wife. “We enjoy the entertainment, too.”
The Palm City, Florida, couple emphasize that the appreciation which Princess Cruises shows repeat cruisers and the perks that the cruise line offers loyal guests are major reasons to return.
“Those cruise credits that you get never expire,” Robert says. “We have tried other cruise lines but we always come back to Princess.”
I’m beginning to see a pattern here.
At dinner my first night on the Regal Princess, I was seated with three other couples at a “shared” table. As a solo cruiser, I have my choice of requesting a smaller table all to myself or dining with other couples at a larger table. I’ll probably do a bit of both on this cruise but I opted the first night to meet other passengers.
The six other people at my table were all repeat cruisers. In fact, all three couples are taking back-to-back cruises on the Regal Princess. Ken and Nance from Somerset, Massachusetts, had just finished a week on the Regal Princess and are now beginning the second leg of their two-week cruise. The Kansas couple and the New York couple at my table are both doing the first part of their two-weekers.
Only makes sense, all three couples say, because flying is such an expensive hassle that a cruiser might as well look for discounts and book two back-to-back cruises. Then my dining companions began discussing those wonderful perks and I noticed the Princess cruise cards they carried were a different color than mine. Time to learn more about this loyalty program.
Early the next morning, I headed to the desk of Liudmyla Khorolets, hostess of Princess Cruises Captain’s Circle, the loyalty program for repeat guests. In fact, Liudmyla told me, I am now a member myself. She handed me an official-looking Captain’s Circle Passport, wrote my name and membership number in it and added a colorful little Caribbean beach scene stamp with the signature of ship captain Edward Perrin and the Regal Princess name as the ship.
From now on, each time I embark with Princess Cruises, I will get my passport stamped noting the cruise destination, the ship and the captain. Plus, I will no longer be a “blue” card-holding member. Next time, I will move up to a gold card.
Then comes a ruby card, platinum card and – the most valuable of all – a dark colored elite card. Each card offers benefits which, of course, become more valuable as the colors change. Loyalty members also get a pin in the same color as their cruise card. The Elite card goes to passengers who been on 15 Princess cruises or cruised for a total of 150 days. So the Amorusos have been elite many times over.
On my Princess cruise, Liudmyla said that of the 3,575 passengers aboard the ship, 2,387 of them are repeat cruisers. That certainly is a vote of confidence to have so many passengers coming back. The majority of passengers are American followed by Canadian, then British with several other nationalities aboard.
“Last year, we had a 51-year-old man from Scotland who had cruised with us for 2,300 days,” Liudmyla says. “That is the most I have heard of. We did have a woman who was living on board a ship for half a year.”
Sounds like a good deal to me.
What membership benefits do repeat cruisers like the most? “The biggest benefit is complimentary laundry service. You put your laundry in a bag and it is washed and pressed and returned the next day,” Luidmyla says. “That is the favorite of most people.”
Next most popular perks, she added, are complimentary WiFi and a mini-bar set up with free liquor and soft drinks in the cruiser’s stateroom. If I were choosing, I would take complimentary WiFi. One of the special prices for WiFi on my cruise cost $8.99 for 15 minutes. And the internet is notoriously slow aboard a ship.
Other membership benefits include preferred check-in at embarkation, special disembarkation lounge, boutique discounts, vacation protection, complimentary wine tasting, upgraded stateroom amenities, onboard credit, members-only cruise pricing and special onboard events, such as a members’ cocktail party.
“We appreciate our loyal cruisers and the Captain’s Circle is how we recognize and reward their loyalty,” Liudmyla says.
My first-night dining companions Ken and Nance said they have already booked a cruise for the New Year and are looking at other Princess Cruises destinations in 2017. “I don’t think you can beat their loyalty program,” Ken says. “When you have this many repeat passengers on our cruise you know Princess must be doing something right.”
Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch