The modifications to the program -- which, depending on level, rewards past cruisers with benefits like cruise discounts, priority embarkation, coupon booklets and use of a concierge lounge (with free booze) -- have sparked a firestorm on the Cruise Critic Message Boards. Hundreds of posters have expressed outrage.
Without a doubt, the most controversial of the changes, which are scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2009, has been the line's decision to limit Concierge Lounge access to those only in the highest echelon of the C&A Society, the so-called Diamond-Plus members (people who've sailed on 25 or more RCI cruises). The change is as follows:
With the exception of the line's newest ships -- Freedom of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, Independence of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas -- Diamond members (10 - 24 cruises with RCI) will no longer have special access to the concierge lounge, from which passengers can arrange shore excursions, spa treatments and specialty dining reservations, among other things. The lounge was also the setting for a nightly happy hour with free alcohol.
Instead, a special party will be held once per cruise for Diamond members featuring complimentary wine, champagne and hors d'oeuvres. Diamond-Plus members will continue to have access to the concierge lounges on all ships.
In the e-mail sent to C&A members, the line cited capacity issues -- the lounges were becoming unsustainably crowded -- as the reason for the change.
Join the debate over the controversial C&A changes.
--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor