Skip to main content

Royal Caribbean Makes Big Changes That Will Delight Customers

Cruise line Royal Caribbean has followed up dropping its onboard mask mandate by bringing back some well-loved perks.

When Royal Caribbean (RCL) - Get Royal Caribbean Group Report in July resumed sailing from U.S. ports, cruising returned -- but not back to where it had been. That first sailing, on the Freedom of the Seas leaving July 2, carried fewer than 1,000 passengers, about 20% or 25% of capacity.

People on board also had to wear masks in many areas and social distance when possible. The Windjammer Buffet was open only for dinner, and venues operated at limited capacities (although that barely mattered due to the number of people on board).

Over the next few months protocols continued to evolve. Precruise testing became mandatory, with time periods for the tests shifting, and mask rules varied, getting tighter when the Covid omicron variant hit.

People were back to cruising and those early cruises largely carried frequent cruisers -- people who missed being at sea and were willing to deal with things not being quite normal. Many of those people held Diamond, Diamond Plus, or even Pinnacle in Royal Caribbean's loyalty program.

During the return to sailing, Royal Caribbean welcomed those customers back, but it did so without some of the perks that make Crown & Anchor members want to achieve higher status levels.

The pool deck on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas.

How Does Royal Caribbean's Crown & Anchor Loyalty Program Work?

Crown & Anchor members -- who earn points for each night spent at sea -- are the lifeblood of the cruise line. Reaching Diamond takes 80 points while Diamond Plus requires 175 and Pinnacle takes fully 700.    

Scroll to Continue

TheStreet Recommends

At the core of the program, passengers earn one point for every night spent on a cruise. If you cruise in a suite, you earn two points per night. You also earn double points when you cruise solo, making it possible to earn four points a night if you cruise by yourself in a suite.

Most people, however, earn a point or two per night, depending upon whether they book a suite. That means that barring rare double-points promotions, hitting Diamond status takes a minimum of 40 nights of either solo sailing or sailing in a suite.

The people who hit these levels are frequent cruisers and Royal Caribbean generally works really hard to make those customers happy.  During the worst of the pandemic, however, the company had to suspend some of the perks offered to those elite loyalty members.

Which Crown & Anchor Perks Are Coming Back?

The need for social distancing and the added stress on Royal Caribbean staff caused by safety protocols led to a number of Crown & Anchor perks being suspended. Many of those are coming back, according to The Royal Caribbean Blog. These include:

  • Access to a dedicated departure lounge with continental breakfast on the day of disembarkation (Gold level and higher)
  • A special onboard event (Platinum level and higher)
  • In-cabin treats to be determined by the onboard chef (Diamond level and higher)
  • A personalized gift (Diamond level and higher)
  • Access to reserved seating in most onboard performance venues (Diamond Plus level and higher

Royal Caribbean is keeping another controversial (at least among its most-loyal customers) pandemic-era change. Instead of having a happy hour, where drinks are free in the Diamond lounge (available to guests Diamond or higher), the cruise line has given drink vouchers that can be used all day at any venue, even on the company's Coco Cay private island.

Diamond members get four vouchers per day while Diamond Plus gets five, and Pinnacle receives six. These can be used at any venue on board (except for Starbucks) for drinks up to $13.

This benefit has been lauded by some, who appreciate the flexibility, but derided by others who miss the opportunity to have unlimited drinks during happy hour.