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Most cruise line loyalty programs work essentially the same way. The more you sail, the more loyalty program points you earn. Perhaps you’ll even earn bonus points for booking a suite. Now, these points aren’t for “spending” on a future free cruise. They’re more like elite status points. As your points accumulate, your elite status climbs. Unlike the airline programs, once you earn a certain elite status with nearly all cruise lines, it’s yours forever, or at least until you move to a higher status tier, which you’ll then have forever.
Cruise lines do offer credit card programs where you earn points for your charges that can be cashed in for a free or discounted cruise, but these operate separately from the cruise loyalty programs. I think we’ve demonstrated that these aren’t always the best investment in credit cards.
As you can see, these programs are not like your favorite airline program. Frankly, I’ve wondered why the cruise lines haven’t looked at their loyalty and credit card programs to explore ways to better monetize them. Well, we may not have to wonder much longer.
Carnival is Reported to be Reviewing Its Loyalty Program
The Street recently reported that Carnival might be considering a major revamp of its loyalty program, The VIFP Club. According to The Street, a Carnival guest recently posted a key question on John Heald’s Facebook page. For those that don’t know, John is Carnival’s brand ambassador, and a longtime cruise director. The cruise loyalty member asked:
“My wife and I are both on Gold status. We always purchase a suite. We are not big casino players but between the spa, excursions, steak house dining and drinks and wine we always spend over $2,000. Please may I ask then why the money we spend on room and on the ship goes nowhere to moving us up the loyalty ladder? We adore your posts John and we love Carnival. Please can you discuss this with the people you call the beards. My prayers are with your mom at this difficult time for her.”
John’s answer is most interesting.
“The whole loyalty program is being looked at by very smart people and while I have zero news to share on what will or will not happen I know that the program needs a massive refresh so we can do a better job in thanking people for their loyalty and to keep that loyalty alive. You raise a very good point and while again I do not know if this will ever be part of the overall loyalty program I will ask everyone this: Should the money you spend on the cruise be part of the loyalty levels for the future?” – BOLD MINE
Can You See the Opportunity Here?
I can’t wait to read the answers from other guests to John’s question. Should the money you spend on board be part of loyalty levels? I would expect a plethora of different opinions on this, with probably some intensely passionate feelings on both sides of the debate.
As for me, my wife and I are both Diamond Plus members of Royal Caribbean’s Crown and Anchor Society, with over 350 cruise points each. We also tend to be “above average” spenders when on board. We value our precious vacation time, and we don’t mind paying to enhance our experience when it comes to things like private cabanas or the Coco Beach Club at Royal Caribbean’s amazing Perfect Day at Coco Cay. It’s always bugged me a little that we don’t get credit for that spending, which over our 53 cruises, has to be in the tens of thousands of dollars.
We know René has just reached Norwegian Diamond status for life and is considering going next for RCI Diamond as well – he may seriously want to consider booking a month onboard in a hurry!
The question raised is worth considering from the cruise line’s point of view and perhaps we will see some sort of hybrid version across the cruise line loyalty programs where nights onboard are rewarded with bonuses for suites as well as additional nights for specified spend levels onboard. This as opposed to throwing the rudder hard over and engaging full reverse to a monetary based system many of the major airlines have switched their loyalty programs to.
While I suppose it’s always possible that John is just floating a trial balloon and Carnival has no real intention to change anything, I have to admit that I find the possibility intriguing. What do you think of the possibility of onboard spending figuring into your elite status level with your favorite cruise line? – MJ
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I seriously doubt if revenue would REPLACE nights as the metric for status. A better guess is that revenue will be a requirement IN ADDITION TO nights like the airlines have done. I’m not sure this would be good for the vast majority of cruisers. I’ve often thought of just booking the absolute cheapest cruises to accrue status quickly before taking the longer cruises to more interesting destinations benefitting from all the perks that I “earned” and I’m sure that I’m not the only one who has had these thoughts.
I don’t think revenue will replace nights either. I do think cruise lines may explore ways to reward revenue. Maybe you get an extra loyalty night for some many dollars of spend? Time will tell. I don’t think anything is imminent.
I think this is a really bad idea.