Disney Cruise Line’s Castaway Club is the rewards program guests are automatically enrolled in after completing their first Disney cruise. Castaway Club members enjoy advanced booking windows, complimentary gifts, and more. But, the Castaway Club has been relatively stagnant compared to competitors.
Is it time for Disney to update and change the Castaway Club program?
Let’s first take a look at the current structure of the Castaway Club. Guests are automatically Silver members as soon as they complete their first Disney cruise. They can rise to Gold tier after sailing on five cruises and Platinum tier after 10 cruises.
Castaway Club Perks and Benefits
The biggest pre-arrival perk for Castaway Club members is the early booking window for port adventures, adult dining, and more. The early access, which ranges from 90 days to 120 days before sailing, is the best bet to get those popular reservations at Palo or even a cabana at Castaway Cay.
The Castaway Club also has some benefits once guests are on the ship.
The onboard benefits are mostly forgettable until you reach Platinum and can book a complimentary dinner at Palo. The Welcome Back Abord Gift has been the same sling bag for the past several years, and many repeat guests give them away rather than continue to accumulate them.
What’s Wrong With the Castaway Club?
Honestly, there’s a lot wrong with the Castaway Club. We can start with the backwards process Disney uses to determine a guest’s Castaway Club level. Everything is based on completed voyages, which doesn’t make any sense.
Here’s a quick example:
Takes five 3-night cruises (15 total nights) and is in the Gold Castaway Club tier.
Takes three 7-night cruises (21 total nights) and is in the Silver Castaway Club tier.
See the problem? Basing everything on completed voyages ignores how long those cruises are. The number of nights doesn’t matter. It also ignores how much money the guest spends.
The overall scale of the Castaway Club system is also extremely limited. We sailed with a guest who was on her 99th(!) cruise on Disney Cruise Line. She’s a Platinum member just like the guest who has sailed on 10 cruises. That doesn’t seem right. The Castaway Club hasn’t grown as Disney Cruise Line has aged, which has caused many frequent cruisers to pass up the system’s tiers and perks.
The benefits themselves are also a bit lackluster, especially for repeat guests. How many of the same sling bag does someone need? Are prioritized booking windows that much of a perk if concierge guests have higher priority?
The entire tier and benefit system needs a revamp.
How Does the Castaway Club Compare?
This is where things get tricky. It’s easy to look at the other cruise lines and immediately recognize that Disney’s Castaway Club program is leagues behind. Other cruise lines offer a ton of amenities to their rewards members and have a more fleshed out tier system. But, Disney Cruise Line is in the unique position where they can charge more and discount less. Disney is in a different boat with what they can and need to do. (No apologies for that pun)
However, some competing cruise lines have rewards program formats that Disney Cruise Line should consider.
Royal Caribbean Crown & Anchor Society
- Guests earn one point for every night sailed with Royal Caribbean.
- Guests earn double points when purchasing a suite.
- Six tiers based on point levels.
Royal Caribbean, and many other cruise lines, have a fleshed out rewards system that makes the Castaway Club look outdated. Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor society rewards guests based on nights sailed. They then have an extensive list of perks that range from discounted rooms on future cruises and lounge access to specialty restaurant access and priority seating.
Royal Caribbean benefits in having larger ships (and more ships overall) with more activities, which allows them to offer more in their rewards program. It’s not a perfect comparison. But, many other cruise lines have a similar structure where nights sailed is the key factor and perks are more noteworthy.
What’s Next for the Castaway Club?
The Castaway Club needs a dramatic overhaul, but we know that carries with it some risk.
We’ve seen Disney move to more exclusive experiences at their theme parks, and the Disney Wish continued that with more concierge space than any Disney ship. A more expansive and exclusive rewards structure, like one seen on Royal Caribbean, may increase that divide between the “regular” guest and the guest who spends more.
Still, the Castaway Club needs to evolve. Disney has hinted that something like this might be coming in the form of a membership/rewards program that stretches to all areas of the Disney umbrella. The Wall Street Journal summarized this possibility, saying Disney wants to create something like Amazon Prime that touches all aspects of the company.
Change is likely coming and it’ll probably mean the end of the Castaway Club as we know it. Will it be for better or worse? We’ll have to wait and see.