By Anita Dunham-Potter Travel columnist
updated 4/26/2007 4:48:11 PM ET 2007-04-26T20:48:11

In December, Alzoria Jones took her 100th cruise with Carnival Cruise Lines; a month later, Lorraine Arzt celebrated her 4,000th day at sea with Princess Cruises. What is it about certain cruise lines that brings customers back over and over again? I can tell you this much: It's not just about the extra perks.

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Cruise queens
When Jones boarded Carnival Cruise Lines' Fascination in December, she stepped into the Carnival record books. The voyage marked her 100th Carnival cruise, which is quite an accomplishment. Consider the numbers: Jones has sailed on 100 cruises since 1991, so she has taken a cruise roughly every other month for 15 years. Jones is the second Carnival passenger to achieve the century mark. The first was Frances Mendin, who took her hundredth cruise in October 2005.

In January, another special lady was celebrating a milestone over at Princess Cruises. Lorraine Arzt, a loyal Princess cruiser, has spent a record-breaking 4,000 days at sea with Princess. That's more than 10 years aboard Princess ships.

In the industry, these ladies are called "cruise queens," and they raise an interesting question: Why do they do it?

Why, why, why?
Alzoria Jones got her sea legs aboard the Fantasy in 1991, and she was hooked immediately. Jones, now 83 and the grandmother of 13, cruises to escape the cold weather in the Northeast — and because she likes the nightlife aboard ship. Jones has cruised with other cruise lines, but she likes Carnival for its personal touch. "I keep cruising with Carnival because they treat me the way I like to be treated, I feel at home and the staff on board remember me, which means a lot," Jones told Carnival, which issued a press release reporting her achievement.

Lorraine Arzt, who began cruising with her late husband, Joe, in the early 1970s, got hooked after a Mexican Riviera voyage. "I don't know how it all happened, I just love cruising," Arzt told Princess, which also issued a celebratory press release. According to Princess, Arzt chose the cruise line for its crew, itineraries, suites — and its excellent Italian food. Arzt, who recently turned 80, now spends approximately 10 months each year at sea. She plans to try out Princess' newest vessels when they debut this spring.

Special perks
Airlines and hotels long ago recognized the value of a loyal customer, and most travelers know about their frequent-flier and frequent-guest programs. Well, cruise lines have frequent-cruiser programs, too, and they offer similar if not superior benefits for the companies' most loyal customers.

Princess' top cruisers get extra perks that include priority embarkation, priority tenders in port, special lounges for disembarkation, upgraded toiletries, a free minibar setup, deluxe canapé service, free Internet access, shoe polishing service, complimentary dry cleaning and laundry service and upgraded travel protection insurance. Similarly, Carnival's top cruisers get "Concierge Club" perks that include priority embarkation and disembarkation, canapé service, priority supper club and spa reservations, and complimentary laundry service. Members of most cruise lines' frequent-cruiser clubs are also offered special discounts on cruise fares and shore excursions.

But Lorraine Arzt and Alzoria Jones are in a league by themselves, and their cruise lines celebrated their achievements in high style. Princess feted Artz aboard the Sea Princess and invited her to be the company's guest of honor at a celebration for its new ship, Emerald Princess, to be held in Athens, Greece, in May. Similarly, Jones was honored in a shipboard celebration and was presented with a free cruise and a Carnival bell acknowledging her achievement.

Still it's not all about the perks; it's all about the cruising. Arzt sums it up best.

"How can you not like a cruise?" she asked in an interview with Princess. "You hang your hat and you're there. Everyone is there to entertain and serve you — you're waited on hand and foot. Where else can you go to completely escape and have so much fun?"

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