Take it from someone who has done *cough* a lot *cough* of Disney cruises, Disney’s Castaway Club benefits need some reimagining. In my opinion, Disney’s loyalty program for frequent cruisers is one of the weakest in the industry. Other cruise lines just have them beat in this area. I’ve sailed on some other lines, and was recently able to experience the top level of Princess Cruise Line’s loyalty program. Some of the perks blew me away–and made me realize there is so much more Disney could do!
Let me first say that I would like Disney to change up their Castaway Club levels. Ten cruises (especially when technically they could all be three-night cruises) just isn’t that many for the highest level of rewards. I’m quite sure one of the reasons Disney hasn’t added more perks is because there are so many Platinum level cruisers now! If there weren’t quite as many at the top level, there would be more rewards they could easily offer.
I think they should follow the example of other cruise lines and add another level or two above Platinum. This may be too late to change (that ship has sailed?), but I would also like to see it go to a system that’s based on the number of nights sailed, rather than the number of cruises completed. I do believe that a 14-night cruise should count more than a 3-night cruise.
In case you aren’t familiar, these are the current exclusive perks of being a Platinum Castaway Club member:
- Early booking of new itineraries.
- Early access to activity planning online.
- No assigned port arrival time. Arrive at your leisure and, after checking in, embark as soon as general boarding begins.
- Priority check-in at the port in the concierge check-in area.
- Free dinner or brunch at Palo for Platinum member and adults in their stateroom.
- A gift from room service – usually fruit, sparkling wine, or chocolate.
- Bingo discounts.
So here are some perks for the not-yet-real-but-sorely-needed top level (let’s call it Platinum Plus) that I would love to see! And it goes without saying that I’d like to see these added without taking away from the benefits Platinum members have today.
1. Wi-Fi – I realize that some people like to unplug completely on a cruise, and that’s both awesome and preferred for some! But for those of us who need to check in occasionally, or who enjoy staying connected, a free internet package of some kind would be amazing. Most other cruise lines give Wi-Fi to their frequent cruisers. Concierge on Disney gets 100 free megabytes, which combined with the 50 free megabytes from embarkation day, is more than enough to get me through a long cruise. Why not give this perk to all Platinum Plus cruisers?
2. Lounge – This may work best on a new ship, but wouldn’t it be nice if there was a lounge for Platinum Plus guests? Royal Caribbean has just such a lounge on some of their ships, and on some other RC ships they share space with concierge guests. As another option, Princess Cruise Lines designates an area in one of their current lounges on some ships. At times the space was used for nightly receptions, a quiet place to relax (or dare I say – lounge?), a meeting place with a loyalty/concierge type host, or as a disembarkation lounge for members to use on the last morning until they could disembark. If the top loyalty level is smaller, it’s doable!
3. Mini Bar – On Princess, their highest-level guests have a stocked, complimentary mini-bar. Refills will start to cost money, but it sure is nice to have it stocked the first time! It’s somewhat customizable as well. As a non-drinker, I just picked up the phone and asked room service to replace the alcohol with soda, and voila! I was set for the week. I loved it!
4. Laundry – Probably my favorite perk offered on other lines is free laundry. On Princess, it was unlimited. On Norwegian, it’s one free bag. Whatever it is, I love it. Being able to send out my laundry or pressing, and not wait for an empty washing machine or pay a dime for it? Heavenly.
5. Express Tendering and Debarkation– Two perks on other lines that would be amazing, and not cost Disney anything by the way, are express tendering and debarkation. On Princess, when the highest-level guests were ready to tender, they just went to the meeting place, showed their card, and they were on the next tender. After some decent waits on Disney, and a one-hour plus wait on Royal Caribbean, this was a great perk! A quicker debarkation on the last morning would be amazing too. Concierge already has it on Disney. It wouldn’t be too hard to add for frequent cruisers.
6. Remy Meal – I’m a huge Palo fan, and I love the free Palo meal benefit. Why not expand it to Remy? Remy is rarely full for an entire cruise, so there should be room to bring in some more guests. If the price tag of a free meal is too much for Disney to swallow (pun intended!), even a discount for Platinum Plus guests would be appreciated. Half off? I would appreciate it!
7. Onboard Discounts – How about some onboard discounts? A discount on spa treatments or photos. One free photo. How much would that cost Disney? A free float and bike rental, or free snorkeling gear, on Castaway Cay. I think Disney could come up with some more discounts that wouldn’t hit their bottom line and would go a long way to making frequent cruisers feel appreciated.
8. Commemorative Artwork – What if Disney gave out a nice piece of artwork when repeat cruisers hit milestones, like 20 cruises, 25, etc? They already send out small prints to everyone that sailed after they return, so they could take it one step further for frequent cruisers! They could mail it to your house after you sail, or put it in your stateroom one night on board. I would love that!
9. Cruise Discounts – How about actual cruise discounts? Maybe a 10% discount whether you’re on board rebooking or sitting in your living room rebooking. I’d wish for a bigger discount, but that seems a little too lofty of a goal. How about an extra onboard credit? On Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, you can actually earn a free cruise if you keep sailing with them! That would be my favorite perk, of course.
10. Bring Back Perks – My last wish would be to bring back some of the great perks of old. The backstage tours, the receptions for Gold and Platinum Castaway Club members with the officers and other guests on all cruises, not just cruises that are 8 nights and longer. Is it too much to ask to bring back the Rice Krispie treats at the receptions? Surely not!
What changes would you like to see in the loyalty program? Are there any benefits you would like to see that I left out?
Tammy Whiting is the owner of Storybook Destinations. Did you know Storybook Destinations offers a complimentary subscription to TouringPlans with qualified Disney and Universal bookings? Click here for a no-obligation quote on your next vacation.