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Monday, April 20, 2009

Complaints Prompt Royal Caribbean To Reverse Course On Cutbacks

Last month some of Royal Caribbean's most loyal customers -- Diamond members of its Crown & Anchor Loyalty Program -- took to the barricades, so to speak, after the line cut back on a beloved perk: Access to a private concierge lounge on ships. Members flooded the company with complaints, and some even called for a boycott, vowing to take their cruise business elsewhere.

Now, in no small part due to the revolutionary fervor, Royal Caribbean is at least partially reversing course. In a letter sent to Diamond members this past week, Royal Caribbean CEO Adam Goldstein acknowledged "considerable unhappiness" over the change and announced the line would restore many of the lost benefits that come with access to the concierge lounge.

"While we knew the reaction would be negative, it has been more negative then we anticipated," Goldstein noted. But "we believe one of our strengths that inspires such loyalty is our ability to learn from others and especially from our Crown & Anchor customers."

Citing the feedback gleaned from the complaints, Goldstein announced the line would restore a nightly private cocktail party for the group that includes free wine and champagne -- considered one of the top benefits of access to the Concierge Lounge. Unlike in the past, however, mixed drinks will not be free but will be discounted by 25%, he said.

The cocktail parties will take place in one of the many bars and lounges on the various Royal Caribbean ships, not in the Concierge Lounge, which as per last month's announcement will be reserved for the higher level Diamond Plus members of the Crown & Anchor Society.

"The feedback we have received from Diamond members (on the lost access to the Concierge Lounge) fall primarily into one of the three following categories: preserving the social aspect -- the ability to meet and mingle with other members; maintaining free or reduced price drinks; and, access to concierge-type services for ice show tickets and other activities."

To address the last issue, Goldstein announced the line would offer Diamond members a private continental breakfast in the morning in a room where a crew member would be on hand to provide concierge-like services such as arranging ice show tickets.

"We constantly strive to find the right balance, so our product evolves in ways that our guests, especially our most loyal guests, are comfortable with," Goldstein added. "Our ratings and most communications we receive indicate that the balancing is working. However, occasionally we stumble and when we do we try to react quickly."

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