For the second time in just a few days, Carnival Cruise Line has reached out to guests booked on an upcoming sailing to notify them that the most popular loyalty benefits for top-tier returning passengers will not be available.
The impacted sailing is the September 29, 2023 Carnival Venezia departure, and while it is a longer sailing, it is not quite so momentous as other cruises where these benefits cannot be accommodated.
Why does this keep happening aboard Carnival Cruise Line, and what might be done to preserve loyalty status on more sailings?
Loyalty Benefits Not Available on Upcoming Cruise
Returning Carnival guests who have achieved Diamond or Platinum level in Carnival Cruise Line’s “VIFP” (Very Important Fun Person) loyalty program will not be getting all their benefits aboard the September 29, 2023 cruise on Carnival Venezia.
The 15-night Southern Caribbean itinerary is a roundtrip “Carnival Journeys” cruise scheduled to call on Grand Turk, Aruba, Curacao, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, and St. Thomas before returning to New York on October 14, 2023.
The cruise line’s most loyal guests booked on the cruise, however, have been notified that not all their benefits can be offered on this sailing.
“Due to the high number of Diamond and Platinum guests joining us on this voyage, we will not be able to provide priority embarkation or debarkation (including at any of the ports of call),” the notification email read.
Furthermore, the email also noted that “due to capacity limitations” Diamond guests would not be guaranteed main dining room seating time requests for dinner.
“This operational change is consistent with other Carnival Journeys cruises where we have a very large number of Diamond and Platinum guests,” the email explained. “We apologize for any disappointment and thank you for your understanding.”
In order to reach Platinum VIFP status, a cruise traveler must have sailed with Carnival Cruise Line for a minimum of 75 cruise nights (each night earns one point in the program, and points do not expire). To reach Diamond status, guests must have sailed with the cruise line for at least 200 nights.
The priority embarkation and debarkation benefits are some of the most sought after loyalty rewards in the program, but they are not the only benefits the most experienced cruisers receive. Other benefits, including the loyalty gifts, casino free play, and the special line at Guest Services remain intact for this sailing.
Benefits Not Available on All Cruises
Whenever necessary, Carnival Cruise Line does remove benefits from individual sailings if those benefits cannot be accommodated in a timely and efficient way.
For example, the “Carnival Journeys” cruises – longer sailings to more exclusive destination that often attract more experienced cruisers – regularly get these benefits reduced, because it simply would not be possible to effectively deliver the appropriate service to hundreds of Diamond or Platinum guests.
The very first sailing of Carnival Venezia had these same benefits removed in May 2023, and more recently, the transatlantic sailing of Carnival Freedom – which departed Port Canaveral on September 21, 2023 – also had these loyalty benefits removed.
With more and more travelers reaching the distinct upper levels of loyalty status, however, it is possible that these benefits may be rescinded more and more frequently on a larger number of Carnival sailings. This can make the benefits must less valuable and much less attractive to frequent cruisers.
Should the Loyalty Program Be Overhauled?
Earlier this year, Carnival Cruise Line’s brand ambassador John Heald hinted that changes to the VIFP loyalty program may be forthcoming.
“The whole loyalty program is being looked at by very smart people and while I have zero news to share on what will or will not happen I know that the program needs a massive refresh so we can do a better job in thanking people for their loyalty and to keep that loyalty alive,” Heald said.
It is possible the cruise line may be considering adjusting the loyalty tiers or adding a new top tier level, as Disney Cruise Line did in May 2023 when it introduced the Pearl tier to the Castaway Club loyalty program.
Any adjustments to Carnival’s existing program could be tricky, however, as guests who are already Platinum or Diamond may resent if any existing benefits are removed for a new, higher tier. This could cause ripples with upcoming bookings or cancellations if guests opt to shift to other cruise lines – perhaps lines like MSC Cruises, which offers a status match for competing lines’ loyalty programs.
What new benefits do you think Carnival could introduce for a new tier of VIFP guests? Share your thoughts on the Cruise Hive boards!