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So far, we’ve spent much of our time focused on discussing comps with land-based casinos. But there’s also opportunities to earn other sorts of comps for your gambling history in other ways. Earlier this year I took my first-ever cruise thanks to URComped, and was able to get a complimentary cruise on Royal Caribbean. We’ll talk about how that works in another post, but I wanted to focus on Royal Caribbean – once you have your foot in the door, there’s tremendous opportunity to continue enjoying cruises.
So today we’ll talk about how Royal Caribbean’s comp system works. In their case there’s two components – your point earnings, which offers some options, and the actual cruise earning potential, which of course encourages you to come back and gamble some more, but at the same time also offers another (nearly) complimentary travel opportunity.
The Comp System
Like most casino operators, Royal Caribbean’s Casino Royale casinos has a Club Royale players club. Unlike some cruise operators, Royal Caribbean is straightforward about how points are earned and what your tiers get you, which makes it very easy to plan for when budgeting for your cruise.
Club Royale has four tiers; as you move up the tiers you get access to a growing list of benefits. The tier year begins April 1, so you have from then until March 31 to earn points each year. Points are earned for your gaming:
- Slots: Get a point for every $5 of coin-in.
- Video Poker: Get a point for every $10 of coin-in.
- Table Games: A $10 average wager on Blackjack for one hour will earn you 10 points. (This is refreshingly transparent even compared to land-based casinos.) But like most casinos, they offer a blanket “points earned will vary based on game and bet,” since various games have various house edges to them and the point earning usually depends on that.
Each point is the equivalent of two cents in value. The points can be redeemed in two ways:
- Freeplay: Convert the points to freeplay, giving you additional gambling money in the casino.
- Onboard Credit: Apply the points towards your bill.
Whatever you choose, you must redeem before the cruise’s conclusion; points do not carry over to a future cruise. So unlike some comp systems you can’t maintain a balance and use it for a future trip – it’s all self-contained.
It’s a straightforward system, and about the same as Caesars’ in terms of point earning quality (but double the comps). Other land-based casinos may give you more for your coin-in, but there’s the cruises to consider as well.
Earning Free Cruises
The other aspect of gambling on Royal Caribbean is they’re also equally straightforward about having a fair shake at earning another cruise.
Based on the amount of points you earn on a given cruise (as mentioned above, it’s all self-contained per cruise), you can earn discounts towards your next cruise. Or, if you earn enough points, you can even earn a free cruise. For the first 2,000 points earned, you basically earn $100 increments off a future cruise for every 400 points accumulated (which is $2,000 in coin-in):
- 400 points: $100 off selected cruises
- 800 points: $200 off selected cruises
- 1,200 points: $300 off selected cruises
- 1,600 points: $400 off selected cruises
- 2,000 points: $500 off selected cruises
You’ll see selected cruises – for the vouchers earned based on the most recent trip, you’re given a list of choices, and you have 30 days in which you can redeem the voucher after you return from your previous cruise. It’s very much set up to encourage an immediate follow-on booking.
Once you get past 2,000 points, you start to reach the point where earning free cruises can be possible. As you continue to climb the point chart, the type of room can improve dramatically:
- 2,500 points: certificate for an interior inside cabin
- 3,600 points: certificate for an ocean view cabin
- 4,800 points: certificate for a balcony cabin
- 6,500 points: certificate for a balcony cabin (with additional cruise dates)
- 8,000 points: certificate for junior suite
- 15,000 points: certificate for junior suite (with additional cruise dates)
- 25,000 points: certificate for grand suite
UPDATE 8/22/21: I confirmed on my most recent cruise Royal Caribbean tweaked the inside cabin up 100 points to align with the PRIME requirement, just to make it less confusing. However, they also added “additional dates” levels for some of the other earnings tiers, which is reflected in the latest list above.
Similar to the discount vouchers, complimentary trips earned while on the cruise must also be redeemed within 30 days of returning to land.
However, in a very helpful quirk, there’s a second way to earn a free cruise, and that’s through the Club Royale tier system itself.
PRIME Cruise Earning Potential
Royal Caribbean also allows you to earn an annual cruise with a lot more options through the Club Royale program. Once you hit 2,500 points you reach their second tier, PRIME, and that offers you a free interior cabin on any trip up to seven days with very few limitations on ships and dates. If you tier up further, you can earn a balcony or grand suite, but you only get one free cruise from the program. Still, if you expect to be an annual cruise taker, that 2,500 milestone gives you two cruises you can access – one from the trip milestone, and one from the PRIME tier.
The other thing to keep in mind is that the earnings per cruise doesn’t change based on the length of a cruise. So if you take a 3-day cruise or a 7-day cruise, the point amount you need to earn is still the same. So those who prefer to bet lower may find their chances of earning a cruise increases with 7 days in which to earn it vs. a shorter cruise, given casinos are generally closed when the ship is at port.
What Is and Isn’t Covered
One thing to keep in mind is while the core fare is covered on those free cruises, certain aspects are not. First, what’s included:
- Your core fare for two people
- All food in the standard dining areas (the dining room, buffet, snack bar, etc.)
- Certain basic drinks: Tap water, milk, juices for breakfast, basic coffee and iced tea (nothing alcoholic for sure.
There’s plenty that’s not included, that no matter whether you’re paying for your cruise or not still factor in to your trip planning:
- Port taxes and fees, which vary by itinerary – the original cruise I took was less than $100 per person, and the second cruise I will be taking will be $135; there’s an extra stop so that helps explain the increase, so expect that longer cruises with more stops will have a higher cost there.
- Gratuities, which on Royal Caribbean for the standard rooms is $14.50 a day, per person (suites are $17.50 a day, per person). So the longer the cruise, the higher the gratuities as well.
- Specialty dining experiences, which are outside the included meal packages and can include steakhouses, sushi/seafood restaurants and many more.
- Alcoholic beverages and premium drinks, such as mocktails, bottled water, and even soda. You can buy a drink package that gets you unlimited of what you want, but you do pay extra.
- Any excursions or experiences you wish to take in at various ports.
- Travel costs to get to where the cruise is departing.
- Internet packages are sold separately as well. Reaching PRIME level gets you a discount, and if you tier up further internet can be complimentary.
So there’s obviously other ways for Royal Caribbean to make money off your time on board, but most of these costs are very visible and you can prepay for just about everything in advance (and for things you purchase, traditionally get a discount for doing so prior to getting on board).
There are a couple of costs that becoming a PRIME tier level helps you avoid. One is you avoid the convenience fee if you get cash from the Casino Royale cashier and bill it to the room. It’s just treated as a room charge, not a cash advance, so that is a huge savings for those who wish to get cash in this way while onboard. You get free drinks while in the casino as a PRIME member, which can save a ton of money over buying an alcoholic drink package if you’re going to be in the casino regularly, or only want drinks periodically.
Additional Casino Offers Monthly
Once you’re in the system, and have played on cruises, you can also qualify for other casino offers. You can see what’s available to you by logging into the Club Royale Offers portal. The offers are loaded at least monthly, but tend to come more frequently than that.
Sometimes these offers can be more generous than the defaults; while I’ve never earned to anything larger than an inside cabin, I was offered a balcony and an ocean view cabin for two cruises that I’ve booked since I’ve begun cruising with Royal Caribbean.
If you’re going to cruise at least once a year, and you are planning to gamble on board, it’s helpful to know how you can earn cruises in the future. While you certainly will spend money in the casino for that free cruise, it helps you avoid falling a touch short and then only getting a discount, or missing out on opportunities you’ve already earned by not redeeming the cruises from both the most recent trip and the Club Royale program.
Are you a Royal Caribbean cruiser? Do you take advantage of all the perks available to you? Share your thoughts in the comments!
I have been offered a cruise and this is my first time. I do not understand all the resort fees, taxes and other expenses to be incurred during the cruise. I need to know from the start of the cruise, during and after. I would like a estimated cost this “free” cruise would cost me with all expenses included. I understand the monies I spend in the casino is at my expense BUT I need to know about cost of meals, tips off ships visits etc. I need to know if I should pursue this further or forget it. Yes I am uneducated about cruising.
Hi Gail! That’s a good topic for a fresh post, but let me help you here briefly as I can, and I should note my experience is based on Royal Caribbean cruises, which is what I have sailed to date. First off, you are responsible for port taxes and fees. These will be disclosed and need to be paid at the time of booking. These (like most fees) are per person, and a standard cabin rooms two people, so you’ll either pay these for one or two people, depending on how you book it. Second is gratuities – you can prepay these or pay as you go during the cruise. On Royal a standard room gratuity is $14.50, per person, per day; I believe suites are $18.50 per person, per day. Whoever is helping you book the cruise can likely confirm what these will be.
Food can be nothing or something. By default you get access to a certain set of free food options on the cruise ship – the main dining hall, the buffet, and some other options (bigger ships will have more options, as a general rule) will be included in your complimentary cruise. There are also optional specialty dining choices that cost extra – you can choose to buy these or not. Buying ahead of the cruise for this or anything else will be less expensive than buying on board.
As far as drinks, only basic drinks are available at no cost – think tap water (not bottled water), iced teas, juices. Drink packages are available that can get you soda, all non-alcoholic options (including bottled water), or a full drink package that includes all alcoholic beverages. These are billed per person, per day, and can vary widely in cost depending on the sailing and when you buy. Black Friday is coming up as I reply, and usually the cruise ships offer sales, but they run sales periodically throughout the year and once you’re booked, you can monitor for better pricing (and even return/rebuy if the pricing gets better). If you don’t have a drink package you can pay as you go, and you can probably look up pricing for the ship you’re sailing to get an idea of what to expect if you do.
Then there’s excursions – your ship will stop at various ports, and you can of course explore for free, or you can buy excursion packages. You can buy them through the ship or on your own; through the ship (even bought in advance) will be more expensive but tend to come with more protections if the excursion is running late or gets cancelled. If you’re new to cruising and want an excursion, you might want to start there, even if it’s more pricey, so you have better assurances of what you’re getting.
Finally, there’s WiFi – if you want Internet on the ship, there’s a per day price for that too.
Beyond that there’s a variety of other things you can pay for – experiences on board, the spa, special activities, etc. – but I think that covers the main things you need to think about.
One final thing – while a lot of things have a per day cost, you can’t say “give it to me for one day” in most cases – you pay for the daily price times however many days you’re on the ship. So you can’t just buy one day of a drink package – if you’re on the ship for a week, you’ll pay for seven days. And even though you’re paying gratuity for the cruise, if you buy anything extra that links in to staffing like a drink package, there’ll be an additional gratuity added for that at the time of purchase too.
So does this mean that coin-in for video poker to get to prime is 25000? If so what is the bet for each hand and how long does it take?
Do you get money advanced from your account linked to a credit card?
I am new to this and am taking a RC cruise next month. Any more tips? TIA!
Hi Mary! It takes $10 in Video Poker to earn a point, so it’s $50,000 of coin-in/wagers to hit 5,000 points and reach prime. The bet per hand is your choice, but obviously betting higher will earn points faster. You can charge to your Sea Pass card (which bills to a credit card) to get cash for the casino, but if you don’t have PRIME status there’s a fee of a few percent, so keep that in mind if you do opt to use your credit card instead of cash. Once you have PRIME the fee is waived, so getting that status has additional benefit there (along with free drinks in the casino). Enjoy your cruise!
Anyone booking through URComped will not get the weekly/monthly offers directly from Royal Caribbean (the link you included in your article). The only free cruise they can get directly from Royal is the annual prime cruise or whatever is earned on the ship for that sailing via instant certificate. All future comped cruises have to be booked through URComped and subject to URComped discretion, where Royal sends offers that are much more transparent.
Hi Jane – thanks for the comment but I returned this weekend from a cruise booked by URComped using a standard Royal offer code sent to me by Royal through Club Royale’s offers. I get the monthly and weekly offers from Royal Caribbean, by both mail and email, and URComped can book offers extended to you, along with the certificates you earn on board (which is, of course, how I booked that just completed cruise). What you can’t do for a year after a URC-booked cruise is book directly, as you note (after a year of inactivity, however, though you can opt to book direct).
I was told on my cruise 10/3-10/7/22 that I would go back to zero points, my last cruise was 2/23-2/29/2020. Just before the pandemic shut everything down. Cruise ships were stuck at sea, with so much Covid it was not safe to sail. Finally cruising was stopped, when it came back vaccines were required to sail, but still passengers were still coming down with Covid. Now you can cruise without being vaccinated just show a negative Covid test on sailing day. I brought my sister with me for her 1st cruise. I have to say it was probably the worst cruise I have been on. First I asked to have a walk in shower, was given a room with a tub shower, explained I was recovering from a broken pelvis and could not lift my leg that high to get into the tub, Was told none available. The handle to the sliding door, the handle came off in my hand, had chocolate strawberries delivered the first day, by that evening there was mold growing on them. Then in the casino I was told that I needed 25,00 points on April 1st to stay Signature. Said because I had not sailed for 2 years. How do you sail when the cruises are shut down because of the pandemic. So what’s the point of extending your tier status if you can not sail, then penalize you because you did not sail in those 2 years? So why try to get to signature level if at the end of the year you start from 0? My big question does every tier go back to 0 on March 31?
Hi Karen – Royal Caribbean did reset the tier year back in March, so the first full year since the restart is April 2022 to March 2023. So yes, the standard practice is at the end of March, all tier counts get reset to zero and you have from April 1 to March 31 of the following year to earn or re-earn your tier, as it were. Cruising restarted for over a year now and ships are packed so they have no business reason to deviate from normal business at this point.