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How To Get Discounts On Carnival Cruises – As Cruise Team Lead, Gene Sloan oversees cruise content at TPG and also writes many of TPG’s key cruise guides. He has spent nearly 30 years writing about cruise ships and cruising, and is one of the world’s best-known authorities on the subject.
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How To Get Discounts On Carnival Cruises
Carnival Cruise Line fans are a loyal bunch. So loyal, perhaps, that the line hasn’t felt the need to offer crazy-lucrative loyalty program perks to keep them coming.
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Unlike rival Royal Caribbean, Carnival’s VIFP Club loyalty program does not offer its members a free cruise after reaching the top level. There is no 20% discount on some sailings offered by Windstar Cruises to its loyalty program members.
But Carnival’s VIFP Club, as the line calls its loyalty program, brings some valuable benefits at its higher levels, including priority access to many venues and onboard services.
The Carnival VIFP Club loyalty program is also one where it is relatively easy to reach a high level.
In case you’re wondering, VIFP stands for “very important funny person” — a playful nod to Carnival’s nickname as the “funny ship” line.
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Carnival VIFP Club points earning system is simple. You earn one point for each day you sail on a Carnival ship.
If you go on a three-night cruise, you get three points. If you take a seven-night cruise, you 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.
Insider Tip: After sailing on one of Carnival’s ships in Australia, you will not automatically have points for the trip credited to your account. You must log into your account online, click on “Missing a cruise?” and request that the VIFP points be awarded for the days you earned on that trip.
One of the nice little surprises of Carnival’s loyalty program is that you hit the first level, Blue, the moment you 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 register in advance.
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That said, the blue tier of the program offers almost no benefits. There are only two: You are eligible for members-only cruise deals and you will receive a members-only electronic newsletter.
The next two levels of 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 extra: a free 1.5-liter bottle of water that can be redeemed at any bar, restaurant or in your cabin. (You don’t have to drink it all at once.)
The Gold level adds a single complimentary drink that can only be ordered on the last night of a cruise (and only on cruises of five nights or longer). Limiting the free drink to the last night of a cruise seems to us to be an unreasonable effort on Carnival’s part to discourage customers from using what is already a pretty paltry perk. Gold level members also receive a gold VIFP pin on each sailing.
It’s not until the program’s fourth level, Platinum, that things start to get interesting (more on that in a moment).
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It only takes you one cruise to reach the red tier. If you always book seven-night sailings, you reach the gold level after three cruises. That’s right, while the Gold level requires 25 points, you can reach it after sailing three seven-night cruises.
This is due to one of the peculiarities of the VIFP Club program that we really like: if you will hit a level cut-off during a voyage, you will receive the benefits of that level from the beginning of that cruise. So you would be gold from the start of your fourth seven-night sailing, even if you only had 21 points.
Simply put, once you’re Platinum level, you’ll suddenly find yourself bumped to the front of the queue from the moment you arrive on a ship until you leave it. This is not a small thing. Priority boarding means you board the ship sooner than other passengers, giving you more time on your first day to enjoy its offerings. Priority access to restaurant reservations means you get the best table times.
Getting to the Platinum level takes 10 cruises, assuming you always sail seven-night voyages. If you take shorter trips, it takes longer.
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Even at the highest diamond level in their VIFP Club program, Carnival is still a bit stingy with the perks. Unlike Royal Caribbean and some other lines, for example, it doesn’t give members a free cruise when they reach this pinnacle of loyalty status. That said, Diamond status does offer 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 that this is a one-time benefit. Another great, but one-time only benefit of Diamond status is a free meal for two at a specialty restaurant of your choice.
But the best elite benefit of the VIFP Club program in our eyes is the unlimited wash-and-fold laundry service that comes with Diamond status. Unlike the two perks above, you get this every time you sail when you reach diamond level.
Note that as is usually the case with cruise line loyalty programs, Carnival customers do not need to qualify for status each year. VIFP Club members retain their points at the end of each year and continue to earn points indefinitely. This means that someone who achieves Diamond status will remain in the top tier forever (or until Carnival makes a change to the program).
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Such “forever status” is one of the big allures of the cruise line’s frequent cruise programs. Most airline frequent flyer programs, on the other hand, require loyalty members to qualify for status each year.
When it comes to perks, Carnival’s loyalty program isn’t as robust as the programs on some rival lines. At its highest level, it doesn’t bring anything close to the free cruise that some other lines offer to top-class customers, or onboard benefits like free drinks daily in a private lounge. It won’t give you general discounts on cruises, shore excursions and beverage packages, as some lines offer higher-level members. But it does provide some valuable perks at higher levels, and it’s relatively easy to rise through the levels of the program.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.Carnival Cruise Line is proof that cruising can be both affordable and enjoyable. The line’s ships are hubs of activities, entertainment and excitement, including a vibrant nightlife and the best live comedy scene on the high seas – all included in your cruise price.
The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, and the line caters as much to families as to young groups of friends.
How To Save Money On Your Carnival Cruise
Carnival doesn’t tend to sweeten the pot with ship credit offers like competing lines like Norwegian Cruise Line, but there are plenty of ways to get cruise discounts on Carnival if you know what to do and where to go to find them.
From choosing a departure port near you to making the most of beverage packages, here are some of the best ways to save big before you book your vacation, before you cruise and while you’re on board the ship for a cheap Carnival cruise.
Carnival Cruise Line has 14 home ports in the United States, including 10 year-round, the largest of any cruise line.
You can save by choosing a port near you and driving to catch your ship—whether you’re boarding from a port in Florida, Long Beach, Galveston, New Orleans, New York, Mobile, or elsewhere. No need to deal with expensive flights or crowded airports.
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Before you even start your online search for a cruise deal or call a travel agent, take a look at Carnival’s latest deals, including super low last-minute deals.
Cabins on special sale, called warranty cabins, are priced below the regular cruise price. When you choose a guarantee booth, you are essentially making a bet without entering the casino.
Instead of choosing a specific cabin, you choose a low cruise rate without knowing exactly what level of cabin you will get. The cruise line will decide based on availability.
If you’re lucky, the category you selected will be sold out and you’ll be upgraded – for example, from a guaranteed interior to an ocean view. If you are unlucky, you may end up in an interior in a less desirable area of the ship. For this reason, they are best for those who want it
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