Carnival Expands For-Fee Early Embarkation Program
By Theresa Norton Masek
October 11, 2012 2:36 PM
Carnival Cruise Lines is expanding the “Faster to the Fun” early embarkation test program, available for $49.95 per stateroom, to two more ships. It will be offered on Carnival Destiny starting Oct. 20 and Carnival Valor Oct. 21. The move comes after the Fun Ship line launched the pilot program in August on the Carnival Imagination and Carnival Liberty.
“Faster to the Fun” offers priority embarkation, early stateroom availability, express luggage delivery, priority dinner seatings, priority tender boarding, and choice of early or late debarkation. The program also includes express access to the ships’ guest services desk during the voyage.
Diamond- and Platinum-level members of Carnival’s Very Important Fun Person (VIFP) Club guest recognition program get the “Faster to the Fun” benefits, including early stateroom availability and express luggage delivery, at no charge. Also, Diamond and Platinum VIFP members board prior to “Faster to the Fun” participants.
Faster to the Fun is currently available for purchase in conjunction with voyages on the Carnival Imagination, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Destiny and Carnival Valor via the shore excursion section of www.carnival.com. The cost is $49.95 per stateroom regardless of number of occupants.
While Carnival called the test a success so far, the program remains controversial with passengers, especially those who achieved elite status in the VIFP program who feel their earned benefits are watered down when others can buy the same perks. The comments are mixed on the Facebook page of Senior Cruise Director John Heald.
“I agree with many of the other Diamond, Platinum, and suite guests who are upset,” one commenter wrote. “We have all been loyal over the years, purchasing the most expensive cabins on board and have earned all of our perks. Why is it reasonable that a large family can stay in the cheapest cabin and pay only $49.99 for all of them to get the same perks as those of us who are paying $6K for a cruise? I think this is a horrible idea. Well, unless you want the loyal customers who purchase the most expensive cabins, then spend thousands of dollars on board in the casino, shops, supper houses, etc., to go to other cruise lines who offer a much better loyalty program and who actually treat you like someone who has paid a lot more. This is exactly why we have booked the next three cruises with another line.”
Said another frequent passenger: “Not sure how I feel about this. It feels like it just watered down my VIP perks. $49 per stateroom is a small price to pay for these extra perks that took years for us to earn.”
Another commenter likes the program: “We cruised Liberty three weeks ago and I’m so glad I paid the extra for the ‘Faster to the Fun.’ We were on the ship by 11 a.m. using the VIP check-in line and waiting area and went straight to our cabin in which the suitcases were already there. We even had two connecting rooms. On port days, we went to customer service and were escorted to separate elevators and immediately boarded the tender boat. [We] didn’t have to get up early to get our tender number and have to wait to be called. I would pay again.”