Carnival Cruise Line brand ambassador John Heald has acknowledged the need for an overhaul of the line’s loyalty program, and asked for guest feedback about options.
While no immediate changes are forthcoming, there are a variety of choices the cruise line might make to reward returning guests.
Loyalty Program Changes Coming?
Loyalty programs are a great attraction for frequent cruisers as they build up points, days, or other means of tracking their specific level of loyalty to earn exclusive benefits. Carnival Cruise Line’s “Very Important Fun Person” (VIFP) loyalty program is based on days, with every day aboard earning guests more credit to advance to higher loyalty levels more quickly.
The line’s official ambassador, John Heald, recently acknowledged the possibility of changes coming to how loyalty credit may be accrued, after being asked why only days – and not type of stateroom or onboard spending – earns loyalty.
“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.
Heald went on to ask whether or not the guests feel the money spent onboard should help advance loyalty levels.
Guest response was mixed, with many guests believing Carnival Cruise Line should stick with just the number of days cruised to determine loyalty, while others agree that onboard spending should have some influence on VIFP levels.
Days of Loyalty
Right now, Carnival’s VIFP program operates on a days cruised basis, with each day equal to one point in the program. All guests are automatically enrolled in the “Blue” level from their very first cruise, receiving members-only offers and an emailed newsletter.
From a guest’s second sailing and through 24 points earned, guests are “Red” level, while 25-75 points is “Gold,” 75-199 points is “Platinum” and 200+ points qualify the most loyal guests as “Diamond” status.
At each successive tier, benefits increase and ultimately include such premium perks as priority embarkation and debarkation, free logo gifts, priority spa and restaurant reservations, complimentary laundry service, and more.
While this method of loyalty – counting days cruised – is a fair method that rewards guests for the more time they spend onboard Carnival cruise ships, it does not account for other factors, such as their spending patterns onboard.
It should be noted, however, that counting days is a distinct improvement over Carnival’s former policy, which counted cruises only. For example, guests would not reach “Gold” status until they had sailed five times, no matter what the length of cruise – a guest who had sailed only four week-long cruises (28 days total) would have a lower loyalty status than a guest who had sailed five weekend cruises (15 days total).
The change from individual cruises to total days counted for loyalty was implemented in 2012. After more than a decade, is another change overdue?
Spending Influencing Loyalty
To add an onboard spending component to guest loyalty status would permit guests to advance through Carnival’s VIFP tiers more quickly based on certain purchases.
For example, the stateroom category may factor into loyalty points earned. Guests booking more expensive cabins, such as suites, might earn extra points on top of the days of the cruise.
Money spent in the ship’s casino could also influence loyalty, with high rollers earning more loyalty points and benefits more quickly than casual casino guests or passengers who do not gamble at all.
It is not typically possible to use all onboard spending to influence cruise line loyalty status, however. Retail purchases, spa treatments, and shore tours will not usually be applicable, for example, as that spending is for retail partners and not directly to the cruise line.
Other Loyalty Options
There are other options Carnival Cruise Line might consider to help determine guest loyalty status. It could be possible, for example, to offer guests additional loyalty points for more frequent cruises, such as bonus points for cruising multiple times in one year.
Specific destinations might also be used for extra loyalty points, such as rewarding guests for booking a cruise to Alaska or for sailing a longer Journeys cruise.
Carnival might also use even more creative options for encouraging loyalty, such as bonus points for sailing on a brand new ship, or special sailings – such as the popular “FFS” cruises with John Heald – qualifying for extra points.
How do you think Carnival could revamp the VIFP program? Share your thoughts on the Cruise Hive boards!