Norwegian Cruise Line and Avis Budget sign marketing deal

Norwegian Cruise Line and Avis Budget sign marketing deal

By Tom Stieghorst
Avis Budget Group and Norwegian Cruise Line said they’ve signed a multiyear marketing agreement that will make Avis Budget part of pre-cruise tour packages for Norwegian Getaway, the line’s newest ship.

The packages will be available to guests and travel agents through Norwegian’s call center.

Information about the Avis and Budget car rental brands will be featured in Norwegian’s electronic marketing channels, while Norwegian Cruise Line will be featured in communications to Avis and Budget customers.

Norwegian Getaway is scheduled to begin cruises from Miami in February.

Celebrity Cruises revamps loyalty program

Celebrity Cruises revamps loyalty program

By Tom Stieghorst
Celebrity Cruises has overhauled its Captain’s Club loyalty program, making it easier to earn additional perks and adding two elite levels to give top-tier members more to aspire to.

Celebrity is sending notifications to members of the club, which the cruise line says has about 2 million active participants. 

David Brown, Celebrity’s marketing vice president in charge of the program, said guests had been asking for more in the program, which until now has had just four benefit levels.

“We wanted to recognize those guests who sailed frequently with us and kept sailing with us,” Brown said.

The previous structure was based on the number of sailings a member accumulates. So, for example, it took 10 credits to reach Elite status. Credits could be earned by taking a cruise, staying in a concierge-level suite or taking a sailing of 12 nights or more.

Going forward, the system will change to one based on cabin category, multiplied by cruise nights. So an interior cabin will earn two points, while a penthouse suite is worth 18 points.

The difference on a seven-night cruise would be 14 points vs. 126 points. 

“So you can see there’s a dramatic difference based on the type of room,” Brown said.

At the same time, Celebrity is adding two more tiers, Elite Plus and Zenith, which will require more points and provide more perks. Some existing Elite members will automatically be enrolled in Elite Plus.

“We’re going to have a lot of people excited because they’re in that new level,” Brown said. 

Very few members will graduate initially to Zenith, however.

“It’s not going to be easy to get to that level,” he said. “The point structures are clear. If you sail in a suite-level category for a certain amount of time, it is achievable.”

Elite status will require 300 points, Elite Plus 750 points, and Zenith will start at 3,000 points. Perks at the Zenith level include laundry service and 1,600 Internet minutes.

Celebrity studied changes in other loyalty programs before redesigning Captain’s Club. An important point, Brown said, is that no one will go backward in status as the points system changes.

There will also be no fees in the program, and points will never expire. Elite members will have lapel pins and leather luggage tags delivered to their homes starting this week.

Brown said the new system is more finely calibrated so that it’s easier to see how to get to the next level, and easier to change status by staying in a higher-level accommodation.

“It’s a really easy structure for somebody to say, if I book a little higher category of room, I’m going to increase the points for the sailing,” Brown said. 

Status level in Captain’s Club will be indicated by Sea Pass card color, with Zenith members getting black cards; Elite Plus members’ cards will be burgundy. 

Celebrity tested a new lounge on Infinity separate from the Captain’s Club lounge for Zenith members and high-level cabin occupants. Brown said it would begin opening the lounges on other ships next year. 

Technology and the shipboard library

Technology and the shipboard library

By Tom Stieghorst


The ship’s library has always been a small but special part of the cruise experience. But for how much longer?

The library at sea, like libraries everywhere, is under siege by changing technology. And whether ships need to set aside space for libraries in the future is very much being debated as new ships are designed.

Carnival cruise director and blogger extraordinaire John Heald said in a recent posting that the library on the recent transatlantic crossing of the Carnival Legend was full of books.  *TomStieghorst

“One thing all those transatlantic crossings had in common was that the library, by the end of the first sea day, sat entirely empty,” Heald wrote. “Here on the Carnival Legend, the bookcases are full.

“Yep, the book is dead, long live the Kindle. Every deck I walk on, I see young and old reading their Kindles.”

Even on an ocean crossing with presumably few younger, tech-savvy passengers on the manifest, the library remains fully stocked, Heald said: “Wherever I am, I see older people and their parents absorbed in their Kindles.”

Perhaps that’s just Carnival. Maybe the magnificent libraries on the Cunard Line fleet have emptier shelves on their Atlantic trips. But on most ships where space is at a premium, the library is an endangered species.

At the next major drydock nothing prevents a ship’s library from being converted to some other use. Heald suggested perhaps a cigar bar (a suggestion likely made for for comic effect, but maybe not.)

The trend is on display on Carnival Sunshine, the ship Carnival renovated from stem to stern earlier this year. While the library wasn’t eliminated or converted to another use, it now shares space with a bar.
Carnival is in the process of designing the next ship to set sail under its red and blue banner, the Carnival Vista. With Kindles in the hands of passengers young and old, it may well be the first Carnival ship without a library.

In his post Heald referred to a bookstore in Miami that he said was possibly a Borders, which he liked to visit when he comes to Miami. “It would not surprise me that, when I return there in November, it’s become a Walgreens or worse, a gym,” he wrote.

If in fact it was a Borders, it closed two years ago, along with the rest of the chain’s stores.  The Borders on South Dixie Highway in Miami reopened last week as a Trader Joe’s specialty market.

At least it’s not a gym.