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Be loyal to one cruise line or try lots of different lines?


marybeshaw
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We are going on our first cruise in June, to Alaska on Princess. Princess seems nice, but we chose it because my parents are coming with us and they like Princess a lot.

 

First, we must determine if we like cruising. Then, we will decide what comes next.

 

Loyalty to one line pays off in perks, but how do we know we won’t enjoy other cruise lines better? On the one hand, I think we should do our next several cruises on different lines, so we can try them all out. On the other hand, if you know you like a particular cruise line, should you stick with it?

 

Our kids are in high school, and we think we might want to try Disney before they graduate. But past that, I am not sure. I am a total foodie, which may make my preferences different than my parents’.

 

How do you choose?

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We are loyal to five, some more than others! Itinerary, price, deals, perks - they all come into play. Each line has things you will really like, and some things you will shrug your shoulders and ask "Why?" Play the field until you find one that hits most of your priorities!

 

Princess does do Alaska well. If you are doing Tracy Arm, take the excursion in the fjord where you actually get off the large ship onto a smaller boat that takes you up close and personal. It is spectacular! Princess does food pretty well, too. [iMHO, Royal Caribbean does not do food as well!]

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Let me start by saying we have been cruising for forty years on over 100 cruises (far more then 1000 days on ships) on 14 cruise lines (the 15th is booked) and over 60 different ships (we have lost count). When you ask about "loyalty" we are already 5 Star Mariners with HAL, Elite with Princess, Elite Plus with Celebrity, Diamond with RCI, Black with MSC, etc. So we do have a good idea about the perks.

 

The shocker is that we are not "Loyal" to any cruise line, cruise agency, travel agency, etc. We simply follow the same philosophy we have had for forty years. We shop around (among cruise lines and cruise agencies) for the best deals. We also book some cruises because we love the itinerary (these cruises can be expensive). We now are retired and cruise 70-100 days a year and have 5 cruises under booking with 4 different cruise lines.

 

I tell you this not to boast, but to establish my bona fides....and say that we think "loyalty" is total bunk! I am not going to book an expensive cruise because the line gives me a few hundred internet minutes, a free stocked mini-bar, etc. And my ego does not need to be stroked by being invited to special parties (which we usually avoid), a silly tin Medallion (HAL has these), pins, etc.

 

So here is a fact. The cruise industry, cruise lines, ships, perks, etc. are dynamic (they are always changing). We used to be big fans of RCI (our daughter was Diamond before age 17)....but now avoid that line like the plague (we think they should rename one of their ships the "Plague of the Seas."). At one time we liked Princess, stopped cruising with them because of cut-backs and changes, and are now back cruising them because we think they learned the error of their ways, We have been big fans of Celebrity for the past decade, but our upcoming 21 day Celebrity cruise may be our last (with that line) unless they quickly reverse their negative plunge into the abyss.

 

My advice to the OP is to not overthink the issue of loyalty. Book each cruise (one at a time) because it meets your needs and wants...and then reexamine your needs and wants before booking the next cruise (or another travel option). Not only do the cruise lines change...bus so does the customer.

 

Hank

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I think the answer depends.

 

Eventually I believe in trying more then one cruise line but how quickly you do that depends on how much you enjoy the first cruise line and whether or not you find itineraries that you enjoy offered by them.

 

For us after our first cruise on a cruise line that at the time only offered short cruises with a package that included Disney on land as well (The Red Boat) we sailed Celebrity. We enjoyed it so much that we sailed it for several years in a row. Then we wanted to go to the Mediterranean and this was the late 1980's and Celebrity didn't sail it so we found another line that did and in that case was Princess. We sailed it a couple of other times but also wanted a couple of other itineraries and there were other lines that sailed those so we tried them.

 

So we let the itinerary be the driver. Fast forward to 2002. After sailing many cruise lines in the mass market and premium areas we wanted to try a luxury line and we picked Crystal Cruises. We loved it so much we took other cruises with them but also tried another Luxury Line. Overtime Crystal did become our go to line. However, there have been times that we sailed other lines because they offered the itinerary that we wanted in the time frames we wanted. This included sailing a third luxury line a couple of times, a sailing back on Celebrity and sailing the Queen Mary 2 to return from a trip by sea (took the crossing from Southampton to Brooklyn, NYC) to avoid the flight back to the USA.

 

I do believe that even when you love a cruise line that when the opportunity is there to try another line go for it. In the end you might discover there is more then one line that you like, that you like other lines better then the first one you tried or the first cruise line is the best for you.

 

Keith

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How do you choose?

 

I started off loyal to NCL, but they became a bottom of the barrel line when they went to the Freestyle concept. I then changed loyalty to RCI. I still think RCI is best at sea at a lot of things, but I got tired of the sameness.

 

I am no longer loyal to any 1 line, and I have found it makes cruising so much better. To me, fresh, new experiences are a lot better than loyalty perks on the same ships. Each line has its strengths and weaknesses, and even those change over time.

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Try several cruise lines.

The differences are what we enjoy . Perks will come .

After 75+ cruises , we still bounce between the Mass Market cruise lines usually based on itinerary and price.

We find repeating a cruise line too often , onboard experience becomes same/same.

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Having only taken our first cruise earlier this year, we're taking a slightly different tack. Right now, the plan is to try several lines and see if there are any we can definitely eliminate, instead of trying to find a single line to stick with forevermore. If our search results in one line being our go-to line, so be it. But I expect in the future we'll be driven by itinerary and price. Regardless, trying out the different lines seems like a wonderful endeavor. I suspect just about any day at sea will beat any day in the office!

 

We have many friends who are experienced cruisers and most claim that their preferred line is far and away better than the all the others. This just tells me that people are different, as are their expectations. Spend 10 minutes looking at cruise reviews here and you'll see people give a cruise five stars and say it was the best experience of their lives, then one entry down, a reviewer will give the exact same cruise one star and swear they will never set foot on another (insert dastardly cruise line here) ship because of what they experienced. I figure what rings my bell about a particular cruise line probably won't be the same as what does it for somebody else.

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Just a comment about Floridan's post. When friends tell you about their preferred line and that its better then others....the question to ask is what other lines have cruised, and when. The answer is often eye opening. We meet folks on our cruises who will bad mouth the competition,, but then admit that they have never even been on that lousy line. You will often hear this with so-called "Carnival bashers" who have never tried the line. Or a HAL fan will tell us how they hate Princess and then tell us they haven't been on another line (including Princess) in over twenty years :). I have done a lot of posts about cruise line comparisons and try to limit my own comparisons to lines we have cruised in the previous two years....and even that might be too long a period to rate a line. Things are changing fast (especially at Celebrity). Perhaps one reason that HAL seems to keep their loyal supporters forever is that HAL has always been slow to change (although the changes have accelerated in the past 5 years). Consider that my first RCI cruise was on the Sun Viking (in the 70s) and that ship was about 18,000 gross tons...or less then 10% of the size of some of their current ships. In those days the waiters wore white gloves and served all the sides from silver platters/bowls and gave you as much or as little as you wanted.

 

What can be fun and frustrating (at the same time) is that cruise lines keep changing and when you find something you really like...its possible it will quickly morph into your worst nightmare.

 

Hank

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"Loyalty" makes little sense unless you have no concern about the itinerary, the dates, the experience, the departure port, the cost - and only want to accrue "benefits", or are afraid to try anything new.

 

On cost alone - the real value of perks does not translate into a significant fare differential. On experience - how can you possibly know what your "favorite" line is if you only sail one. On itinerary and dates - why limit yourself to one line's offerings -when others might actually be more convenient or better match your mood.

 

Preference for a particular line's style or service makes sense, but not to the exclusion of other experiences. Even my strong antipathy for the way NCL does things will not make me avoid them 100% - for the right, itinerary, date and price I will even consider them.

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When friends tell you about their preferred line and that its better then others....the question to ask is what other lines have cruised, and when. The answer is often eye opening. ...

Hank

 

Good points, all. But you're right -- the times I've delved into our friends' preferences have been telling. Like the one friend who swears by one cruise line because they have better food beyond all the others she's tried. Come to find out she and her husband almost always eat off the buffet and rarely, if ever, set foot in the MDR. I mean I like a buffet as much as the next guy, but for me, I don't think I'd end up basing my overall preference on the buffet alone. I realize that's just my preference, though. What I do know is that after the experience on our first cruise, we're anxious to take another!

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Let me start by saying we have been cruising for forty years on over 100 cruises (far more then 1000 days on ships) on 14 cruise lines (the 15th is booked) and over 60 different ships (we have lost count). When you ask about "loyalty" we are already 5 Star Mariners with HAL, Elite with Princess, Elite Plus with Celebrity, Diamond with RCI, Black with MSC, etc. So we do have a good idea about the perks.

 

The shocker is that we are not "Loyal" to any cruise line, cruise agency, travel agency, etc. We simply follow the same philosophy we have had for forty years. We shop around (among cruise lines and cruise agencies) for the best deals. We also book some cruises because we love the itinerary (these cruises can be expensive). We now are retired and cruise 70-100 days a year and have 5 cruises under booking with 4 different cruise lines.

 

I tell you this not to boast, but to establish my bona fides....and say that we think "loyalty" is total bunk! I am not going to book an expensive cruise because the line gives me a few hundred internet minutes, a free stocked mini-bar, etc. And my ego does not need to be stroked by being invited to special parties (which we usually avoid), a silly tin Medallion (HAL has these), pins, etc.

 

So here is a fact. The cruise industry, cruise lines, ships, perks, etc. are dynamic (they are always changing). We used to be big fans of RCI (our daughter was Diamond before age 17)....but now avoid that line like the plague (we think they should rename one of their ships the "Plague of the Seas."). At one time we liked Princess, stopped cruising with them because of cut-backs and changes, and are now back cruising them because we think they learned the error of their ways, We have been big fans of Celebrity for the past decade, but our upcoming 21 day Celebrity cruise may be our last (with that line) unless they quickly reverse their negative plunge into the abyss.

 

My advice to the OP is to not overthink the issue of loyalty. Book each cruise (one at a time) because it meets your needs and wants...and then reexamine your needs and wants before booking the next cruise (or another travel option). Not only do the cruise lines change...bus so does the customer.

 

Hank

 

:) Well said. I always enjoy your posts.

 

We just cruised with Celebrity after 8 years, and it was not the Celebrity it used to be.

Edited by janetz
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By trying various lines, and ships of the same line, you begin to see which ones suit you the best. There are some ships we'll only travel on again for certain itineraries, and a couple of ships we'll go on whatever the itinerary.

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:) Well said. I always enjoy your posts.

 

We just cruised with Celebrity after 8 years, and it was not the Celebrity it used to be.

 

After 8 years we would assume you were shocked at the changes. Most of what has happened (negatively) has been in the last three years. The new CEO, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo has made it clear she is taking the line in a different direction. I think she is trying to make it more like RCI, where maximizing revenue is everything....and service/quality come second. Some suspect this is no accident and she would be happy to drive away many long term Celebrity cruisers (who are older and do not spend as much onboard) and replace them with younger folks moving over from RCI. We shall see.

 

Hank

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After sailing many cruise lines in the mass market and premium areas we wanted to try a luxury line and we picked Crystal Cruises. We loved it so much we took other cruises with them but also tried another Luxury Line. Overtime Crystal did become our go to line. However, there have been times that we sailed other lines because they offered the itinerary that we wanted in the time frames we wanted. This included sailing a third luxury line a couple of times, a sailing back on Celebrity and sailing the Queen Mary 2 to return from a trip by sea (took the crossing from Southampton to Brooklyn, NYC) to avoid the flight back to the USA.

 

Interesting. After sailing with some luxury lines you went to Celebrity? Crystal seems like such a nice line, and the other luxury lines seem awesome too. I had heard that once you go luxury it is hard to “go back” to mainstream lines. It makes me want to try Disney and Celebrity before going near a luxury line, even though the luxury lines look so nice. We can go on luxury cruises once our kids leave the house, and cut the number of travelers in half :)

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No cruise line will be loyal to you, so why be loyal to any of them?

The only reason is if you think the “Loyalty Benefits” are worth it.

 

Personally I don’t put much value on them at all.

 

Laundry on a longer cruise can be nice (though Mrs G doesn’t like the harsh treatment, nor does my delicate skin). Some priority boarding, but really I have never waited long without it. Mini bar (normally have some type of drinks package), you might get a little bit of OBC (but generally not much).

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The only reason is if you think the “Loyalty Benefits” are worth it.

 

Personally I don’t put much value on them at all.

 

Laundry on a longer cruise can be nice (though Mrs G doesn’t like the harsh treatment, nor does my delicate skin). Some priority boarding, but really I have never waited long without it. Mini bar (normally have some type of drinks package), you might get a little bit of OBC (but generally not much).

 

Good point. It is hard to understand the weight people put on the "Loyalty Benefits". Sure, they might be worth as much as a couple of hundred dollars (on a long cruise) - but by just shopping around a bit, greater savings can usually be found by trying different lines.

 

The perks are the least logically significant reason for sticking with one line over others.

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DH has cruised several times on several different lines and last Christmas, we chose a cruise line he's never been on before based on cost, itinerary and departing port, and enjoyed it immensely! When booking this coming cruise, we definitely looked at that cruise line again, but their cruises just didn't fit within our wish list for this year, so we chose another cruise line. What we DID discover, is that we liked the size of the ship. We were on a smaller ship last year and loved it, so the size of the ship helped us narrow down our choices when looking around.

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I know a person who was 100% loyal (he was a million mile pax) to one of the major airlines based in the USA until they became more interested in the bottom line. Now he could care less about that airline. Perks will come and go. We base our cruises on our vacation schedule and where we want to go. After all, variety is the spice of life!

Edited by rmf11699
typo
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