Is Carnival Thinking About Ditching “Sail & Sign” Cards?

Could one of the most universal aspects of a Carnival cruise be up for a change?

Anyone that has cruised Carnival is familiar with the “Sail & Sign” card. This credit-card sized piece of plastic is issued as you board the ship and is arguably the most important thing you’ll carry during the trip. It serves as your room key to open your door and also as a way to make purchases around the ship.

Carnival’s Sail & Sign cards are ubiquitous, but is the cruise line considering a different style — such as a wristband — for passengers?

They are also a fashion statement as many passengers wear them on lanyards and show off their color, which is different depending on your loyalty status on the cruise line. 

If a couple of Facebook posts from Carnival Brand Ambassador John Heald are a hint, however, the cruise line could be considering making a change to the card system.

On Friday, Heald, who often asks all sorts of questions of his nearly 600,000 followers, posed a relatively innocuous question:

“Wristbands – more and more people asking for then [sic] to replace the Sail and Sign cards. Are you one of them?”

The roughly 7,000 comments ran the gamut with some in favor and some opposed. Overall, it seemed that many passengers commented they preferred the traditional cards to a wristband, though it wasn’t a landslide.

Normally this sort of question wouldn’t pique our interest. It would just be one of the many that the Carnival Ambassador asks regularly. However, just hours later Heald asked about the topic for a second time.

Take a look:

Carnival’s Brand Ambassador John Heald made two posts within hours asking fans their thoughts on possible replacements for Sail & Sign cards. Each post generated thousands of comments.

To us, asking about cards versus wristbands multiple times in such a short timespan seems to point that it’s at least something that is being thought about. To be sure, there has been no change announced and nothing could come of it. Still, it’s worth noting.

Of the more than 10,000 comments (people are very passionate about the subject!), the vast majority said they preferred either the current card system or having a wristband. The use of a phone to act as your room key and spending device, however, was nearly universally panned.

“I am not interested in using my phone anymore on ship. Using my phone for pictures is enough,” one poster replied.

“I can’t keep a charge on my phone and don’t want [to be] locked out of my room,” wrote another.

If Carnival did switch from a card to a wristband, they would not be the first to do so.

For instance, Princess (which is owned by the same parent company) has long used a “medallion” that is worn on your wrist or in a necklace. The quarter-sized device is able to be read from a scanner and works just like a card.

Carnival’s sister cruise line Princess already used a medallion instead of a card to enter a room, buy things on the ship, and track when you board/debark.

Virgin Voyages also uses wristbands in lieu of cards. When you arrive at your room, you simply press the band against the door reader, the device is read, and it automatically unlocks. It’s the same technique when you purchase something onboard or when entering/leaving the ship.

We’re not entirely sure why some cruise lines prefer wristbands versus cards. However, we do know that the medallion on Princess offers the ability to track passengers around the vessel. For instance, you can have a drink or food delivered not just to your room, but anywhere that you are on the ship.

One thing that will also need to be taken into account is that many passengers like to collect their Sail & Sign cards as souvenirs from the cruise. As well, many passengers like to use the card’s color to show off their status on the ship. That’s something that even John Heald pointed out in the comments:

At least one person responded that they’d like to know if the medallions would be color-coded to reflect loyalty status on Carnival.

Again, there’s no change as of now. If Carnival officially decides to move from cards to wristbands (or any other method), we’ll let you know.

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  1. I do not want to give up my card. it works great for me. I’m old so I put it on a lanyard to keep up with it. It is so much easier. So you see it isn’t to show you my color of my card, but if you want to know just ask I will tell you. I do not want wristbands at all don’t like them. So NO to wristbands


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