On June 1, Royal Caribbean International announced enhancements to the Crown & Anchor Society program. In case you're not familiar with it, Crown & Anchor Society is the line's loyalty program, offering past passengers savings and incentives that increase the more times a passenger sails with the line.
Guests are automatically enrolled after their first Royal Caribbean International cruise, and cruisers who sail with the line at least 25 times reach Diamond Plus level and receive the maximum benefits, which include complimentary upgrades, concierge lounge access and an enhanced onboard coupon booklet for extra savings and bonuses.
By most accounts, the Crown & Anchor Society is a great loyalty program that keeps satisfied passengers returning to the line, and while there is always a mixed reaction to changes, comments for the enhancements announced yesterday seem generally positive.
If you've ever cruised, you're likely familiar with the Onboard Booking Program that most cruise lines offer: a generous onboard credit and/or reduced deposit when you put down a deposit and book your next cruise during your current sailing. It's a great opportunity for the cruise line to secure the return business of a satisfied customer and the passenger not only enjoys the booking incentive, they can start looking forward to their next vacation before their current one ends. Some travel agencies, Online Vacation Center included, even offer a little something extra when customers book their next cruise onboard (call a Personal Vacation Manager at 800-780-9002 for details on our program). It's a win-win, by all accounts.
That's what makes one aspect of the changes Royal Caribbean announced yesterday so puzzling. Quoting from Royal Caribbean President and CEO Adam Goldstein's blog:
Did you catch that? Only Crown & Anchor members have the "privilege" of booking their next cruise onboard. If you're a first time passenger with the line (and the Oasis of the Seas and sister Allure of the Seas are reportedly drawing a good number of first time cruisers), you won't have the privilege of booking onboard. In the interest of marketing a new, "exclusive" benefit to existing Crown & Anchor members, Royal Caribbean risks alienating all the first time passengers onboard their ships and not capturing the booking for their next cruise onboard.Crown & Anchor Society members will now have the exclusive privilege to reserve their next cruise while onboard a Royal Caribbean ship. The new and exclusive “Onboard Booking Bonus” offers members an onboard credit of up to $200 per stateroom for making a reservation on a future sailing. This Bonus can now be used with either a Crown & Anchor Savings Certificate or a Balcony & Suite Discount (the latter applicable for our Platinum, Diamond or Diamond Plus members), offering members great savings for their next cruise before their current cruise ends.
In the fine print on the Crown & Anchor page on line's web site,there's this disclaimer:
You must be enrolled in the Crown & Anchor Society program and have a valid Crown & Anchor Society number. If you are on your first cruise and would like to take advantage of the onboard offer, you will need to enroll at the Internet Cafe or consult with your onboard Loyalty & Cruise Sales consultant.But if the Onboard Booking program is marketed exclusively to existing Crown & Anchor members, it seems likely that most first-time Royal Caribbean passengers (and first-time cruisers in particular) won't even know that an Onboard Booking program exists to inquire about it, and many probably won't be bothered to go to the internet cafe to self-enroll.
Given the record-breaking numbers of new cruise ships coming online in recent years (with more to come) and the need to bring more and more new passengers to fill them, it seems like a short-sighted decision to trade-off aggressively capturing the future business of first-time passengers for the negligible benefit of marketing an "exclusive" amenity to already loyal customers.
To borrow a catchphrase from Royal Caribbean, Why Not encourage all passengers to book onboard (as every cruise line always has)? There are so many bookings to gain, with very little downside, since most Crown & Anchor members are going to return to sail on Royal Caribbean again, even without this benefit being "exclusive."
Cruisers: Do you usually take advantage of the Onboard Booking program? Would you be less likely to do so if you had to take extra steps to self-enroll in the line's loyalty program during your first cruise?