If you cruise Carnival or any of the other cruise lines, it is likely that you are familiar with the Players Club at sea. The Players Club administers the casinos on Carnival ships and well as other cruise lines and some land based casinos as well. Like the Spa services onboard the cruise ships, they are actually run by an outside company with casino interests in several venues. Since we cruise very often and like to spend time in the casino on the ships, we are automatically enrolled in the Players Club at sea. That’s right; put your sign and sail card in the machine, play the game, and “presto” you are the newest member of the Players Club. Gone are the days of paper buckets filled with coins, dirty hands, scooping out piles of winning coins, and standing by while an employee fills the coin cache so you can watch you winnings come flying out the coin chute below. Now all is done from the convenience of your Sign & Sail account, making it much easier to add money to a slot machine and gamble it away.
Like everyone else, we understand the “entertainment” value of the casino, and the fact that the entire mission of the casino is to remove money from your pocket and add it to theirs. Yes, there are occasional winnings to keep you dreaming about the forthcoming windfall with your name on it, but for the most part, you are paying money to be entertained. With your “Player’s Bank” connected to your Sign and Sail card, it is now much easier to spend a little more than you intended to every time you set foot in the casino.
Now that I have added the disclaimer of why we are no different than anyone else who loses money in the casino, we can honestly put in perspective why we are given “free gifts” and incentives to keep us coming back. We are frequently invited to lose more money whenever we cruise on a Carnival ship. It all starts with contacting the Players Club about 2 weeks prior to your next cruise. You listen to the menu and chose the option to speak with a live person. You will be promptly told that “your call in important to us, all the operators are assisting other customers and please stay on the line on for the next available operator, or call back later.” After being told that a few times at 2-3 minute intervals, you wonder how different it would be if my call was “not important to them.” Finally, it is your turn and you give them your name, birth date and the booking number of your next cruise, and you are promptly put on hold again to listen to the music while you wait. Since the cashless system has come into play, all the money you put into slot machines, which ones you played, how long you played, and what you won or lost is all there in the computer for evaluation of you net value to the Players Club. Alas, the operator comes back on and tells you what your value to them actually is. Your value to them is in the form of “Bon Voyage packages.” For us, these consist of free large bottles of water, fruit baskets, drink and photo coupons and money added to your Players Club account by the casino host. There are additional gifts I have been told, but we have never lost enough money to get anything more than the aforementioned gifts. This process has always gone smoothly for us, despite some horror stories we have heard from other passengers about promises not kept by the casino host once they are on the ship. Until our cruise on the Carnival Destiny, we have always been treated well and received the “free gifts”, which amount to; some bottled water, free drink coupons, a $15 photo coupon and a fruit basket costing hundreds of dollars, depending on how you chose to look at it.
As we boarded the Carnival Destiny for our 5 day and 4 day back to back cruises, we had been told by the Players club that we would be receiving the “deluxe Bon Voyage Package” in our cabin, one for the 5 day cruise and one for the 4 day cruise. In addition to that, I was eligible for $75 credit on my Players Club account from the casino host on the first leg of the back to back cruise only. On the phone, they made sure I understood that the $75.00 was a “one time only” gift to be given at the beginning of the first leg of the cruise. All I would have to do was to go see the casino host when the casino opened after the ship set sail.
Simple, what could possibly go wrong? Well, this is how we went from being Platinum cruisers with Carnival and valued members of the Carnival Players Club, to being treated like anonymous “grifters’, trying to pull a scam on the casino. We suddenly became the “poor relatives”, and like we had been told by other passengers in the past, all does not go well with the Players Club and its members on occasion.
SATURDAY – The first thing we noticed when we boarded the ship and went to our cabin, was that the “free gifts” from Players Club that were usually in our cabin, were not there. At the time, we just figured that they were still delivering the gifts to the cabins and ours had just not arrived yet. After we set sail and went to our early seating dinner at 6pm, we returned to our cabin to find that nothing from the Players Club had arrived. Since we had to see the casino host for the $75, we decided to inquire when we saw the casino host. We went and asked at the casino cage and the woman at the desk consulted the list of all “important players” and notified us that we were not on the “list”. We then asked to see the casino host who came out and informed us that this sometimes happens, and it was a matter of just emailing the Players Club to clear up the omission. We were told that the Players Club, “promptly emails back”, and that she was “going right now” to generate the email. We were also told to check back in the morning.
SUNDAY – (24 hours after boarding) A day at sea and the casino was open from early morning. I participated in the slot tournament in the afternoon and checked with the casino host who was running the slot tournament about the status of my inquiry. She recognized me and told me she just emailed them “this morning” (not last night), but because it was a weekend, it was possible that I would not have an answer until Monday morning. I was assured all would be cleared up shortly.
MONDAY – (48 hours after boarding) Today was Ocho Rios and we stayed on the ship. There were no messages for us from the Players Club all day. In the evening, we went to the casino and played a few hours after dinner. Afterwards, since I had heard nothing, I again inquired at the casino cage. I was told that the casino host was there but she was not answering her page and could I come back later. I instead told her I would wait, as it was already after 9pm. Another host arrived, a man this time, and I explained my problem and what had transpired so far. While I was talking to him, the lady arrived and they both spoke to me. I was told “not to worry”, and again the excuse of “embarkation day being a weekend” was offered. I brought up the fact that today was now Monday evening, and I was told that they get many emails and it would take time for them to get to mine. I was assured they would send notification to my cabin as soon as they heard.
TUESDAY – (72 hours after boarding) Today, we are in Grand Cayman, and we stayed onboard so I could write. Still there has been no word from the casino, and our “poor relative, not valued player” status remains. Tonight we went to the casino to inquire again, since no one actually communicates with us otherwise. Tomorrow is the last day of the cruise, and the casino host has basically mumbled something about getting us a bottle of wine to have with dinner tomorrow, and “maybe some strawberries in our cabin.” It is all they can do, we are told.
So basically we have gone from appreciated Carnival Players club patrons to pesty passengers, a roll we do not like. Finally, after giving up on the entire venture, we got a call from “Anthony” at 9:45 pm at night, telling us he managed to authorize at least our $75 Players club credit and he is working on our package for the second leg of our cruise. The authorization apparently came from a senior host on another ship, and not the Players Club itself which seems to have completely neglected to read the emails being sent from the ship.
I guess in this day of instant communications, and complete tracking of everything I do in the casino, I would think that they would also answer emails from the ship pertaining to omission complaints from the guests they hope to keep gambling in their casinos. After this back to back on the Destiny, I am anxious to see how this works on our future cruises. Hopefully, publicizing our own plight with the Players Club will somehow spare another guest “poor relative status” in a Carnival ship casino.
Copyright January 31, 2012 Rita Alexandrea