For many years cruising with Princess Cruises has benefitted from counting cruises with P&O towards their loyalty system, the Captain’s Circle. This has been a one-way reward and we’ve taken advantage of it in 2017 to move onto the Platinum level of membership with Princess with a trip to Belgium on Azura back in April.
As of 12th December this policy changes. While loyalty accrued with P&O taken or booked prior to this date will still count towards Princess no future cruises will.
There’s an argument for this move: it keeps the loyalty “pure” to the brand, a form of value-based pricing where the loyalty benefits have a better perceived value. We live in cynical times, though, so some might wonder if it is being done to save Princess some money as the benefits that regular cruisers get will not automatically be assigned to new cruisers who have previously used P&O. Personally, I’m doubtful that the cost can be that high, especially compared to what you generally pay for a cruise with Princess; the Gold and Ruby levels of membership, for instance, have pretty much nothing of value anwyway.
There’s an argument against this move: people who have used P&O before and who might have been tempted with ships of similar design but a higher standard on Princess with a few benefits thrown in will now have no real incentive to do so. When you combine this with the fact that, for instance, another cruise company, MSC, will match the benefits of your loyalty status with any other line, arguably have some far more impressive ships coming through their fleet than Princess, and are typically far more affordable this could easily see a reduction in people making a move to Princess from the more budget-friendly cruising of P&O.
It won’t stop us cruising with Princess as we generally like the experience on board and itineraries offered but it may reduce our short cruises with P&O in favour of trying some new lines every now and then. I’m not sure that’s what either cruise lines’ parent company, Carnival, is looking for. It also seems to be an odd business move and I’m hopeful that it’s not another sign of cost-cutting at Princess creeping into the company. If Princess are worried about the perception of value of the loyalty system I wonder whether they’ve considered the perception of cost-cutting quite likely preceding a deterioration in the levels of service offered.