Pay to Play: Carnival Cruise Line Offers Fee-Based Early Boarding, Priority Tenders

Carnival Liberty Ship 2012Regardless of cruise line, one of the largest annoyances of the cruise experience is the embarkation. For what it’s worth, herding thousands of passengers through what seems like miles of rope-line through the registration and security process – in the time that they do it – is no easy feat. But Carnival is testing a new pilot program to assess the viability of offering a fee-based perk program that allows passengers to experience an expedited process and quicker access to the ship.

Carnival Cruise Faster to the Fun

The program is being called, “Faster to the Fun,” and is being piloted on two Carnival ships. For a fee, passengers will be able to enjoy the benefits previously only awarded to experienced Carnival Cruisers in the Diamond and Platinum level programs (Don’t worry Diamond passengers, you’ll still have a separate line).

Participants will be eligible to bypass many of the long lines during embarkation through a priority line. And, instead of waiting until the afternoon for your stateroom to be ready, and sometimes late evening for your luggage to arrive – your stateroom will be among the first available to enter and your luggage will be hand-delivered inside your room.

While the fast embarkation is getting most of the attention, the program also includes priority dinner times and faster access to ship-to-shore tenders.

Carnival Cruise Early Boarding Price

All these benefits come at a price – and that price is $49.95 per cabin. So, if you’re traveling as a family of four, it means for 12 dollars and some change per-person, you can avoid many long lines throughout your voyage. (Maybe….one day…there will be priority access to the buffet lines….)

Availability and how to sign up

Undoubtedly Carnival is using the pilot program to see how many cruisers want to take part in such a program and if the logistics are feasible (read: profitable). At the time of publishing, Carnival Cruise Line had declined comment on just how many passengers would be able to purchase the “Faster to the Fun” package, only that there is limited availability.

To book the early boarding package, passengers can access the excursion area of

Two ships will host the pilot program. The Carnival Imagination will begin offering the program on August 20th sailing, and the Carnival Liberty a few days later on August 25th sailing.

Final Thoughts

This program will be a success for Carnival. Once they figure out the maximum number of cabins to which they can offer this service, it will likely be profitable. Aside from the person handling the luggage in the beginning (what Carnival is paying that person is a topic for another day) – there is very little company cost involved in a program facilitation.

A poll on indicated that a large number of people would rather spend this money on something else – but we suspect that those scouring message boards and cruise forums are savvier than the average cruise passenger and willing to sacrifice convenience to save a little cash.

We don’t blame them – but this program will be popular. Very popular.