The days of picking up free Royal Caribbean swag for participating in pool games are over. The cruise line has discontinued its Vitality at Sea rewards program, which was designed to motivate passengers to participate in healthy activities. Effective January 15, 2009, passengers will no longer be able to earn points redeemable for logo goods by taking part in Vitality at Sea activities and offerings.
The line is also in the process of refining the Vitality at Sea program itself; details will be announced by the end of the first quarter 2009, according to an official statement. Until then, the program -- which was introduced aboard Liberty of the Seas during summer 2007 -- remains in place. Features include wellness workshops, lighter food options on the menus in the main dining room, fitness programs, shore excursions and spa rituals.
The rewards part of the program encouraged passengers to participate in healthy activities onboard and onshore -- pool games, fitness classes, bean-bag tosses, rock climbing, vigorous shore excursions -- by offering points in the form of "Vitality chips" redeemable for special Vitality logo items, such as T-shirts, visors and mini-backpacks. The program proved so popular on one of the early cruises where it was offered that the gym ran out of chips.
So it might seem a bit odd that Royal Caribbean -- an industry leader in promoting health and wellness (think rock-climbing walls, ice-skating rinks, boxing rings, surf simulators, the largest gyms afloat) -- would do away with such a popular part of their fitness program. One possible explanation for the change is cost cutting. Cruise Critic Community Manager Laura Sterling heard about the change while sailing last week on Independence of the Seas. When she asked a fitness instructor why the line had discontinued the program, he responded: "People were walking away with tons of T-shirts, visors and caps for doing nothing more than a ring-toss in the pool."
When asked, a Royal Caribbean spokesman would not comment on why they were discontinuing the program.
At least one other line still offers a similar program; Holland America, for example, hands out Dam Dollars to passengers who participate in social and sporty events and activities onboard, which can then be exchanged for logo items -- though the rules and prizes are hardly constant.
--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor
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Royal Caribbean Benches Fitness Rewards Program
January 14, 2009