We’ve cruised with Norwegian three times in the past couple of years, and number four is coming up in September on the new Norwegian Breakaway. The first one of them was a paid ticket, on the Norwegian Gem, and since then we have cruised for free (other than Taxes and Fees), with a number of great perks along the way. I estimate that our comps have come in at over $7000 thus far from these guys, and I am very excited to be cruising from New York again, and hopefully making it to Bermuda this time around.
Norwegian Cruise Lines Latitudes Rewards
Latitudes is NCL’s loyalty program, available to all guests and interestingly based upon a combination of cruise duration and revenue dollars. It might be something we see in the future with Airline programs. The good thing with this is that you can quickly rack up good points with them on discounted cruises, but should you be cruising in a higher category of stateroom (suites and above) you earn additional points. In Venice we upgraded from an Inside Cabin to a Penthouse Suite (quite the bump up let me tell you) and earned double Latitudes points for our troubles.
Once you achieve status with NCL their perks are quite attractive, we are currently at the Silver Level, and I think the really good things start from Gold, and get a lot better at Platinum.
Some of the things that don’t seem so obvious but are really quite nice is the ‘Exclusive Gathering with Ships Officers’ which is 30mins-1hr of complimentary drinks and passed canapes whilst you get to sit and chat with the officers about whatever tickles your fancy, we typically have quite a lot to talk about since I spent many years at sea myself during my youth. Also, the cocktail reception (that apparently isn’t happening on the Breakaway, boo!) means that you get two free evenings of drinks and socializing which are both pleasant experiences and a good way to save on your bar tab.
Casinos at Sea: Players Club
Casinos as Sea is the Gambling Loyalty Program of Norwegian Cruise Lines; without a doubt it is the most generous of all the Cruise Ship Gambling Programs. They track both slot and table play, and based upon how much you Play, not how much you win or lose, you gain status with them. I am at their lowest Tier; Lucky! But I have also experienced things beyond that such as unlimited drinks of any kind in the Casino, multiple free dinners at any of the Paid Restaurants such as Cagney’s the Steakhouse. This is because I was a Table Player, they have more of a fluffy rule for Table Players than Slot Players, and tend to give more when you are nice to the staff and are generous with your tips. On one occasion after leaving a particularly generous tip the Manager comped my dinner at Cagney’s two nights running, along with whatever I wanted to drink from the bar.
Stacking the Bonuses and Benefits of Casinos at Sea and Latitudes Rewards
By being a member of both Latitudes and Casinos at Sea you can earn benefits above your tier level – some things that only a Latitudes Platinum would receive, such as Wine in Stateroom, comes as Standard with Casinos at Sea, so as a lowly Latitudes Silver I get the free booze. Also, some things double up, such as the Meet and Greet events, since you get invited as a Latitudes member for one type of event, and as a Casino VIP for others.
Free Cruises on Norwegian Cruise Line
Firstly, Free means $25 per person per day plus taxes, and there is a group tipping charge of $12 per person per day. So you will still be paying something for the ‘free’ cruise, but even with these fees its a fantastic bargain!
I’d love to share with you the level that you get a comped cruise at, but unfortunately it is a secret – I do know that I am currently regarded as their lowest level of player as a Casinos at Sea Lucky Level, and I get comped, but I do really play. So don’t expect that if you just put $5 in a slot machine you will be comped for life.
However, and this is just a guess, I would imagine if you can reach Tier 2 play, the Hot! Level, you should be good for Free cruises. It is worth noting that the type of cabin you get for free will vary based upon your importance to the cruise-line and the popularity of the vessel. That said, you can upgrade at a reasonable price. For example, we cruised on the Norwegian Epic for New Years Eve, and we would only be offered an Inside Stateroom. I upgraded us to an exceptional Balcony Cabin (rear facing) for $600 prior to departure.
For our cruise to Bermuda on the Norwegian Breakaway this year they offered us a Balcony Cabin for free, which I actually paid another $50 to double the size of the Balcony, since there will be lots of Sea Days on this cruise and I wanted to be able to sit outside on a lounge chair.
Also, you will notice that I highlighted the Payment line of $250 by Voucher. This is a great offer that NCL has to retain customers: if you purchase a voucher for $250 onboard your current cruise you can use it as payment against any 6 day or longer cruise in the next 4 years. In doing so they credit your account with $100 for the current cruise. So basically you are getting $100 off the already reduced ‘free’ cruise price. You can use this voucher with Casinos at Sea, or any other form of booking, I believe that includes third parties also, though please double check onboard.
We did this on the NCL Jade last year, went from an Inside Cabin to a Penthouse Suite. In doing so we earned Suite level perks, which further stacked on top of the Casinos at Sea and Latitudes Silver, basically filling in the blanks – they included: Priority Tender, Concierge, Priority Dining/Shows. So in essence once we were in the Penthouse, even as the lowest level Casinos at Sea, and second lowest Latitudes we had full Top Tier benefits of the Latitudes program! The total cost to upgrade was $1400 onboard, the cruise originally cost $600 so we paid $2000, for an itinerary that had a book price of $6000 and a discounted third party price of $5200. Very pleased indeed.
If you want to upgrade onboard please be nice about it – the typical first night of the cruise is like the Gate at an airline, swamped with people asking for a free upgrade. It isn’t going to happen! Don’t be a PITA about it. Your best bet is to ask to be put on a paid upgrade list, they will contact you on night two of the cruise. They will not typically assign upgrades on night one just in case regular cabin swaps are required due to problems with the paid cabin a person has. Secondarily they don’t know how many no-shows there are until a while after embarkation, so let them figure out all the details and get back to you.