Between Royal Caribbean International and Carnival Cruise Line, which offers the better loyalty perks and benefits?
In this article we are going to compare two of the biggest cruise lines on the planet. We will see what you actually get for all that loyalty and what benefits you receive for the equal number of nights with each cruise line.
We’ve written on the 10 biggest differences between Carnival and Royal Caribbean before, but this time we will focus on the loyalty programs alone.
Click here to jump right to the comparison of benefits.
These programs are the ocean’s equivalent of an airline’s frequent flyer program and were created specifically to reward those who frequently sail with the same cruise line.
Each loyalty program varies, but are typically structured on a point system, in which these points are determined by the length of the particular sailing.
Discounts can include early booking, member-only discounts, free cabin upgrades, free internet, complimentary signature dining at specialty restaurants, or even a free cruise. Cruise lines do offer discounts for the general population, but there are special discounts reserved for loyalty members only.
To start, lets get an overview of each cruise lines loyalty program.
Carnival Cruise Line: VIFP Club Introduction
As soon as you take your first Carnival cruise, you’re considered a Very Important Fun Person, or VIFP. This name is a playful nod to Carnival’s claim to fame as the ‘fun ship’ cruise line.
You’re automatically enrolled when you take your first cruise but you can activate your account at www.carnival.com/VIFP.
For each guest with Carnival’s VIFP loyalty program, a loyalty number is assigned. This loyalty number is as unique as an ID number and is entered at the time of booking to ensure you receive discounts, points and more.
Passengers are welcome to sign up at the time of booking their sailing, onboard, or after their sailing is complete. Benefits begin immediately after signing up.
There are five (5) tiers in Carnival’s VIFP Club:
- Blue (earned after first sailing)
- Red (earned after second sailing until you accrue 24 points)
- Gold (earned after accruing 25 points – until you reach 74 points)
- Platinum (earned after accruing 75 points – until you reach 199 points)
- Diamond (earned after accruing 200 points and any thereafter)
How to Earn Points as a VIFP
To earn points as a VIFP on Carnival, all you must do is cruise! For each day that you sail with Carnival, one VIFP point is earned.
For example, if you sail on a 5-day cruise to Alaska, you will earn 5 VIFP points. If your sailing is 7-days, you earn 7 points. The more that you cruise, the more points you will stack up.
Being a member is important, as Carnival reserves benefits that are exclusive to members only and are more exclusive as you move higher up in the program.
Carnival VIFP Benefits
Carnival offers a wide array of benefits that improve the higher up in the tier system that you get. The best part is that all benefits and exclusive deals are combinable, which offers you the best deal for your booking.
All members, regardless of tier ranking are entitled to member-only cruise discounts not available to the public. These discounts change frequently depending on the port of departure, season, and holidays.
As you move higher up, items such as complimentary water bottles, cocktails, desserts, and priority reservations at the spa, and restaurants, or priority embarkation or disembarkation are made available to VIFP members.
Benefits begin accruing immediately, which is why Carnival encourages all their guests to sign up.
Royal Caribbean International: Crown and Anchor Society
The Crown and Anchor Society is Royal Caribbean’s way of recognizing and rewarding their most loyal passengers. The Crown and Anchor Society has been rewarding guests for over 25 years, and Royal Caribbean has been awarded ‘Best Cruise Line Overall’ for over 20 years running.
All you must do to enroll in the Crown and Anchor Society is simply sail with Royal Caribbean – that’s it. After your first sailing, you are automatically assigned a Crown and Anchor ID number, which you can then apply to future sailings for additional perks, discounts and more.
You will begin earning rewards during your first sailing, which increase the more that you cruise. Royal Caribbean encourages all cruisers to be “Loyal to Royal” to keep earning more benefits.
There are six (6) tiers in Royal Caribbean’s Crown and Anchor Society:
- Gold (earned during your first sailing until you accrue 3 points)
- Platinum (earned once you reach 30 points and until you earn 55 points)
- Emerald (earned once you earn 55 points and until you earn 80 points)
- Diamond (earned once you earn 80 points and until you earn 175 points)
- Diamond Plus (earned once you earn 175 points and until you earn 700 points)
- Pinnacle Club (earned once you reach 700 points and any thereafter)
Even at the entry level (Gold) there are some notable perks and discounts, such as exclusive rates available for specific sailings on particular ships, so it is worth signing up to take advantage of these offers. It only takes one cruise to reach the gold level.
How to Earn Points with Crown and Anchor Society
Earning points as a Crown and Anchor Society member is as easy as sailing with Royal Caribbean and you are eligible for several benefits on your first cruise. For each night that you sail, one point is earned.
However, you can earn double the number of points per night (2) if you book a suite. Booking suites allows members to reach the higher tiers a lot faster, as double points are accrued.
For example, if you book a 7-night sailing in a standard cabin to the Caribbean, you will earn 7 points and be a Gold member in the Crown and Anchor Society until you reach 30 points. But if you book a junior suite, you will earn 14 points. It would require five, seven-night cruises, to reach the Platinum level, assuming you stay in a standard cabin.
Guests who cruise solo and pay the single supplement will earn two points per night instead of one. If they stay in a suite, they will earn three points for each night of the cruise.
There are varying benefits and rewards that are exclusive to Crown and Anchor Society members. Upon booking your first sailing, you will be automatically assigned an ID number, which allows you to accrue points, and gain rewards immediately.
Crown and Anchor Society Benefits
The benefits of being a Crown and Anchor Society member begin on day one. All members, regardless of status, get onboard discounts on services, merchandise, on food and beverage, as well as priority notice on special offers, news and more.
The discount percentages increase the higher up passengers move in the Crown and Anchor Society tiers. For example, Gold members might get 10% off spa services, while Platinum members would get 15% off. Platinum members and above are also entitled to special events onboard, special deliveries to your cabin, as well as complimentary daily drinks.
One of the reasons the Crown and Anchor Society is such an elite club is because after reaching the Pinnacle tier, you’ll earn a complimentary seven-night cruise to the Caribbean in a balcony cabin for two people. Cruisers are only responsible for paying any tax, service or additional fees (such as gratuities) associated.
The best part is that each time you accumulate an additional 350 points as a Pinnacle Club member, you earn an additional free cruise in a junior suite. That’s a lot of free cruises!
Benefits: Carnival vs. Royal Caribbean
Now let’s compare what you actual get for the same number of cruise days on each cruise line. The cruise tiers don’t match up perfectly, but this will give a rough idea how the two programs compare.
Keep in mind that the number of days will only need to be half as much if booking a suite with either cruise line.
We will not get into every single benefit but will cover 90% of them, especially the significant ones.
Benefits after 30 days with either cruise line
Carnival (Gold status achieved after 25 points):
- Free 1.5 liter bottle of water
- Members only offers
- Appreciation drink on last night
- Gold VIFP pin
Royal Caribbean (Platinum status after 30 points):
- 50% off Johnny Rockets milkshake (2 uses)
- 50% off wine, beer, or soda (2 uses)
- 50% off coffee beverages
- 15% off VOOM internet
- 3 free bingo cards with purchase of bingo package
- Discounts on balconies and suites
- Priority notice on new ships and itineraries
- 15% discount on spa services
- Robes for use onboard
- $5 off dry cleaning
Benefits after 80 days with either cruise line
Keep in mind these benefits are in addition to the ones above.
Carnival (Platinum level is reached after 75 points):
- Priority check-in and boarding during embarkation
- Free drinks during VIFP party
- Free beverage at Seaday Brunch
- “Chocolate Delight” on 5+ day cruise
- Priority spa reservations
- $25 in casino FunPlay
- Priority debarkation
- Priority reservations at restaurants
- Free wash and fold laundry services
Royal Caribbean (Diamond status is reached at 80 points):
- 20$ off wine, beer, and soda
- 4 free drinks up to $14 for each day of the cruise
- 1 free day of internet
- Diamond Lounge access
- 6 free bingo cards with package purchase
- $10 discount on wash and fold laundry
- 2 free water bottles
- Chef’s Choice on 5+ nights
- Free photo from an existing print
- 20% off spa services
- Lapel pin
Benefits after 200 days with either cruise line
Carnival (Diamond level is reached at 200 points):
- Guaranteed seating time in main dining room
- Priority reservations at restaurants
- Unlimited wash and fold laundry
- Captain invitation
- One-time free cabin upgrade
- One-time complimentary meal for 2 at specialty dining
- VIFP Club luggage tag set
- Dedicated phone number for service and sales
Royal Caribbean (Diamond Plus is reached at 175 points):
- 25% off beer, wine, and soda
- 5 free daily drinks up to $14
- Buy one specialty dining and 2nd guest is free (some restrictions)
- 30% off deluxe beverage packages
- 2 free days of internet
- Priority seating at theaters and shows
- Personalized gift
- One free bag of wash and fold service ($34.99 value)
- Free add-on spa treatment
- Single supplement cruise fare reduced to 150% after 340 points
A few more Royal Caribbean benefits
Diamond level with Carnival (200+ points) is as high as you can go. With Royal Caribbean there is another top tier called Pinnacle (700+ points). Here are some of the benefits if the Pinnacle level:
- 6 free daily drinks up to $14
- 40% off deluze beverage package
- Coastal Kitchen access
- $25 off specialty dining
- Daily breakfast at specialty restaurant
- Free internet for duration of voyage
- Suite/Concierge Lounge access
- Flexible arrival
- 3 free welcome waters
- Free cruise for 7N balcony for 700 and 1,050 points
- Free cruise at rate of a Junior Suite for 1,400 and every 350 cruise points thereafter
Overall Winner: Royal Caribbean
While both cruise lines offer a substantial number of perks depending on your status level, Royal Caribbean arguably offers more benefits within each tier and even has an additional tier, as Carnival only has 5, while Royal has 6.
One huge benefit is Royal Caribbean’s ‘Status Match’ program, which Carnival does not currently offer. If you are a current loyalty member with Celebrity Cruise Line (Royal Caribbean’s sister line), your rewards are transferable between each.
For example, if you are a Captain’s Club Elite member with Celebrity Cruise Line, then you will receive Diamond tier benefits with Royal Caribbean’s Crown and Anchor Society.
This is an incredible perk for cruisers to try out different itineraries, ships, and experiences between the different cruise lines, and is a faster way to earn increased status.
Arguably, the huge difference between Royal Caribbean’s Crown and Anchor Society and Carnival’s VIFP is the ability to earn a free cruise. Carnival’s VIFP does not offer its guests the ability to earn a free cruise at any tier, which can be a huge incentive.
Royal Caribbean not only offers this incentive to Pinnacle Club members, but the opportunity for these members to earn additional free cruises with every additional 350 points. For this reason alone, Royal Caribbean has been a longstanding fan favorite for cruisers.
Carnival vs. Royal Caribbean Recapped
So, with all things considered, is Carnival or Royal Caribbean better? Assuming either cruise line can accommodate your travel dates, itineraries, activities, budget, and amenity preferences, Royal Caribbean certainly comes out on top.
Although both cruise lines offer a substantial number of discounts, the particular discounts available from Royal Caribbean are arguably more worthwhile to cruisers.
Edits and information to this post was contributed by by C. Ingram