When it hit my inbox, I was pretty excited by my latest free offer from NCL. But with some hindsight, I’ve decided to pass on it. I know for some this would enter Prima Donna status, but in reality, you need to be able to both work out the math, the alternatives, and know what matters to you in life… let’s have a look at this one, and see if you would do the same:
The Free Stuff (part 1)
- Free Cruise for 2 pax
- Free Airfare to Cruise for 2 pax
- Free Airport to Hotel Txf
- Free Hotel for 2 nights
- Free (pick 2 from list) ‘offers’
- Free WiFi
- Free Dining Package (speciality restaurants)
- Free Ultimate Beverage Package (booze)
- Shore Excursions ( $50 per port credit)
The Free Stuff (part 2)
- Free Booze (the good stuff)
- $100 Dining Credit (full credit triggers on one purchase of speciality dining)
- $125 Spa Credit
- Stateroom Goodies
- Bottles of wine, 1 or 2 per cruise
- Fruit Plates
- Other stuff
The Free Stuff (part 3)
- Free Bottle of wine to stateroom
- Free Dinner with wine at speciality restaurant
- Free laundry service
- Other stuff
As I’ve mentioned in the past, NCL offers ‘Stack’. Free stuff 1 comes via the email, Free stuff 2 comes from NCL Casino Status, Free stuff 3 comes from NCL passenger status (gained from free cruises..) it becomes hard to pick the free ‘offers’ onboard since the booze package is covered already, and there is 1 dinner plus $100 comped… we end up with free Internet and slip in a bonus offer of ‘Free Dylan’ these days.
At this point, you’re probably thinking it is a pretty good week right there.. but since Free stuff part 2 and part 3 are there on any offer, it really comes down to the components of the offer for us:
I’ve never been offered a free flight or hotel to the cruise, but now I have, I have to say I’m not that fussed. The flight is in economy, and it might not be direct. The hotel choices were some obscure brand if we depart BCN, and the Hilton Garden Inn from Rome.
Then the Stateroom.. an inside cabin… oh the horror!
I asked about upgrades. Coming from an inside cabin to what I deem workable (a Mini Suite) would cost a total of $2850 ($1150 per adult, and $550 for child). For the flights, perhaps we could upgrade the fare, but being out of control of the route and booking class would complicate things.. and economy isn’t ideal (possible, but not desirable). The hotel.. without looking it up, I guess it wouldn’t be a fit.
Time and comfort matter
We actually came back from a cruise almost the same as this one a few months ago, where we did 10 days from Barcelona on the same ship, the NCL Epic, and we did enjoy the vast majority of it. We’d go back to BCN, but we wouldn’t accept just ‘accommodation’. The point of travel hacking at our level has gone beyond ‘freeee!’ and entered ‘wow that’s really nice and I couldn’t afford it’. The distinction is that we get a little say in things. That said, if I got serious about this offer, I would look at the hotel, and if the location worked, we’d likely go for it. What I wouldn’t accept is losing time by being stuck at a ‘free’ location far from anything that made Barcelona, Barcelona, or Rome, Rome.
I just can’t afford it.
That’s the irony here… I can’t justify the expense of this vacation vs what we could build with real hacking. Never mind the upgrades of $2850+airfare upgrades.. if we went low end, and didn’t upgrade the room we could pay about $1200 for the entire trip for 3 people… but the problem with that is that we would fly in coach and sit in a tiny inside cabin for 7 nights. The ‘free’ wouldn’t be fun, I’d be cranky, and I’d still be out $1200, which I still can’t afford. $1200 is a shit ton of money to spend on a vacation. Especially one that has a few perks, but an underlying flavor of ‘average’.
3 More Strikes and we’re out
I’ve bought a few ‘coupons’ for future cruises with NCL. They are valued at $250 and can be used 1 per cruise (generally). I forget my basis in these right now, but they were pretty highly discounted. While we have to burn them up, with some timing pressure since the ‘great’ offers are going to dissipate soon…
I wrote this post some time ago, and didn’t post. I was reminded of it by a comment by Dia on our latest Vegas trip. She recommended staying at the Golden Nugget, and the irony of it all is that we just can’t afford it. Sometimes, the free stuff you see isn’t that free, and sometimes the great deals that people leap on cost a ton of money.
Embedded into this is something really important… a lot of the time when you see someone push a ‘great deal’ they are actually getting paid for it, and find any way they can to justify your expense.
Oh.. and the good news here, we ended up with a much better ‘free’ cruise with a little more mlife magic… more to come on that in the future.