RCI Ups Ante on Past Passenger Program

June 1, 2010

(12 p.m. EDT) -- Royal Caribbean today announced new enhancements to Crown & Anchor, its past passenger program. These extra perks are available only to registered members of the program and are effective June 1. (Registration is free and available to anyone who has completed at least one Royal Caribbean cruise, but there's no automatic enrollment; you'll need to sign yourself up.) Royal Caribbean's C&A program has four tiers: Gold, Platinum, Diamond and Diamond Plus.

Specifically, the enhancements are as follows.

The company will make an effort to upgrade members at the Diamond level, when and where available. Says today's e-mail announcement, "Royal Caribbean usually sails to its capacity; however, in the event we are able to offer an upgrade, we will contact our Crown & Anchor Members based on their tier status. As a Diamond member, we want you to be part of that consideration. We will contact you in advance of sailing if an upgrade becomes available, so please make sure we have your current telephone number and e-mail address." According to an RCI spokesman, "upgrades would start with the Diamond Plus level guest with the most cruise credits, and then Diamond level. Earlier bookers would get the option before those guests who booked later. These two factors determine the upgrade priority for guests."

To further encourage passengers to book their next cruises while they are still on the existing trip, RCI is introducing a new onboard booking bonus. "What we've established is an exclusive opportunity to receive an onboard booking bonus (varies in value depending on tier, sailing)," says Betsy O'Rourke, senior vice president, marketing. "What's different is that it can be used along with existing saving certificates or balcony or suite discounts." Onboard credit will max out at $200 and, according to an announcement e-mail sent out this morning by RCI, you can now "use it with your Crown & Anchor Society Savings Certificate or your Balcony & Suite Discount."

In some cases, C&A members already get priority notification on booking opportunities, such as when the line gave them first dibs on booking Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, but O'Rourke told us that "this is now being institutionalized so anything and everything goes to members first." These alerts would range from deals on last-minute cruise sales to company announcements. Travel agents would receive these alerts at the same time.

Responding to complaints that the "ultimate value booklet" -- which offers discounts on ship goods and services and which is presented to all C&A members onboard a cruise -- had begun to lose its value, there's a newly designed booklet with new enticements that O'Rourke says are more in line with traveler demand. This one is tiered, as was the previous model, to a passenger's program level. For the first time, "Diamond Plus" members will get their own edition (with the best possible array of certificates).

So, for instance, one of the perks for C&A members is a discount on use of onboard Internet. In the tiered system, a gold member would get a $5 credit or 10 percent off any internet package purchase (whichever amount is greater). A Platinum member receives a credit of $7.50 or 15 percent off an Internet package. You can see where RCI ramps up the benefits when you get to Diamond level. There, cruisers get 30 minutes of free Internet and 20 percent off a package while Diamond Plus travelers receive 45 free minutes and 25 percent off a package.

All ships will now have two loyalty ambassadors.

C&A will, of course, continue to offer existing amenities and awards.

In a chat with Cruise Critic Friday, O'Rourke emphasized that Royal Caribbean is always looking for ways to improve C&A. "It's part of our DNA," she said. "We're always looking to stretch the envelope, be the most innovative."

And, O'Rourke added, "There's more to come."

If you've completed a cruise on Royal Caribbean and are not a member of C&A, you can enroll here. And, to enter the Cruise Critic debate over program changes -- or ask questions -- check out our message board thread.

--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief

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