Contributing editor Julie Peasgood tells us how to upgrade your cruiseAfter offering advice on how to upgrade your cruise, Contributing Editor Julie Peasgood reveals even more ways to be a savvy cruiser.

From staying loyal to a particular cruise line to taking advantage of off-peak perks, these insider tricks will be sure to add extra sparkle to your cruise. And no matter whether you’ve never cruised before or you’re a cruising regular, you’ll be sure to benefit from these cruise tips.

Stay loyal to a cruise line

It’s worth being loyal to a particular line as it often rewards its most frequent customers. You need to become a loyalty club member (it’s free to join and you can usually do it online or on board) because, in the same way that airlines do with frequent flyers, cruise lines reward frequent passengers with a variety of perks. 

These can include everything from free drinks, priority embarkation and disembarkation and cruise line merchandise, to complimentary dining in speciality restaurants, cabin upgrades and even free cruises if you accumulate enough days on board to reach the scheme’s top tiers. The overall savings and privileges can end up being quite substantial, plus there are also members-only parties where you have the opportunity to enjoy exclusive access to the captain and other ship’s officers.  

For example, Princess Cruises has the aptly named Captain’s Circle, a four-tier loyalty scheme, whereby members receive benefits such as access to special pricing, reduced deposits on early bookings, free internet credit and complimentary laundry service. 

Savvy cruisers can go in the pool on board MSC Preziosa, MSC Yacht Club

Viking passengers automatically become members of their Explorer Society, and a second booking with Viking results in onboard recognition, an invite to the glitzy ES cocktail party, and if the booking is within a year, there’s an additional £100 per passenger in travel credit. 

As a member of Seabourn Club, you have the opportunity to earn a Milestone Award with every day sailed with Seabourn. Furthermore, 140 days will result in a complimentary seven-day cruise, plus there are special gifts from Tiffany & Co when you celebrate other Sailed Day milestones.

If you join MSC Cruises’ loyalty programme you’re assigned a Voyagers Club level, guaranteeing five per cent discount on any cruise, and (depending on your level) priority boarding, a courtesy towel bathrobe, a bottle of fizz and access to the thermal area in the Aurea Spa. MSC is also operating a status match programme; if you apply before your next cruise with the company, it will match, or improve upon, your existing privilege status from any other hotel or cruise-line loyalty scheme.

Opt for a fly-cruise package

Savvy cruisers on a cruise ship passing Santorini in GreeceAt certain times, cruise lines will raise their game with fly-and-cruise packages, by covering the cost of air travel to and from your embarkation and disembarkation port. Opting for fly-cruise is perfect for travellers who would rather have more ports of call than several days at sea, especially if you’re destined for distant shores. 

Historically, Oceania Cruises has always been very strong with flight and other offers, as Bernard Carter, SVP and MD at Oceania, verifies: “On occasion, it’s certainly possible to get free business class upgrades on air fares, and just recently we had a two-week flash sale where the overall fare included all shore excursions; it’s very much a case of watch this space.”

Norwegian Cruise Line also strives to make rates attractive for customers booking a fly-cruise package with NCL, offering transfers between the port, airport and hotel where possible, and providing 24-hour assistance in the event of any unforeseen circumstances.

And welcome news from Silversea’s managing director, UK and Ireland, Peter Shanks: “We now include air as part of the holiday price on every cruise right up to spring 2021.”

Take advantage of off-peak perks

balcony suite on board a cruise ship

Savvy cruisers looking for exotic bargains should keep an eye out for repositioning cruises – when ships move from their winter sailing destinations (usually in the Caribbean or South America) back to Europe for the summer. There are naturally lots of sea days on a lengthy transatlantic crossing, so repositioning cruises are not as popular as those with more ports of call. However, the chances of getting an upgrade to a balcony cabin are much higher, as the ship will probably not be full. 

It’s also worth travelling at less popular times of the year; in term-time for instance, just before Christmas or during a country’s rainy season. If you plan to sail when there are lots of unoccupied cabins, for example, off-season or to a less well-known destination, you should be able to secure a great deal on the price or an upgrade to a better room (and if you’re very lucky, both).

Extend your trip with pre- and post-city stays

African Bush Elephants walking in Africa - savvy cruisers can see these as part of a cruise

Cruises offer the opportunity to see some of the world’s most incredible destinations – and often depart from some of the most exciting cities in the world. That’s something we should take full advantage of, says Neil Barclay, Viking Cruises UK head of sales. 

“I would encourage travellers to aim higher and to consider upgrading their whole experience by extending their trip for a few days on either side,” he advises. “It can make the difference between an amazing holiday and the trip of a lifetime. This is particularly relevant to long-haul trips – for example, Viking’s seven-night Canadian Rockies extension covers all of the main highlights, or we can arrange a four-night extension in South Africa with a flight to Kruger National Park, where guests have the chance to see Africa’s big five – lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and Cape buffalo.

“Based on feedback from our guests, more and more people are discovering that river or ocean cruises offer the most comfortable and relaxing way to do a city break,” adds Barclay. “Not only do they have plenty of time to follow their noses, or to join one of the included shore excursions, but they are also choosing to explore certain destinations in more depth with pre- or post- city stays. Some people are not aware that cruise lines like Viking offer incredible extensions and can take care of all of the arrangements, including flights, hotels and tours.” 

So whether it’s bookending your cruise with further travels on land or enhancing your time on board, make sure you capitalise on the opportunities to upgrade your experience and start planning the best holiday of your life.

Got a question about cruise holidays? Get in touch with our experts at info@cruise-international.com