Royal Caribbean International has reached out to some of its most loyal guests with news that a popular benefit will no longer be available for sailings departing on or after December 16, 2022.
As of that date, Diamond Plus guests will no longer be permitted access to the Concierge Lounge on ships without a dedicated Suite Lounge.
Lounge Access to Be Restricted
This change will be implemented for all voyages departing on or after December 16, 2022, for all ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet. In a letter to current Diamond Plus members, the cruise line explained the decision.
“While we are excited for the growth of our program, we must remain mindful of our onboard operations to ensure that we continue to deliver the award-winning experience you know and love,” the letter stated. “As a result, we have made the decision to standardize Concierge and Suite Lounge access across the fleet.”
Previously, specific lounge access has been variable depending on the overall guest count onboard individual ships and on individual sailings, depending on how many guests have met specific loyalty benefit levels.
Furthermore, different ships have different size lounges, and lounge capacity had to be considered when determining which loyalty level guests would have access to the space.
With these factors considered, one sailing might have permitted access for Diamond Plus guests, while the very next sailing on the same ship might have denied that access. This inconsistency has proven difficult to manage, and leads to miscommunication and uncertainty about expected or guaranteed benefits.
Now lounge access will be fully standardized, and only Pinnacle level guests (700+ cruise points) as well as suite guests will be authorized to enjoy the space.
This change only applies to ships that do not have a Suite Lounge, which includes all Radiance-class ships, all Vision-class ships, the Voyager-class Explorer of the Seas, and the three oldest Quantum-class vessels, Quantum of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, and Ovation of the Seas.
Different Loyalty Tiers
While most major cruise lines have tiered loyalty programs to offer exclusive benefits to frequent guests, Royal Caribbean International’s six-tier program has some of the greatest disparity for earning different levels.
A guest is eligible for the first loyalty level, Gold, after a first cruise, as just 3 points are required for membership. The next three levels – Platinum, Emerald, and Diamond – have thresholds of 30, 55, and 80 points, respectively, which makes the jump between Platinum/Emerald and Emerald/Diamond equal, at 25 points.
To move up to Diamond Plus is a more significant leap of 95 points, more than double the total amount necessary for Diamond level loyalty. Diamond Plus, however, does have very impressive benefits unavailable to lower tiers, including personalized gifts and priority access and seating at shows in the main show lounge, ice theaters, and AquaTheaters.
The jump to Pinnacle Club, however, is even more severe. To be a part of this most exclusive cadre of Royal Caribbean cruisers, guests must have earned 700 points – 525 points higher than the next lowest level, Diamond Plus.
This means guests who have enjoyed the combined lounge access under the previous benefit may now not enter those exclusive spaces until they have earned hundreds of additional cruise points.
Other lounges do exist onboard the impacted vessels, however, and most cruise ships have plenty of creative quiet spaces guests can discover and enjoy, regardless of their loyalty level.
The benefit of having access to more exclusive, quieter spaces has been especially popular on larger ships with higher guest capacities, and some guests are sure to be disappointed in this change that now removes the benefit from many guests.
Yet it is the exclusivity of the space that Royal Caribbean is attempting to preserve, as more and more travelers are quickly earning higher-tier benefits.
If too many guests have special access to the space, such lounges will quickly become overcrowded, and will fail to provide the experience loyal cruisers have come to expect.
Guests onboard recent Royal Caribbean cruises have reported greater crowds that reduce the attractiveness of the benefit, though other guests have expressed disappointment at what could be seen as lessening of benefits for very loyal guests.
It is not unusual for cruise lines to adapt loyalty benefits in response to increased numbers of loyal cruisers, and it remains to be seen whether Royal Caribbean will keep this change or may make further adjustments to reward its most loyal guests.