There’s a new top dog in the world of hard-core cruisers that reach the pinnacle of elite status. And when we say top dog, we mean that literally.
Holland America on Wednesday said that, for the first time, a service dog had cruised so much with the line that it was deserving of the ultimate award in the brand’s Mariners Society loyalty program, a Platinum Medallion.
In a ceremony on board Holland America’s 2,668-passenger Rotterdam, Holland America president Gus Antorcha presented the black Labrador retriever, Joska, with the medallion.
For more cruise news, guides and tips, sign up for TPG’s cruise newsletter
To receive the award, a cruiser must spend at least 700 days on a Holland America ship — the equivalent of nearly two years at sea. Only a very small portion of Mariners Society members ever reach the milestone.
Joska has spent that many days on Holland America ships over the last eight years in the company of her owners, Cornelia (known as “Connie”) and Cornelis Marinussen, who are both on board Rotterdam this week, too.
The vessel is in the midst of a commemorative transatlantic crossing that is marking the 150th anniversary of Holland America’s first voyage.
Both of the Marinussens have received the Platinum Medallion.
Holland America said that Joska, who is 10 years old, and her owners spend most of their days cruising with the line.
Joska the service dog with her owners on board Holland America’s Rotterdam. HOLLAND AMERICA
During the onboard ceremony, Antorcha and the captain of Rotterdam, Werner Timmers, also presented Joska with 5-Star Mariner Society status — the highest level of elite status in the Mariner Society program.
As a 5-Star Mariner Society member, Joska will — like her owners — be eligible for a long list of valuable elite perks such as priority check-in and priority access to ship-to-shore tenders.
That said, we suspect that the appeal of quite a few of the 5-Star perks may be lost on Joska. She may not find a need for the $30 credit toward an internet package that comes with 5-Star status, for instance, or the complimentary laundry and pressing service (which is available to both 4-Star and 5-Star members).
The top Mariner Society tier also brings a complimentary day pass to the shipboard spa. We’re not sure how that would play out for a dog.
Reaching 5-Star status in the Mariner Society program normally requires accumulating 500 “cruise day credits.” Customers receive the credits both for the number of days they travel (with bonuses for staying in suites) and for hitting certain milestones in onboard spending.
The Platinum Medallion is awarded strictly on the absolute number of days one spends on Holland America ships.
In addition to presenting Joska with a Platinum Medallion and 5-Star status this week, Antorcha and Timmers gave her something that most top-tier Mariner Society members don’t receive: A selection of dog-friendly, Holland America-branded gifts.
“Joska is the first service animal to achieve this lofty status, and we wanted to honor her with an event that shows her how special she is to everyone in our company,” Antorcha said during the ceremony.
Passengers normally aren’t allowed to bring animals onto Holland America ships, but — as is typically the case for cruise ships — there is an exception for registered service animals.
Joska has been a familiar sight on Holland America ships over the past few years. Her owners, who began sailing regularly with the line in 2013, have racked up nearly 60 cruises with the brand to all sorts of destinations, from Alaska and Hawaii to the Caribbean and Europe.
Joska hasn’t sailed on quite as many cruises as her owners. However, she now has more than 50 cruises under her belt, according to line. She joined the Marinussen family in 2014 to assist Connie Marinussen, who is legally blind.
Holland America called Joska “among the most traveled dogs in the world.”
“Joska has become a member of our family,” Antorcha said. “She not only brightens the spirits of everyone on board, but she also allows Connie to do what she loves most, which is to cruise and explore the world.”
Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:
The 5 most desirable cabin locations on any cruise ship
The 8 worst cabin locations on any cruise ship
A quick guide to the most popular cruise lines
21 tips and tricks that will make your cruise go smoothly
15 ways cruisers waste money
12 best cruises for people who never want to grow up
What to pack for your first cruise