Among major cruise lines, Holland America has one of the most intriguing loyalty programs.
Like most cruise line loyalty programs, Holland America’s Mariner Society, as it’s called, lets you earn points and build up status by spending days at sea on its ships. But it also lets you earn points and build up status by spending money on board its vessels.
That latter piece of the program is unusual in the cruise space, and it means that you can reach high-level tiers of the program relatively quickly — at least if you’re a big onboard spender.
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Holland America’s Mariner Society loyalty program also offers a lot of great perks to higher-tier members. These include big discounts on specialty dining charges and drinks-related charges, as well as free passage for children sailing with you on select sailings.
Ways to earn points
The Mariner Society point-earning system is relatively simple. In most cases, you will earn one “cruise day” credit for every night you’re on a ship.
The only exception is for passengers staying in top accommodations. Customers staying in a suite or penthouse on a Holland America ship will get double cruise day credits. One caveat here is that you must have paid the normal fare for the suite or penthouse to get the double credits.
You won’t get double credit if you’re staying in a suite or penthouse due to a complimentary cabin upgrade.
Note that you will get cruise day credits not just for nights that you spend on Holland America ships, but also for days you spend touring on land when on Holland America cruisetours in Alaska. Holland America cruisetours in Alaska typically combine a seven-night Alaska cruise with a few days touring the state by land in motorcoaches or by train.
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In addition, as noted above, there is an unusual bonus way to earn Holland America Mariner Society cruise day credits. You can earn one additional cruise day credit for every $300 you spend onboard a ship for such things as shore excursions and shop purchases (with a limit of one extra cruise day credit for every day you sail).
The extra credit is calculated based on the combined folio charges for all passengers on a single booking, regardless of who signs each charge and who pays the bill. Only the first two passengers on a booking will receive the bonus credit.
Some purchases — future cruise deposits, cash advances and casino charges — are excluded from the onboard purchase bonus. But all other onboard purchases count — even the hotel service charges, beverage service charges and taxes that show up on final bills.
One caveat: Holland America cruises booked as charter cruises only will earn you cruise day credits when you’re booked in a suite.
Program tiers and benefits
There are five tiers to the Holland America Mariner Society loyalty program:
- Star Mariner (after one cruise)
- 2-Star Mariner (30 to 74 cruise day credits)
- 3-Star Mariner (75 to 199 cruise day credits)
- 4-Star Mariner (200 to 499 cruise day credits)
- 5-Star Mariner (500-plus cruise day credits)
As is typical for cruise line loyalty programs, the first tier of the Mariner Society loyalty program (Star Mariner) doesn’t come with all that many valuable perks.
Star Mariners receive:
- Up to $400 per cabin onboard spending credit when booking a cruise within 90 days of a new season launch
- 15% discount at shophollandamerica.com
- A special welcome lunch
- An onboard gift
- A voucher for an onboard cocktail
- A 50% discount on cruise fares for kids and extra guests in your cabin on select sailings
In addition to all the above, the big add-on for 2-Star Mariners is discounts on Holland America-branded items. Loyal Holland America cruisers at the 2-Star level will get a 10% discount on select Holland America clothing sold on ships. They also receive a complimentary photo of their ship.
The 3-Star Mariner level adds a perk that we really love: A 25% discount on specialty restaurant surcharges and on specialty coffees in various venues, Sommelier Suites packages and all minibar purchases. This amounts to real money savings in your pocket.
One caveat on the specialty restaurant discount: It doesn’t apply to already discounted dining packages and some special dinners, such as the Cellar Master’s Dinner.
The 3-Star Mariner level also brings discounts on select treatments from shipboard Greenhouse Spa & Salon venues.
Moving up through these first three tiers is relatively easy. As noted, reaching the initial Star Mariner tier requires completing just one cruise. Depending on how much money you spend on the ship during your first few sailings (which will affect your bonus-credit haul) and whether you stay in a suite or not, you could reach the 2-Star Mariner level after just two to four seven-night cruises.
Hitting the 3-Star Mariner level might take five to nine seven-night cruises, depending on your onboard spend and the type of cabins you book. However, if you sign up for one or two of Holland America’s longer voyages, you could reach the 3-Star level far sooner.
The elite level that makes a difference
The sweet spot in Holland America’s program is the 4-Star Mariner status level. This is where you really start to see some great perks, including:
- Complimentary cruise fare for kids and extra guests staying in your cabin on select sailings
- A 50% discount on specialty restaurant surcharges and specialty coffees in dining venues, Sommelier Suites packages and all minibar purchases
- Complimentary laundry and pressing services
- Priority access to ship-to-shore tenders
- Priority check-in
- A complimentary James Suckling regional wine tasting
- A 15% discount on select Holland America Line logo clothing sold in onboard shops (may exclude already discounted merchandise)
- A 25% discount off the $49-per-person surcharge in Rudi’s Sel De Mer eatery
We love that Holland America will let kids sail free on select sailings at this tier. The line isn’t necessarily known as a family line. However, if you have kids and you’re a Holland America fan, this could save you a lot of money.
You’ll also save a lot of money with the 50%-off specialty restaurant perk at this level and the other 50%-off discount options.
We’re also thrilled about the complimentary laundry and pressing services at this tier level. A number of other lines offer complimentary laundry services as a loyalty plan perk, but often not until their top tier.
Reaching the 4-Star Mariner level may seem daunting, as it requires 200 cruise day credits. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll be earning credits for onboard spending, plus double credits if you stay in a suite. If you max out all the possibilities, you could reach the 4-Star Mariner level in just 10 seven-night cruises. If you take a few longer voyages, you could be sipping wine at a complimentary wine tasting on every voyage even sooner.
Best elite perk
If you cruise with family or friends, we think the best perk in Holland America’s program is the complimentary cruise fare for kids and extra guests staying in your cabin on select sailings. As noted above, this is a 4-Star Mariner perk that also carries over to 5-Star Mariners.
We should mention that all Mariner Society members get discounts of some sort for the third- and fourth- passengers staying in their cabins. During the booking process, type in your Mariner ID to view your discount for this.
Note that at the 5-Star Mariner level, loyal fans of the line also get:
- Up to a $30 credit toward an internet package
- Two complimentary dinners in one of the following onboard restaurants: Pinnacle Grill, Tamarind or Canaletto (free surcharge only)
- A complimentary daypass to the Greenhouse Spa & Salon (one per cruise)
Bear in mind that, as is often the case with cruise line loyalty programs, Holland America customers do not have to requalify for status each year. Mariner Society members keep their points at the end of each year and continue to accrue points indefinitely. That means someone who hits 5-Star Mariner status will remain at that top-tier level forever (or until Holland America makes a change to the program).
Such “forever status” is one of the great allures of cruise line frequent cruiser programs. Many airline frequent flyer programs, by contrast, require loyalty members to requalify for status each year.
Mariner Society lapel pins
Holland America has awarded its most loyal guests special lapel pin “medallions” in the past and continues that practice today. Sail 100 days and get a Bronze Medallion. Cruisers with 300 days at sea get a Silver Medallion, and those with 500 days earn a Gold Medallion. The Platinum Medallion is reserved for cruisers who have enjoyed 700 or more nights at sea. For pin tiers, cruise days are the only thing that counts.
Holland America has a very solid loyalty program. Unlike Royal Caribbean or Norwegian Cruise Line, it doesn’t offer its loyalty club members a free cruise after reaching the top tier of the program. Nor does it offer its members across-the-board discounts on shore excursions and beverage packages, such as Windstar Cruises does.
However, some of its perks at higher levels offer a lot of value. We are particularly fond of the 50% discounts on specialty restaurant charges and some other drinks-related charges that come with 4-Star and 5-Star Mariner status.
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