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Royal Caribbean's 2023 President's Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas included special surprises (Photo: Jason Gordon)

Cruise Loyalty Matters: Royal Caribbean Celebrates 25 Years of Crown & Anchor

Royal Caribbean's 2023 President's Cruise aboard Allure of the Seas included special surprises (Photo: Jason Gordon)
Cruise Critic Contributor
Jason Gordon

Sep 13, 2023

Read time
7 min read

Loyalty is priceless. In nearly every fathomable area of consumerism, loyalty rewards programs abound – and every business is vying for your travel dollars. When it comes to cruising, these programs carry a significant amount of weight as you climb from tier to tier.

Royal Caribbean International launched its Crown & Anchor Society loyalty program 25 years ago with great fanfare. This year, Royal Caribbean celebrates this special anniversary milestone with some of its most loyal past passengers during its recent President’s Cruise held aboard the mammoth Allure of the Seas.

Now in its 6th year, this President's Cruise isn’t just a glorified sailing that’s overwhelming with impressive swag. This is an opportunity for loyal Crown & Anchor Society members to interact with the top brass of Royal Caribbean International, including current president & CEO, Michael Bayley, who sported “The Royal Bling” - a rather large, humorously ostentatious, diamond encrusted Royal Caribbean Crown & Anchor logo that hangs from a silver chain - throughout the sailing.

Over the course of the cruise, Bayley continually reiterated his appreciation for Royal Caribbean's Crown & Anchor Society members, expressing his thanks for their patience during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. At the start of his Common Grounds roundtable, Bayley noted, “It’s hard to believe that we went through all of that. What a difference a year makes. Right now, Royal Caribbean as a company, as a brand, is doing great.

"We’re very excited for Icon of the Seas and Utopia of the Seas coming online next year – as well as the adults-only Hideaway Beach [at PerfectDay at CocoCay] that is opening December 2023 and Royal Beach Club that is opening in 2025.”

Allure of the Seas Hosts Royal Caribbean's 2023 Presidents Cruise

Allure of the Seas (Photo: Jason Gordon)

Coming in at 225,282 gross tons, Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas is currently the 5th largest cruise ship in the world – and is a member of Royal Caribbean’s gargantuan Oasis-class of ships that also includes the recently-launched Wonder of the Seas.

Christened in November 2010, Allure of the Seas can hold a maximum of 6,780 passengers and 2,200 crew members.

Riding the flowrider aboard Allure of the Seas (Photo: Jason Gordon)

It boasts two Flowrider surf simulators, two massive rock-climbing walls, a basketball court, miniature golf course, ice skating rink, zipline, an Aqua Theatre (where the Ocean Aria spectacular takes place throughout each sailing), 26 dining venues, 19 bars and more. It's more than anyone can reasonably take in with just one week onboard, and you're sure to find something that delights.

Entertainment & Activities Abound on This Special Cruise

Grammy Award-winning singer Chaka Khan performs aboard Allure of the Seas (Photo: Jason Gordon)

Royal Caribbean President’s Cruises are adorned with exclusive perks that are in line with the festivities, and this year didn’t disappoint. During embarkation in Galveston, throughout every event aboard ship and at every cruise port, guests were reminded with branded signage, banners, etc. that they were sailing the President’s Cruise and not a standard sailing of Allure of the Seas.

This year, six-time Grammy Award-winning singer Chaka Khan was the headline performer for the cruise, and didn’t disappoint at two separate hour-long concerts. Popular songs such as: “I Feel For You,” “Ain’t Nobody,” “Tell Me Something Good,” and “Every Woman” got the audience of Royal Caribbean elites onto their feet and grooving to her tunes. (Entry to two concerts which took place during the evenings of the fourth and sixth sailing days, required special access: Invited Crown & Anchor guests received illuminated wristbands the night before their designated concert and everyone was required to show and scan their SeaPass at the entry of Allure’s Amber Theatre).

Royal Caribbean's Michael Bayley presents at the Common Ground panel aboard Allure of the Seas (Photo: Jason Gordon)

Additional onboard events included: Crowned in Loyalty: A 25th Anniversary Celebration, which commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Crown and Anchor Society in an exquisite silver-themed affair on the Royal Promenade where members were encouraged to wear their very best as they experienced a posh silver-themed extravaganza. It also provided opportunities for its most loyal guests to win exclusive prizes.

A Trip Down Memory Lane with Michael Bayley afforded members an opportunity to showcase their Royal Caribbean-branded memorabilia (from previous sailings). These items consisted of bag tags, postcards, souvenir towels and other assorted branded paraphernalia.

The Royal Chef Showdown offered a unique cooking competition in the most unexpected venue aboard Allure: Studio B – which is the onboard ice-skating rink. Guest culinarians BBQ Master John Rivers, mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim and Royal Caribbean’s VP of Food & Beverage Linken D’Souza, and others battled for the title of “Best Dish” (and yes, the ice rink floor was covered).

Royal Caribbean's President's Cruise included a complete takeover of Costa Maya, Mexico (Photo: Jason Gordon)

Activities were present on-shore, too. In Costa Maya, Mexico, A Royal Day in Costa Maya: A Complete Port Takeover was a day that was filled with live music, excitement, fun, and immersive experiences for Royal Caribbean's passengers. Whether partying in a lively pool bar, sunbathing at the port, riding a portside Flowrider, shopping, or getting a massage, this whole-port-takeover was exclusive to Royal Caribbean guests on this day.

Royal Day at Costa Maya included special events, branding and activities. (Photo: Jason Gordon)

In Roatan, Island Jam in Roatan with Michael Bayley afforded 700 guests from the President’s Cruise sailing to join President and CEO, Michael Bayley, for one of Roatan's biggest beach parties of the year. Abundant with local food and drinks, every guest basked in the beach club surroundings while regional music added to the ambiance. It's the kind of on-shore experience you don't have just anywhere.

Royal Caribbean's President's Cruise: From the Crown & Anchor Members' Perspective

"Super" Mario Salcedo in his office aboard Allure of the Seas (Photo: Jason Gordon)

As the most elite of Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society members, Mario Salcedo (who’s commonly referred to as “Super Mario” by passengers and crew) has sailed with Royal Caribbean consistently for 23 years, only taking 2 weeks off from sailing every year which he jokingly refers to as his “personal drydock.”

Prior to sailing exclusively with Royal Caribbean, Mario performed an experiment over three years starting in 1996 and “sampled” 10 different cruise lines, by sailing aboard 150 cruises and 75 different ships during this time. Through his firsthand experience with these cruises, Mario became exclusively “Loyal to Royal” based on the innovation of Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas in 2000 -- as, according to Salcedo, it had everything he could possibly want in a cruise ship.

During the President’s Cruise, Super Mario reached a whopping 11,000 Crown & Anchor Society points. While Salcedo is appreciative of this status and number of points, he is most appreciative of the fairness of the program.

“As a Pinnacle Club member, I get the same benefits as every other Pinnacle member – I’m treated equally, and I’m glad they do that,” Salcedo said. “The only thing that I get which no one else gets, is my office.” This covered outdoor office space on the pool deck provides Mario with great panoramic views as he runs his business throughout each sailing.

Royal Caribbean president and CEO Michael Bayley addresses crowds aboard Allure of the Seas (Photo: Jason Gordon)

Even if you aren’t a Pinnacle Club member, status benefits are still rewarding, as indicated by Marilyn & Frank Resto, who elevated to Diamond Plus status during the President’s Cruise sailing.

“The daily drink credits, discount on Royal Caribbean merchandise, discounts for bookings, access to special events and status on your card – they take care of us," the couple said. “This sailing is like a big party, meetup – a reunion and we’re also able to interact with top leadership like Michael Bayley, and show our loyalty to Royal. That’s what it is about.”

During the Common Ground roundtable, participants were encouraged to express their compliments, air grievances, and make product enhancement suggestions directly to Michael Bayley (through a “pass the microphone” format).

Royal Caribbean head Michael Bayley takes questions from the audience aboard Allure of the Seas (Photo: Jason Gordon)

The First question of the session revolved around Solarium use. “Since an adult doesn’t start at age 16, why does Royal Caribbean allow those that are under the age of 18 into the Solarium?”

“I thought it was always 18 years of age," Bayley responded. "We’ll look into this further.”

Another passenger asked why they can't use OBC with a complimentary cruise. Why can’t my OBC (onboard credit) be used with a complimentary cruise?” Jesse Hopfinger, Royal Caribbean's vice president of onboard revenue, pledged to look into it. “Let’s run the numbers and I think there’s a good chance that we’ll allow it to be combinable.”

A solid question about spa pricing came from a loyal passenger. “Why is it now costing $100 per person to experience a steam and sauna in the spa when I just spent $250 for a spa treatment?”

Hopfinger responded candidly. “I’m sorry. That’s not changing. But we can look into having it as part of a package.”

Bayley acknowledged the seriousness of each question and directed many of them to his deputies for response. If an answer wasn’t readily available, Bayley pledged to provide resolutions.

That's part of the power of these sailings --- they allow honest feedback to reach Royal Caribbean's top brass in a way that just otherwise wouldn't be possible.

Get Onboard Next Year’s Royal Caribbean President’s Cruise

Oasis of the Seas

The 7th Annual Royal Caribbean President's Cruise will set sail on a 7-night Western Mediterranean Cruise beginning June 23, 2024 aboard Oasis of the Seas. Embarkation will commence from Barcelona, with port visits to Palma de Mallorca before sailing on to Italy for stops in Florence (Livorno), Rome (Civitavecchia), and Naples.

Royal Caribbean chose this cruise for next year’s President’s Cruise due to the fact that there are a sizable number of Crown & Anchor members throughout Europe and they would like to experience the special sailing as well without having to spend a lot of time traveling to the port of embarkation.

Bookings are already being taken for this one-of-a-kind cruise.

Updated September 13, 2023
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