I do not fit within the profile of the stereotypical Royal Caribbean guest. I am not interested in rock climbing, waterslides, bumper cars or surfing simulators. Not that I have any objection to other people doing such things but they are not for me. Along the same lines, I am not part of a young family with children. Yet, here I was on the stage of the theater on Anthem of the Seas being inducted into the top tier of Royal Caribbean's International's loyalty program, the Crown & Anchor Society.
So what brought me here? It was a combination of factors.
First, I like the Royal Caribbean ships. There is a great deal of variety within the Royal Caribbean fleet. While all of the ships have certain core elements that are common to all Royal Caribbean ships, there are distinct differences between the classes ranging from traditional small ships to innovative mega-ships. As a result, you can have a variety of cruise experiences all without leaving Royal.
I am particularly fond of the Quantum class ships. To me these combine the best elements of the traditional Royal Caribbean ships and the elegance of the ships of Celebrity Cruises. They have the amusement park features for those who want them but those features are situated so that they do not intrude upon passengers who are looking for a sophisticated but relaxed environment. I find it quite luxurious. A large percentage of my Crown and Anchor points were earned on Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas.
Second, the Royal Caribbean ships go to a lot of places. Whether it is the Caribbean, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Canada/New England, the British Isles, Northern Europe or the Mediterranean, I have been there on Royal Caribbean ships. They even do Atlantic crossings, although not as frequently as I would like. I also like the fact that there are Royal Caribbean ships based close to my home.
Third, I like the people. Of course, there are always exceptions but from my first voyage on, I have found the officers and crews on Royal to be friendly and service orientated. Along the same lines, I have made many friends among the passengers that I have met on Royal. These have included people from many different countries.
Last - - but by no means least - - is the Crown & Anchor program. As I progressed through the program, there were more and more benefits including discounts on cruises, complimentary gifts such as bottles of wine, and enhanced amenities, which helped make cruising on Royal ships something to look forward to. However, the most attractive feature is the nightly social gatherings for Diamond level and above. Not only do these offer complimentary drinks and food but they are a great way to meet people, have good conversations and make friends. No other cruise line, except perhaps Royal's sister brand Celebrity Cruises, has anything like it.
In short, I came to feel that Royal really appreciated my business. As a travel writer, I have cruised on quite a few cruise lines. In addition to Royal, I am in the top tier of the loyalty programs of two other cruise lines and am one level away from the top on several others. There are things that Royal could do better (e.g., I wish Royal had more enrichment programming). However, for me, the factors discussed above, have made Royal a cruise line of choice in selecting cruises.
Getting There Is Half The Fun
It takes 700 cruise points to reach Pinnacle level. You earn one point for each night you spend cruising. You can also earn an additional point per night if you are traveling solo and you book a stateroom designed for two single occupancy. Guests booking a junior suite or above also earn an extra point per night. Those who book a suite single occupancy can earn two additional points per night.
Still, it takes a lot of cruising on Royal Caribbean to get to Pinnacle. In addition, there is a substantial gap between Pinnacle and Diamond Plus, the level of the loyalty program immediately below Pinnacle. (Diamond Plus begins at 175 points) As a result, you often hear guests despair that they will never reach Pinnacle and complain that there should be an intermediate level between Diamond Plus and Pinnacle.
As a practical matter, there is a level between Diamond Plus and Pinnacle in all but name. As you earn more points, you find that your benefits start increasing. For example, at 340 points, you become entitled to a reduction in the amount you have to pay for a stateroom single occupancy. As you go along, you also find that amenities such as the complimentary bottle of wine you receive each cruise becomes three bottles of wine. You become entitled to the bathroom amenities that are given to guests staying in the suites.
Above: A specially-packaged bottle of Chandon champagne is given to new Pinnacle Club members.
Below: Pinnacle Club members enjoying a sail-away cocktail party on Anthem of the Seas.
Royal also provides souvenirs to mark your progress. Every 70 points, a guest receives an crystal block that has the name and profile of the ship that you are traveling on marked on it. These are both elegant and attractive.
As mentioned above, I am in the top tier of the loyalty program of two other cruise lines. When I reached the top tier on those lines, there was no ceremony. As I recall, all that happened was that I found a new lapel pin on the bed in my stateroom. At Royal, there was an elaborate ceremony.
At the beginning of the cruise during which I passed 700 points, the Crown & Anchor representative aboard Anthem contacted me to make sure that I was planning to attend the “Top Tier Party” in the ship's theater. Guests Platinum level and above are invited to these events where there is entertainment and complimentary drinks. Typically, it is held in the late morning of the first sea day.
The Crown & Anchor representative said that she would meet me about 15 minutes before the party in the Diamond Lounge. This is a lounge reserved for the exclusive use of guests Diamond level and above. Since it is next to the theater, it was a logical meeting point.
When I arrived in the Diamond Club, I found about 30 or so guests each wearing the distinctive Pinnacle Club name tag. Shortly before the party was to begin, we were escorted to a reserved section of the theater. Each seat in this section had a sign indicating it was reserved for a specific person. My seat was in the front row.
After the entertainment concluded, the captain gave a speech. This was followed by a talk by the Crown & Anchor representative in which she disclosed how many guests on this cruise were in each of the various loyalty levels. Next, there was a presentation to the people sailing on this particular cruise who had achieved the highest number of points.
Then there were the presentations to the people being inducted into the Pinnacle Club. Several of the senior officers gathered on the stage along with the cruise director and the Crown & Anchor representative. On a table off to one side were bottles of champagne and a modernistic crystal statuette.
I was the first to be called up to the stage. The stage lights were quite bright and looking out towards the seating area, the audience had disappeared into the darkness. In a matter of what seemed like seconds, I shook hands with everyone, was handed a bottle of good champagne, the statuette, and a certificate signed by the head of Royal Caribbean. Someone was saying something about me into a microphone but I cannot recall what. One of the ship's photographers took some group photos. Someone appeared saying that they would take the various items I had just received back to my stateroom for me. Then it was over and I went back to my seat.
Another couple was called to the stage and received the same treatment. Shortly thereafter, the party came to a conclusion. but the ceremony continued. The assembled Pinnacle Club members came by and each shook hands with me and the other couple who were becoming Pinnacle. This was the first indication that I had that the Pinnacle Club is really a club, not just another level in a loyalty program.
A package from Royal
Although you are inducted into the Pinnacle Club during the cruise in which you pass 700 points, you do not officially become Pinnacle (and become entitled to the Pinnacle benefits) until your next cruise. However, in the interim, I received a package from Royal Caribbean.
Inside were several items relating to my new status. First, there was a metal Pinnacle Club pin with my name engraved on it. Second, there was the statuette also with my name engraved upon it. Third, there was a leather Pinnacle Club baggage tag and a passport wallet. Fourth, and by no mean least, was a certificate entitling me to a free cruise.
Upon reaching Pinnacle level, a guest is entitled to a complimentary seven-day Caribbean cruise for two in a balcony cabin. If you would rather do some other type of cruise, you can get up to $2,400 off that cruise. There are various conditions and limitations but it is a vary nice benefit.
The free cruise does not have to be a once in a lifetime event. Pinnacles become entitled to additional cruise certificates each time they accumulate another 350 points.
My first cruise as a Pinnacle was not long after I received the package from Royal and was also on Anthem. The benefits began as soon as I entered the cruise terminal. There is a separate line going through security for Pinnacles and suites guests. There is also a separate desk for checking in. Once aboard, I had access to the suites' restaurant, the Coastal Kitchen, as well as access to the Concierge Club – Suites Lounge. (In January 2020, Royal announced that Diamond Plus guests would no longer have access to the Concierge Club on Anthem).
I also found that there were benefits that are not included in the Crown and Anchor list of benefits. For example, there was a party in the wine bar with the ship's officers on the morning of the first sea day. Later in the cruise, there was a party on the helicopter pad on the bow of the ship as Anthem sailed from St. Kitts. Upon disembarkation, one of the concierges escorted us through the cruise terminal. The inescapable conclusion is that Royal regards Pinnacles as important.
This attitude was also reflected in the way the officers and crew reacted to me throughout the cruise. As stated in my reviews, I have long thought that Anthem has a friendly crew but upon seeing the Pinnacle name tag, crew members could not do enough.
Of course, this treatment does go to some people's heads and they take on a superior attitude. However, most of the Pinnacles I have met are not like that. They are proud of their achievement but remain friendly, normal people. Also, they are willing to help out when they encounter someone less experienced than them who needs some information. That too is part of being Pinnacle.
Cruise ship article/review - - Royal Caribbean International - - Reaching the Pinnacle