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
- 8,000 points: certificate for junior suite
UPDATE 7/18/21: Just before the pandemic kicked in I was seeing reports of it being increased to 2,500 points for an interior cabin, something which was not the case on my last cruise. This seems to have persisted with cruises returning, so I have updated the article based on that information. I will be taking my own cruise in August 2021 and will update after that.
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 for the trip, and one for 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.
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!