Carnival Cruise Line fans are a loyal bunch. So loyal, perhaps, that the line hasn’t felt the need to offer up crazy-lucrative loyalty program perks to keep them coming back.
Unlike rival Royal Caribbean, Carnival’s VIFP Club loyalty program doesn’t offer its members a free cruise after reaching the top tier. There are no 20% discounts on some sailings, as Windstar Cruises offers to its loyalty program members.
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But Carnival’s VIFP Club, as the line calls its loyalty program, does bring some valuable perks at its higher-level tiers, including priority access to many onboard venues and services.
The Carnival VIFP Club loyalty program also is one where it is relatively easy to reach a high-level tier.
In case you’re wondering, VIFP stands for “very important fun person” — a playful nod to Carnival’s nickname as the “fun ship” line.
Ways to earn points
The Carnival VIFP Club point-earning system is simple. You earn one point for every day you cruise on a Carnival ship.
If you take a three-night cruise, you’ll get three points. If you take a seven-night cruise, you’ll get seven points. You don’t have to worry about different earning levels for different cabin categories or different types of bookings, as is the case with some lines.
Note that certain charter sailings and nonrevenue fares do not get you any points.
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Insider tip: After sailing on one of Carnival’s ships in Australia, you won’t automatically get points for the trip deposited in your account. You’ll need to log into your account online, click on “Missing a Cruise?” and request the VIFP points be awarded for the days you earned on that voyage.
Program tiers and benefits
There are five tiers to the VIFP Club program:
- Blue (your first sailing).
- Red (second sailing to 24 points).
- Gold (25 to 74 points).
- Platinum (75 to 199 points).
- Diamond (200 or more points).
One of the nice little surprises of Carnival’s loyalty program is that you hit the first tier level, Blue, the moment you walk on board your first cruise with the brand. Unlike many lines, you don’t have to complete a cruise to get to the first level. In fact, you can get to the Blue tier even before taking a cruise. All you have to do is sign up in advance.
That said, the Blue tier of the program brings almost no perks. There are only two: You are eligible for members-only cruise offers and you’ll receive a members-only electronic newsletter.
The next two tiers in the program are almost as stingy when it comes to perks. The second tier, Red, offers the same two perks as the Blue tier with just one additional one: a complimentary, 1.5-liter bottle of water redeemable at any bar, restaurant or in your cabin. (Don’t go drinking it all at once.)
The Gold tier adds a single free drink that only can be ordered on the last night of a cruise (and only on cruises of five nights or longer). To restrict the free drink to the last night of a cruise, in our eyes, seems like an inordinate effort on the part of Carnival to discourage customers from using what already is a pretty paltry perk. Gold level members also get a Gold VIFP pin on every sailing.
It isn’t until the fourth tier of the program, Platinum, that things start to get interesting (more on that in a moment).
It’ll take you just one cruise to reach the Red tier. If you always book seven-night sailings, you’ll reach the Gold tier after three cruises. That’s right, while the Gold tier requires 25 points, you can reach it after sailing three seven-night cruises.
This is due to one of the quirks of the VIFP Club program that we really like: If you’re going to hit a tier cut-off during a voyage, you will receive the benefits of that tier from the beginning of that cruise. So you would be Gold from the start of your fourth seven-night sailing, even though you only had 21 points.
The elite level that makes a difference
The Platinum level of the VIFP Club is where your loyalty to Carnival finally starts paying off.
Many of the perks that kick in at this level include priority access of some kind, including:
- Priority check-in and boarding.
- Priority spa reservations.
- Priority water shuttle boarding (ship-to-shore only).
- Priority line at onboard Guest Services desk and priority assistance by phone.
- Priority debarkation.
- Priority reservations at the Main Dining Room and specialty restaurants.
In short, once you’re at the Platinum level, you’ll suddenly find yourself bumped to the front of the line from the moment you arrive at a ship until the moment you leave. This is no small thing. Priority boarding means that you’ll get on board the ship more quickly than other passengers, giving you more time on your first day to enjoy its offerings. Priority access to restaurant reservations means you’ll get the best table times.
Other perks that come with Platinum level include:
- An invitation to an exclusive Platinum and Diamond VIFP Party with free drinks and appetizers on sailings of five days or longer.
- A free drink at the Seaday Brunch.
- A “Chocolate Delight” strawberry plate delivered to your cabin on a five-day or longer cruise.
- A buy-one, get-one-free tournament entry in the casino (blackjack or slot only).
- $5 worth of complimentary arcade credits (this one is only for passengers under 18).
- A Carnival logo gift on every sailing.
- Complimentary wash-and-fold laundry service (two bags on three- to six-day cruises; three bags on seven- to 13-day cruises; five bags on a cruise 14 days or longer).
Getting to the Platinum tier takes 10 cruises, assuming you always sail seven-night voyages. If you do shorter trips, it’ll take longer.
Best elite perk
Even at the highest Diamond level of its VIFP Club program, Carnival still is a little stingy with the perks. Unlike Royal Caribbean and some other lines, for instance, it doesn’t give members a free cruise upon reaching this pinnacle of loyalty status. That said, Diamond status does bring a few nice privileges.
We definitely appreciate the free cabin upgrade (or third-and-fourth passengers sail free offer) that comes with first reaching Diamond status, although we’re disappointed this is a one-time-only benefit. Another good, but one-time-only perk of Diamond status is a complimentary meal for two at a specialty restaurant of your choice.
But the best elite perk of the VIFP Club program in our eyes is the unlimited wash-and-fold laundry service that comes with Diamond status. Unlike the above two perks, you’ll get this every time you sail once you reach Diamond level.
Other Diamond level benefits include:
- Guaranteed seating time requested in Main Dining Room, for dinner only.
- Priority reservations at specialty restaurants.
- Special event invitation from the captain on each sailing.
- One-time donation to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
- VIFP Club luggage tag set.
- Dedicated toll-free number for sales and service.
Note that, as is usually the case with cruise line loyalty programs, Carnival customers do not have to requalify for status each year. VIFP Club members keep their points at the end of each year and continue to accrue points indefinitely. That means that someone who hits Diamond status will remain at that top tier level forever (or until Carnival makes a change to the program).
Such “forever status” is one of the great allures of cruise line frequent cruiser programs. Most airline frequent flyer programs, by contrast, require loyalty members to requalify for status each year.
When it comes to perks, Carnival’s loyalty program isn’t as robust as the programs at some rival lines. At its highest tier, it doesn’t bring anything close to the free cruise that some other lines offer to top-tier customers, or onboard perks like free drinks daily in a private lounge. It won’t get you across-the-board discounts on cruises, shore excursions and beverage packages, as some lines offer higher-tier members. But it does bring some worthwhile perks at higher levels, and it’s relatively easy to rise through the tiers of the program.
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