The truth about Royal Caribbean's Diamond loyalty perk 'changes'

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Cruise lines offer their most loyal passengers special perks through their various loyalty programs. That's an enticement to keep booking cruises on the same line as you advance to higher levels based on how many nights you sail.Royal Caribbean's Crown & Anchor program offers meaningful benefits and perks once you hit the higher levels of the program. The opening levels, Gold, Platinum, and Emerald, offer some small discounts and other minor perks.Related: Carnival, Royal Caribbean make major change customers will loveWhen you hit Diamond, however, the real benefits begin to kick in. It takes 80 points to become a Diamond-level Crown & Anchor member. Passengers earn one point per night sailing, two if they sail solo, or in a suite, and 3 if they sail solo in a suite.When you reach Diamond, two perks are offered. You get four drink vouchers each day that can be used anywhere on the ship or at the CocoCay or Labadee private islands. Those vouchers can be used on any beverage up to $14, and unlike a beverage package, they can be shared. In addition, Diamond members get access to the Crown Lounge, a dedicated space with keycard access where a continental breakfast is served in the morning and snacks and appetizers are offered from 5-8 p.m. There's also a coffee machine that operates 24/7 which makes fancy espresso drinks, and a concierge who can help with dining and show reservations as well as other problems. 

Diamond drink vouchers can be used anywhere on the shipImage source: Daniel Kline/TheStreet

Crown Lounge access is sometimes restricted  Social media has blown up with reports of Royal Caribbean restricting access to the Crown Lounge during the 5-8 p.m. happy hour on some sailings. In many of those posts, the poster frames it as the cruise line "taking away another perk."The "another" part of that generally refers to the old happy hour which included unlimited drinks. That was replaced by the drink vouchers to reduce crowding in the lounge during the social-distancing days of the Covid comeback. With social distancing no longer a concern, Royal Caribbean has kept the voucher system in place which some Diamond (and higher) Crown & Anchor Society members like, Others see the decision as losing something.On select sailings, Royal Caribbean has limited access to the Happy Hour period, where drinks are served, but are no longer free, to Diamond+ and Pinnacle-level members. That's a more select audience because it takes 175 points to get to Diamond+ and 700 to reach Pinnacle.   Restricting access is a change, but it has always been in the fine print on the cruise line's website. Sign up for the Come Cruise With Me newsletter to save money on your next (or your first) cruise."Royal Caribbean reserves the right to modify the Crown & Anchor Society, Club Royale, and MyCruise Rewards programs along with their terms and conditions, at any time and without notice," the cruise line shared on its website.  The truth about Royal Caribbean Crown Lounge accessRoyal Caribbean has been forced to limit lounge access during the Happy Hour period, when bar service is offered, but drinks require the use of a voucher, a drink package, or they must be paid for, on very select sailings. It generally only happens on "event" sailings like the President's Cruise or a Casino Royale Signature sailing because those cruises attract more long-timer cruisers.The cruise line only changes the Crown Lounge occupancy rules when the amount of Diamond, Diamond+, and Pinnacle passengers would lead to overcrowding during that popular period. Royal Caribbean isn't getting ready to take away the Crown Lounge perk from Diamond members, nor has it made a policy change. It has chosen to temporarily limit access for Diamond members on sailings which attract a high level of top-tier loyalty program members. Be the first to see the best deals on cruises, special sailings, and more. Sign up for the Come Cruise With Me newsletter.The cruise line is making a needed to decision to prevent over-crowding. It also limits Pinnacle access to the suite lounge and Coastal Kitchen when the numbers dictate that. All of these are rare occurrences, not a prelude to the cruise line making a change to its Crown and Anchor Society benefits.    Related: Cruise lines, Las Vegas Strip, gamblers get good IRS news

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