Celebrity Cruises Captains Club Loyalty Program: Pros and Cons

Just like hotels and airlines, Cruise lines also have their own loyalty programs and today i would like to take a look at Celebrity Cruises Captains Club and its range of advantages as well as disadvantages.

The great thing about cruiser loyalty is that you don’t have to requalify every year, as points and tier are accumulated throughout life on most programs.

Until three years ago, I knew nothing about cruises. I received them frequently at the MGM casinos in Las Vegas, but never bothered to take them until I was offered a cruise to Alaska for the first time rather than going to the Caribbean, which never really interested me.

Since then, I’ve been on six cruises and have truly become a fan, something I didn’t initially imagine (at least not for the next 20 years).

Since the first cruise with Celebrity Cruises I have chosen for every sailing since I have accumulated loyalty points as part of the Captain’s Club although they have all been free with only port tax paid.

You can access the Celebrity Captain’s Club here.

After my few cruises, I have now reached 233 tier points with the program:

What do these points and the corresponding levels mean? Well, there are a total of six steps:

  • 0-2 Points Overview
  • 2- 149 Points Classic
  • 150-299 dots To select
  • 300 – 749 Points Elite
  • 750-2999 Points Elite Plus
  • 3000+ points Zenith

The number of points you earn depends on your cabin type and whether you are traveling in double or single occupancy. Solo travelers earn double points but with cruises, you usually also pay double the price of a one-way ticket, so there you have it. It’s quite easy to quickly raise your status profile when traveling solo, especially in the higher cabins such as Concierge and Aquatic class plus of course the expensive suites.

When you start enrolling in the program, you are a Overview member with virtually no tangible benefits. As soon as you have accumulated your first two points, you will move on to Classic which at least comes with discounts on drinks packages and the pricey internet on board.

Previously, you had to have at least one cruise before upgrading to Classic, but as the Celebrity Captains Club runs the Power Up campaign where you can earn points for online activities such as attending webinars, you may be able to become a Classic member before you even set foot on your first cruise.

Here is a table outlining all the benefits of the program:

As I mentioned, the classic tier isn’t great, but you might be able to save at least a little on drinks and wifi packages.

The two most interesting levels (in my opinion) that a yachtsman can achieve in a moderate period are To select and Elite:

Both of these levels come with a pretty steep discount on wifi, laundry benefits, drink discounts, and a status match in the Royal Caribbean (celebrity’s parent company) Crown & Anchor Society where you can enjoy similar benefits so you can get two for the price of one.

While Select at 150-249 points is decent, the real fun starts with Elite which is achievable from 300 to 749 points.

In my opinion, the most important advantages for Elite here are:

  • Complimentary daily elite cocktail including alcoholic beverages
  • A free laundry bag
  • Free dry cleaning (one item)
  • 30% internet discount or upgrade (a week of premium wifi usually costs $240, so it’s worth $$)
  • 10% discount on drinks/upgrade package
  • Status Match with Royal Caribbean Crown & Anchor Society Diamond Level

The daily elite cocktail hour is great for guests who like a drink but only book a soft drink package for the rest of the day.

Like me, I only book what is called the Premium non-alcoholic package which includes all coffee items, mocktails and sparkling waters. It’s a lot cheaper this way, because unless you want to be totally hammered, it’s nearly impossible to make expensive booze packages worth their money. Better to buy individual drinks.

Some customers might find the private boarding lounge and priority tender service appealing. For me it does not change much, but it depends on personal taste.

The remaining two levels are the most upscale Elite Plus and Zenith stage.

I have a big problem with Elite Plus because it sits at 750-2999 points and basically offers nothing more than what Elite already offers you. An extra laundry bag and other little things – wow! Imagine taking that long to reach Elite Plus with 750 points and not getting anything more until you hit 3000. Most passengers probably die long before that’s even possible.

Celebrity Royalty who manages to accumulate more than 3000 points will reach the ZENITH level.

This represents 375 nights in a Sky Suite, 600 nights in Aqua Class or Concierge Class, 1,000 nights in a Veranda cabin and 1,500 nights in an Inside cabin. If you are traveling alone, you can cut these numbers in half. Once you get Zenith, it really saves you a lot of money from there.

There are a few people who actually live on cruise ships permanently. For years. they easily reached these levels simply by staying on board and having the means. As a solo traveler you can go to Zenith after 1.5 years if you have a balcony cabin. Let’s go! 🙂

One good thing: there’s no time limit or reset to racking up this so you can take your time. It doesn’t matter if you reach the desired level in 2, 5, 10 or 20 years, as long as the cruise line and the program are still there, which is not a given. Watch what happened to Crystal Cruises this month, which went from a billion dollar company to bankruptcy in a matter of weeks.

Cruise Line loyalty programs generally do not match status. MSC does (or did) but they are pretty much unique. There are sometimes reciprocal benefits between cruise lines that have the same primary owner such as the automatic pairing between Celebrity and Royal Caribbean.

Casino customers also enjoy special privileges and status benefits. As I mentioned above, I came to cruise through the free cruises offered to me as an MGM Rewards NOIR member. If you keep playing the onboard casino and use your wisdom, you can get continuous free cruises. I have a personal threshold that I’m willing to (worst case scenario) lose around $1300 for a week’s free cruise. That’s about what I would pay for a hotel anyway.

Conclusion

Participating in the Celebrity Cruises Captains Club program can be worthwhile if you’re trying to maximize point earnings by comparing prices and sometimes booking premium staterooms rather than the basic verandah. I am almost Elite and will have reached this level after my next cruise in May. This is after five solo cruises and two couple cruises in 3 years. Fairly good race to get to Elite but I really tried to max out and of course the cruises were basically free. I believe the sweet spot of the Captains Club program is the Elite level – do you agree?

If your own money is at stake, the same principle as with all other loyalty programs applies: examine exactly the benefits of the levels to see if they make sense for you and if they present a financial advantage. If it’s just fluffy then… forget it.

I’ll be looking at other cruise loyalty programs in the coming months, but these take a while to get familiar with and I’d rather use a product before writing about it. Let’s see how it goes.