I admit it, I have missed cruising (it has been a few years) and I miss NCL. I have not giving them one single dollar of business for a long time now after my last cruise went so badly (broken engine, fire on-board just to name a few issues). But I am ready to get back on the water and I have to say I like NCL ships, their elite program and the overall feel of NCL.
Since I am jumping back in, like with all things travel, I don’t want to be just “anyone”. I want to hold as close to top status as I can with the cruise line. And when I took the time to really look at it, with reasonable goals, that means reaching Platinum status with the new updated NCL elite/rewards program. Thankfully, unlike some hotels chains that come up with simply ridiculous elite names (hello Hyatt-ist) theirs are reasonably simple and can be compared to airlines and other elite programs and names.
Also, when you think about it, they only have 4 “real” elite levels. The first one is for almost anyone even if you have only done a 1 day cruse. So to me the first impressive status is Silver when you have hit 30 nights. The last one on the list above is to me like Delta360 – that is, the uber elite level that I doubt I will ever reach.
Thus to me the sweet spot really is Platinum with NCL Latitudes. I will get:
- Laundry Service 1 free bag
- Priority Tender Tickets
- Priority Disembarkation
- Priority Embarkation
- Dinner for Two at Cagney’s or Le Bistro with a Bottle of Wine
- Dinner for Two at Moderno or La Cucina
- Free Internet 30 free minutes
- Chocolate-Covered Strawberries
- Behind-the-Scenes Ship Tour
- Concierge Service to assist you with specialty restaurant, entertainment and shore excursion reservations
This on top of all the other perks of the lower elite levels makes it so even a basic i.e. cheap cruise with a modest room will get you an amazing amount of perks and privileges. I love this.
So how am I doing this fast? Well, like all things Delta I am doing it by using the program rules to max out all I can. First off I am reaching Platinum i.e. 80 nights credit in just 5 trips. No, I am not doing 5×16 night cruises, but I am doing most of the trips in “cheap” suites and stacking, when I can, with “insider” bonus nights. I am only at 14 nights now but have 2 long-ish suites sailings booked that will put me just a few nights shy of my goal. One more short trip after this and job done!
But I hate paying for travel – any kind of travel. Air, hotels or whatever I like using points whenever I can to reduce my costs. When it comes to ships I try to max everything out with layers. First things first.
At this point in time, unlike airlines that are so full that they will drag you off the flight to make room for flight crews, they are not selling out all cruises. So they still like to work with travel agents and that includes OTAs like Expedia (that also has a rewards program to layer more rewards).
After finding the best deals I can on NCL.com I do this: TCB>Expedia>NCL to get 12% cash back (even better than AMEX Platinum perks most times btw), plus Expedia points and then call NCL to apply any current promos on top (sometimes this last part works, sometimes not).
This is just part of the fun. With Expedia I can make payments over time in any amount I want with any card. I am making those payment via my Barclays Arrival+ card (at least $100 per payment for 10,000 points) and will pay for the cruise via MS on this card one small payment at a time. Oh, and I also used for one cruise an AMEX SYNC offer to prepay the tips separately (and some on-board credit) to get even more cash back!
The best part of all of cruising is it is “lifetime” status unlike the airlines or hotels where you must re- qualify year after year. I really like the fact that once I reach Platinum then every time get on an NCL ship I will be enjoying the elite perks that minimal personal out of pocket will cost me.
Are you a cruise fan? Do you strive for elite status and and stack promotions / offers for max perks as well? Are there other tips you do that I am missing and should be doing too? Let me know in the comments below. – René