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Although loyalty programs for guests are pretty much universal at sea, river cruise lines have taken varied approaches to courting past guests, from no formal program to a complex system of rewards. This is important for travel agents to know, since the discounts and recognition can be deal closers for additional cruises.
River cruise lines are also creative in their offerings, which might include pet-sitting while you are cruising; bringing friends and family onboard to have lunch with you in port; and, in one case, telling the cruise line your dream — they will try to make it work.
When an agent takes the trouble to explain what the guests can receive and even walks them through the sometimes-daunting registration process, the agent is demonstrating his or her value as well. Also, as some river cruise lines also have seagoing cruise or land-tour products, the rewards may be applicable from one kind of travel to another, opening a very good chance for cross-selling.
AmaWaterwaysAmaWaterways passengers enter the blue loyalty level on their second AmaWaterways cruise, with a $100 discount per person on the cruise price and a special guest reception. The third cruise adds more: a welcome amenity, complimentary transfers and a $100 discount on a one-category upgrade (not including suites, except in Africa and Myanmar). By the fourth cruise and beyond, the one-category upgrade becomes complimentary. AmaWaterways’ reservations team searches to see if a guest has already traveled with them, and will automatically apply the benefits accordingly.
American Cruise LinesMembers of American Cruise Lines’ loyalty group, the Eagle Society, receive complimentary standard shore excursions after three cruises, special gifts and a complimentary cruise after sailing with them 10 times. Group members get invitations to Eagle Society cruises and special savings and promotions. If guests book their next cruise while onboard a current one, they get a 15 percent discount, and port charges and fees are waived on the new cruise. The agent can be credited with the second cruise if it is booked onboard, but will need to contact the sales department to take over the booking (within a week, if possible). Registration is required.
American Queen Steamboat CompanyAmerican Queen’s loyalty program has some unusual features. Passengers register for the Steamboat Society of America, with a Classic membership, earned after completion of the first cruise. This is followed by Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald and Diamond levels that bring additional benefits awarded when a member reaches the designated number of nights.
After membership activation, Classic members receive the Paddlewheeler quarterly newsletter; advance information on new itineraries; exclusive invitations and promotions; a designation pin mailed after activation and upon reaching each level; and a cocktail party onboard. What is unusual is that members can invite friends and family onboard for breakfast or lunch and a tour when they are in port (not at embarkation or disembarkation). This should be requested ahead of time, and the same privilege is extended to members of the loyalty program themselves when a ship is in or near a port of call near them.
Avalon Waterways Avalon, along with sister brands Globus, Cosmos and Monograms, offers travelers the Journeys Club loyalty program. Anyone who has traveled with the Globus Family of Brands within the preceding five years is eligible to join. Once the enrollment process is complete and a membership number has been assigned, the member receives repeat traveler discounts, last-minute deal alerts on river cruises, a fruit platter in the stateroom upon arrival, a complimentary drink onboard, privileged access to travel information in advance of the public, exclusive promotions and a commemorative member pin. Guests need to provide their Journeys Club number at the time of booking and have it with them on the cruise. Clients can enroll onboard or online.
CroisiEuropeCroisiEurope has an unusual system of guest rewards. In lieu of a formal loyalty program, the line incentivizes couples celebrating wedding anniversaries (decade milestones only) on some cruises. (However, this does not apply to Africa, Russia, Vietnam or seagoing CroisiMer trips.) For example, a couple celebrating their 30th anniversary can take a cruise with CroisiEurope that year, and one spouse will get 30 percent off the cruise fare.
Crystal River CruisesCrystal’s river passengers are enrolled in the same program that rewards the line’s seagoing ships: the Crystal Society. The line offers exclusive discounts, hosted cocktail parties, previews of itineraries and fares, a subscription to Passport Magazine, a first free cruise at milestone 25 and upgrades at various milestones, a 25 percent discount on luggage concierge service and more.
Emerald WaterwaysEmerald Waterways automatically awards membership into their Emerald Explorer loyalty club, entitling guests to savings on future cruises, advanced notice of new itineraries and much more. The higher the category, the more points they receive per day. All tiers receive members-only savings and invitations to events, advanced notice of brochure launches, Emerald Explorer magazine and a $100 per booking discount for a referring passenger and the friend they refer. There’s also a rising scale of welcome home vouchers from $200-300 and, starting next year, complimentary luggage gifts including a backpack and a satchel.
Scenic Scenic automatically enrolls guests unless they opt out. Like its sister company, Emerald Waterways, it awards points for the number of days cruised and the category level purchased. Base points start at 140 per day for a European river; 100 per day for Southeast Asia and 150 per day for the company’s seagoing cruises. A typical eight-day sailing on the Danube River at mid-deck would earn 1,120 points.
After the first trip, the member receives a $200 voucher on the next trip, now good for two years. If two or more cabins are booked on the same reservation, the member receives a $400 voucher. The member also receives a $100 share-with-a-friend voucher; if it is used, the member receives a $200 referral credit.
Scenic also has a dedicated help desk, member-only offers and more. After reaching 5,000 points, the Platinum level adds limo transfers or a free night’s hotel accommodation, a complimentary hotel stay for trips of 20 days or more and a wheel-on overnight bag. At the Diamond level (25,000 points), members receive more, including a full-size suitcase or a $100 Visa card, extended distance for limo transfers and exclusive loyalty privileges on Scenic Eclipse.
UnCruise Adventures UnCruise has a loyalty program for guests called Endless Discoveries, with price discounts. The cruise line also offers Beyond the Buoy benefits that are highly personalized: When guests book their fourth cruise, they can choose loyalty savings of $500 per person or two benefits from a list that includes up to two-night pre- or post-cruise hotels stay, private transfers on departure and return between home and the airport, $400 savings per person for a pre- or post-cruise land extension and more.
By the fifth or sixth cruise, clients can choose loyalty savings of $700 per person or two Beyond the Buoy benefits that include the aforementioned perks as well as possibilities such as having luggage shipped to and from the cruise or boarding or sitting services for the client’s pet during the cruise (maximum $500). The sixth and seventh cruise allow clients to choose more Beyond the Buoy options, and by the eighth cruise, UnCruise says: “Tell us what you want — we’ll work to make your wish a reality.” For more information, contact Naomi at [email protected] or 888-862-8881, ext. 1103.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection Uniworld automatically enrolls guests in its River Heritage Club loyalty program after their first cruise. They receive exclusive savings on all cruises, based on the cruise or cruise/tour-only price and including upgrades or senior supplements. These perks are combinable with all promotions and come with a welcome gift, a complimentary in-room fruit platter, complimentary laundry service, priority notification of new cruises and programs, a members-only cocktail party onboard and Riverviews e-magazine. The benefits may not apply to cruises in China, Vietnam and Cambodia, India and Egypt.
Viking Cruises Viking automatically enrolls its guests in the Viking Explorer Society once they travel with the company. Guests receive a credit on the next trip, whether it is a river or ocean cruise, according to the amount of time that elapses between bookings. If passengers reserve within one year, they are given a $200 per passenger credit. If reserved within two years, they will receive $100. This offer may or may not be combinable with specific promotions. Members receive an exclusive cocktail party onboard and are informed first about new itineraries or ships so they have first choice on departures. They also receive news about special limited-time offers by email and/or regular mail, according to their preferences.