Cruise giant Carnival brings back a much-loved loyalty perk for top-tier elites

Access to priority check-in finally is back for top-tier elites in the Carnival Cruise Line loyalty program. So is access to priority boarding.

In an email this week to customers, Carnival president Christine Duffy said the priority perks would return for top-tier Platinum and Diamond members of Carnival’s VIFP Club loyalty program starting with sailings departing on Thursday.

The perks will be available for all voyages departing from North America and Europe, Duffy said. That encompasses nearly all Carnival sailings, as the brand mostly operates in North America with occasional sailings in Europe. Carnival’s only other major operations are in Australia, where the line offers cruises that are mostly aimed at the local market.

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Priority access to check-in and boarding has long been a core perk for top-tier members of the VIFP Club loyalty program and is considered quite valuable. It lets elite members get on board ships earlier and faster than other passengers on embarkation day, giving them more time to enjoy the onboard experiences.

However, Carnival eliminated the perks on a temporary basis during the COVID-19 pandemic as the company cut back its operations and also added lots of new COVID-19-related health procedures that changed the boarding process.

Related: The ultimate guide to Carnival Cruise Line

“Our Diamond and Platinum VIFP guests have been very supportive as we returned to full guest operations across our fleet, and very patient as we implemented protocols and procedures that impacted many aspects of our operations,” Duffy said in the email to customers.

As in the past, the reinstated priority check-in and boarding perks will give top-tier elites in the VIFP Club access to a separate priority line at check-in that will let them get on board their ship faster than most passengers.

Carnival Dream Aerial of ship with Blue Hull. DANNY LEHMAN/CARNIVAL CRUISE LINE

The elites still must choose an arrival appointment window in advance during the online check-in process and arrive during that window. Once on board, top-tier elites are able to drop their bags off in their rooms, even if the room areas of their ship aren’t yet ready, before accessing public areas of the vessel.

Carnival also is reinstating priority delivery of checked bags to rooms for top-tier elites.

Note that, as in the past, such priority services will not be available on Carnival’s long Carnival Journeys sailings.

Related: The 5 best destinations you can visit on a Carnival cruise

The Platinum and Diamond levels of the VIFP Club are the top tiers of the five-tier loyalty program. Carnival customers must accumulate 75 VIFP Club points to reach the Platinum level and 200 VIFP Club points to reach the Diamond level.

Points in the program are earned at a rate of one per day of cruising, which means that you would need to cruise for 75 days to reach the Platinum level and become eligible for the priority check-in and boarding perks.

In other words, you’d need to sail 11 seven-night cruises to get such perks.

Related: The 8 types of Carnival ships, explained

In case you’re wondering, VIFP stands for “very important fun person” — a playful nod to Carnival’s nickname as the “fun ship” line.

Other perks that kick in at the Platinum level include:

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.

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