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Bernard and Janice Caffary knew something was up when they—literally—saw the signs. There, just outside the Carnival Cruise Lines terminal in Port Canaveral, Fla., was a banner hanging from the side of the building: “Congratulations Bernard and Janice Caffary on your 200th Cruise with Carnival Cruise Line.” More banners decorated the inside of the terminal, and as the couple prepared to board the ship for their landmark journey, the recognition jumped to another level. Carnival employees rolled out a red carpet for them to walk on, while a marching band lined the route and hailed the achievement.
Surprised and humbled, the Caffarys unpretentiously boarded the ship, only to find the crew of the Carnival Liberty there to greet them with a number of commemorative gifts and plans for some unique on-board experiences. As they sailed, they became guests of honor during special VIP celebrations in the ship’s atrium, as well as the main show lounge.
The recognition efforts show the level that the cruise line is willing to go to reward its loyal members, Carnival Cruise Line Vice President of Human Relations Tami Blanco said at a general session of Loyalty Expo 2018. Blanco was a last-minute fill-in at the Expo, replacing Carnival President Christine Duffy, who was ill.
Carnival is the world’s largest cruise line, with 26 ships and 46,000 on-water employees. It cruised with 5 million guests last year, including 800,000 children, and even hired former National Basketball Association star Shaquille O’Neal as its “Chief Fun Officer” as a way of demonstrating its brand emphasis on having a good time.
“When Carnival Founder Ted Arison started the cruise line in 1972, his main point was to make sure every American got a great cruise vacation,” said Blanco. “We never lost sight of that.”
Cruisers are a fanatical and immensely loyal bunch, she said as she called up a photo of someone who had his list of cruises tattooed on his leg. They have a favorite ship, favorite captain, favorite cabin attendant and even a favorite stateroom.
However, she added, only four percent of the American population has been on a cruise, so the company has plenty of opportunity for growth. And as the parent corporation of several other cruise lines—Holland America, Princess and P&O Cruises, among others—that have different approaches to sailing, their goal is to match the right person with the right cruise line in an effort to create the best possible experience.
Having a people-first philosophy rather than just trying to get as many people on their ships as possible is what helps create loyalty—and why Carnival has 2.2 million members in its highest loyalty level.
And, she said, expect an announcement this fall about a new loyalty program that will allow its members to cruise more, more often and for less. Despite prodding from the audience, she wouldn’t reveal anything more about the program.
“We’re being recorded,” she said, “so you’ll just have to wait.”
The Caffarys, meanwhile, have already booked 30 more cruises.
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