(Update, January 20, 4:20 p.m. EST -- According to Royal Caribbean, it "will be making an announcement that will apply to millions of the cruise line's past guests" during a Web presentation/teleconference on Friday, January 21. Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales, trade support and services, and Lillian Murphy, vice president of 0ne-to-one marketing, will host the 9 a.m. EST event. Cruise Critic will be onhand and report on the details as soon as we get any information, so be sure to check back.)
(5:30 p.m. EST) -- Few topics rile up Cruise Critic readers like past-passenger loyalty programs, those incentive-based systems that reward cruisers for their undying dedication to a line. So, when regular poster thelion started a thread claiming that big changes were in store for Royal Caribbean's Crown & Anchor Society program, an explosion of 750-plus posts followed, spanning 38 pages.
So what was all the hullabaloo? thelion posted that Royal Caribbean may switch to a system of accruing status that's day-based (rather than cruise-based, as it is under the current program). It may also add additional loyalty tiers. That means if you typically take shorter three-night cruises, you won't advance to the next tier as quickly as someone with the same number of seven-night cruises. Under the current system, three- and seven-night cruises each count for one credit. (Suite bookings and 12-night or longer cruises will each gain you one extra credit.)
The rumors left RCI fans in a tizzy, pulling out calculators and slide rules to determine whether their upcoming cruises will, in fact, qualify them for a hoped-for bump in status or whether the rumored day-based system would make it much more difficult to move from, say, Diamond status (currently 10 or more cruises) to Diamond-Plus (25 or more cruises).
Yet, Royal Caribbean remains silent, saying in an e-mail only that "Royal Caribbean International has not made any announcements regarding the Crown & Anchor Society since June 2010. [The cruise line] is always exploring new ways to better recognize our members for choosing to sail with us again and again, and we will announce any further program enhancements as they are implemented." When pressed for more detail, spokesperson Harrison Liu said, "As a public company, we would not be able to disclose anything in advance of a public announcement in general."
To add to the suspense, thelion originally said to look for changes announced by today, but so far, all is quiet on the Royal Caribbean front. Boards members are now posting that the announcement is delayed, perhaps indefinitely.
While we've been unable to confirm or deny the claim, it got us wondering: Which sort of past-passenger program would you prefer? Are you someone who takes a lot of three- and four-night cruises and would opt for a system based on the number of sailings? Or, do you book long-form voyages and prefer earning benefits based on days at sea? Weigh in on the boards, and stay tuned to Cruise Critic, where we'll post any official news if and when an announcement comes.
--by Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor