Visit our travel agent friends at MEI Travel

I planned out 6 years of cruises so I could reach Royal Caribbean's highest loyalty tier

16 May 2024
Calista Kiper

What would you do to reach the top tier of Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program?

The Crown and Anchor Society is Royal Caribbean's member rewards program, and there are enviable benefits for those at the top.

For every night a cruiser spends onboard a Royal Caribbean ship, they'll gain one point (or double points if they've booked a suite).

The highest level is Pinnacle, and it requires a total of 700 points.

The small percentage of cruisers who reach this level gain a host of attractive benefits.

To gain these benefits, one couple made a detailed plan—complete with an Excel spreadsheet.

They use a spreadsheet and a host of other tools to track their progress and plan the cruises they need to take to reach the Pinnacle level.

Read more: Pathway to Pinnacle: How I reached the top of Royal Caribbean’s Loyalty Program

The Notarnicolas realized early on they were going to take a lot of cruises

Dorothy and Steve Notarnicola took their first Royal Caribbean cruise on Independence of the Seas, in 2016.

They took the cruise as a way to celebrate their older son's graduation and were immediately hooked.

"We realized early on that we love cruising and knew that we were going to be taking cruises a lot in our future."

Onboard Royal Caribbean ships, they've come to love music in the Pub and Schooner Bar.

Schooner Bar on Enchantment of the Seas

The family appreciates any venues "where we can engage 'cruise brain,' have a cocktail, and relax."

Neither of them grew up cruising, but Steve had some experience on big ships as a Surface Warfare Officer in the United States Navy.

Read more: After 68 cruises, I'm about to reach the top tier of Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society: here’s what being a Pinnacle member means

The Pinnacle level became their ultimate goal


The Notarnicolas are very goal-oriented and want to enjoy all the benefits of the Crown and Anchor Society.

The Pinnacle level includes the following benefits:

  • Priority check-in at the pier
  • Concierge Club access for complimentary continental breakfast, evening drinks, and hors d'oeuvres
  • Reserved seating at shows in the main theater, AquaTheater, Studio B, and Two70
  • Priority departure at the end of the cruise
  • Exclusive access to the Pinnacle Lounge
  • Complimentary specialty dining experience for two
  • Exclusive behind-the-scenes tours
  • Exclusive Pinnacle Club cocktail reception with senior ship officers
  • Complimentary 7-night cruise for two in a balcony stateroom, available once you reach 700 cruise points
  • Personalized milestone recognition gifts
  • Priority waitlist for shore excursions and spa appointments
  • Complimentary VOOM Internet package
  • Access to a dedicated Loyalty Call Center

Read more: Royal Caribbean adds new benefit for Pinnacle Club members

The Notarnicolas especially love breakfast in Chops Grille every morning, spending time in the Suite Lounge/Concierge Club, and dining at Coastal Kitchen.

Additionally, since Steve works as an operations analyst and Dorothy as a librarian, having early embarkation and disembarkation allows them to get to their cruises or back to their jobs quickly, using maximum vacation time.


The Notarnicolas told us that the Pinnacle members they've met on their cruises are "the most engaging, personable, friendly, and helpful people."

"We just really thought it would be great to join that group."

The Notarnicolas developed a detailed plan to reach the ultimate level of the Crown and Anchor Society

To become part of the Pinnacle membership level, the Notarnicolas came up with a unique plan.

In 2021, they had 33 points and were still at the Platinum level.

That spring, while the pandemic forced cruises to come to a stop, they realized that "getting to Pinnacle might be possible if we planned it out." 

With his experience as an analyst, Steve enjoys figuring out multiple scenarios to achieve a specific result.

Since the family had already been tracking their cruises, building and implementing a plan felt organic for them. 

They planned to book up to ten 3-night weekend cruises and two 7-night cruises throughout 2022 and 2023, all in Junior Suite cabins.

They estimated that booking these cruises would give them a total of 88 points per year.

They started with an Excel spreadsheet with multiple tabs, and finding a quality travel agent.

The spreadsheet tracks every cruise, past or future—the ship, length of the cruise, date, excursions, ports visited, stateroom type, and points earned per night.

They also have a page that projects how many points they'll need to earn per year, and what year they expect to reach Pinnacle.

Their travel agent serves as a helpful "enabler"

As of August 2023, The Notarnicolas had 310 Crown and Anchor points, with 21 more cruises planned.

They project that they will have 508 Crown and Anchor points by March 2025.

"Obviously we’re not there yet, but we are comfortable with our plan," Steve Notarnicolas said.

The Notarnicolas work with Kelley from MEI Travel, who calls herself their "enabler" when it comes to the cruising scheme.


With Kelley's help, they find good deals and fill in any gaps to maximize their cruises.

For example, Kelley helped them rebook a 15-night Transatlantic cruise from a guaranteed balcony to a guaranteed suite stateroom.

Thanks to this change, they ended up gaining double points on the 15-night cruise!

They stay flexible to enjoy different kinds of ships and itineraries

Sun rising in Alaska

With a detailed plan to reach Pinnacle status, the Notarnicolas have a fun but focused way to keep cruising and maximize future benefits.

They also began planning to start a legacy of cruising.

"As our kids start having kids, we really want to introduce and reinforce with them how great cruising is," Steve Notarnicolas said.

It's not all just for the points.

Under the radar Crown and Anchor perks

"We really love cruising with Royal, and as such, we are always open to experiencing new ships and new itineraries."

When the Notarnicolas see group cruises or new ship itineraries that interest them, they're willing to adjust the plan and add another sailing.

They are booked to sail on both Icon of the Seas and Utopia of the Seas in 2024, ships that were launched after they first developed the spreadsheet.

The Notarnicolas offered a few tips for other cruisers who want to reach Pinnacle

For any cruisers who want to try a similar plan (or are simply looking forward to reaching Pinnacle), the Notarnicolas advise enjoying the journey.

"The best advice is to not look at the plan as an absolute," they told us.

"Don't get too focused on points."

They also extended other tips for planning ahead and gaining those extra points.

For example, the Notarnicolas use the Shipmate app to track past cruises as well as upcoming cruises on one single screen.

This helps them find any gaps in their cruise booking schedule, and fit in more sailings.

The Notarnicolas also take advantage of the Club Royal at the Casino, earning benefits and complimentary cruises there.

The Casino Royale has its own loyalty program that offers benefits like discounts, free drinks, and even a free cruise!

Read more: I gambled enough in Royal Caribbean's casino to get free drinks and a cruise

This has accelerated their Pinnacle Plan by adding even more cruises to the schedule.

What happens when they reach Pinnacle?

The Notarnicolas love cruising with Royal Caribbean and say that they would still be cruising even if there was no Pinnacle level to achieve.

Thus, they look forward to continuing cruising even after they reach this ultimate Crown and Anchor achievement.

They might even have a double Pinnacle plan in the works!

Status or no status, the Notarnicolas aren't going to stop cruising anytime soon.

Calista Kiper graduated from Wheaton College, IL, with a B.A. in English Writing. 

Growing up traveling around the world, she developed a passion for diversity and cross-cultural communication. From her first cruise on Wonder of the Seas, she has delighted in the intersection between travel, diversity, and writing in the cruising world.

Calista spends her free time reading, cooking, and researching the latest human-interest stories. 

Get our newsletter

Stay up-to-date with cruise news & advice

    We never share your information with third parties and will protect it in accordance with our Privacy Policy