My Experience Booking a Norwegian Cruise NCL with Chase Ultimate Rewards Points (via Connexions Loyalty)

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Yeah – we LOVE the Haven by NCL

One of the most flexible (and valuable) travel points we can amass are Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Due to 5/24 it is hard to hold all the cards you would like to do all that I do to collect hundreds of thousands a year, but it could be a reason to wait for a few years to get cards just to hold cards like the Chase Freedom (learn more about points cards) as well as Chase Freedom Unlimited (learn more about points cards) as well as the Ink Business Preferred (learn more about business cards). Being able to pool points earned from all of these to my Chase Sapphire Reserve (learn more about points cards) to then spend them at 1.5 cents each on cruises is what make me a happy frequent floater! 🙂

Is this a deal? Is it really “free”?

I have booked another cruise (will share after the sailing but you can see other reviews here) and unlike the way I normally cruise for about 10-15% of retail this time I chose to burn a large chunk of my Ultimate Rewards points earned from the cards mentioned above. I thought I would share how it went and some things to think about if you are new to cruising or booking with NCL. As you can see from the above, NCL almost always offers a package of “free” stuff but there are “gotchas” you have to know about.

Alaska NCL Bliss Summer 2019

Let’s say, for example, you would like to cruise Alaska this summer on the NCL Bliss (I cannot wait to sail this ship one day, btw). There are lots of choices of cabins that do include the free-ish offers. But wait…

No “free” For YOU!

I would imagine if you wanted to cruise Alaska you would at least want a balcony room. But if you choose the cheapest displayed option, that is one where NCL chooses your room, you do not qualify for the free-ish perks.

More for room and free stuff

So if you want a balcony room with the free-ish perks you have to pay a few hundred more to have a guaranteed balcony room (and even more if you want to pick a specific room yourself). Plus, once you do have a qualifying room then there are added gratuities for these “free” add-ons (so free is not really free at all).

More fees for tips

Also do not forget that, in addition to all of the above, you will be billed another gratuities charge per day per person so a balcony on the Bliss above would add another $101.50 per person. At the end of the sailing, if you are not pleased with the service onboard, you can ask for this back (I am always thrilled and never have asked for it back, ever).

They still help with UR points cruise bookings!

Now that you have the basics and overview of booking with NCL directly – how did my Chase Ultimate Rewards points booking go? First off, as just about everyone blogged about, Chase chose Expedia as their booking provider last year over Connexions Loyalty. However, Chase retained them for cruise bookings. Just about every Connexions Loyalty booking I have done over the past few years have been either painful or really painful to get done. This one was a bit better.

CruiseNext – Yes please!

I called the number on the back of my Chase Sapphire Reserve card (learn more about points cards) and after verification was sent over to Connexions Loyalty to handle the rest. Since I had researched just the cruise, cabin and perks I wanted to feed the rep all the info. I also had “cruise next” credits to apply and with my NCL Latitudes number the rep was able to have NCL pull the certs and apply them before using any Ultimate rewards points (#ProTip – I used Amex “Offers for You” to buy $500 onboard refundable credits for just $400 net to pay for these). So far so good.

Oppsseee! Card declined!

There are other perks I have learned booking with Ultimate Rewards points. I am able to pay for everything, including prepaying the daily gratuities charges, with my points. This even further reduces my costs and the value of spending points. But there was one hiccup. The credit card that Connexions Loyalty used (not my card, their card) was declined by NCL and I was given notice of this. It also revealed, as a side point, that Connexions Loyalty is getting a commission on the booking process for Chase. I called back to the Connexions Loyalty cruise folks and after talking to about 5 people got someone in their accounting department to use another card and pay in full what was due to NCL.

This is HAVEN life – Yes please!

Overall I am really pleased with the value from my points booking and that I could get exactly what I wanted including all the offers NCL provided booking direct. I just wish one time I could have a smooth booking experience with Connexions Loyalty! – René

 

 

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15 comments

  1. How are you amassing all these points to create enough for these cruises. If I do these on my Arrival Plus, I spend a ton of time at WM flushing gift cards. There must be a better way.

  2. About a month ago I went through Chase for a Azamara cruise for carnival in Rio. So far it has been a smooth process (no declined card).
    Sailing NCL next year for the Med but I cannot wait to sail the Bliss.

  3. @Freqflyer – No! I only PAY net out of pocket 10-15% of retail by using points, cash back, discounts and more. That is the cost, via creative spending and new card bonus points and such, nets me only 10-15 cents per dollar cost (plus my time). Oh and if I do not buy cruise next with my pre-paid deposits (up to 1k per sailing) I get a check back about 2 weeks after the sailing! #Winning!

  4. Ok. Then I would be sure to include the “opportunity cost” of the miles. Just because you use miles for a ticket that doesn’t mean that the original miles were free (eg had you used a 2% cash back card for all the credit card miles you got how much would you have earned in hard cash vs applying the miles to a “free” ticket or a “free” cruise?). I had a friend last week that shared how she got a “”free” $1,000 hotel stay using her hotel credit card. She would have done better using a 2% cash back card and then buying the hotel nights than using the hotel card (or just deposited the rebate in the bank). It so wasn’t free in any which way. I do like in the original article how you used a cash back site, credit card offers, etc to lower the overall cost of the cruise.

  5. I’ve only been on one cruise and I don’t get it. Small rooms, tiny bathroom, mediocre food, large crowds and very limited time at the ports of call. There are so much better ways to go on holiday. The only reason I can assume people go on cruises because it’s cheap.

  6. @Freqflyer – I never run down that rat hole because it always ends up way off topic. BTW I do max out cash back cards as well but at my volume and level of creative spending I have to use ALL kinds of card. Also I know of very few cash card(s) I can earn 5x points on and then send to another card to net out 7.5% return for travel. Agree?

  7. @James – You are doing it wrong. I have a nice size room(s) with large bathrooms (often with an amazing view) amazing food and a butler. As to ports of call, sometimes I never get off the ship it is so nice! 😉 As to cheap, the retail price of ALL my sailings combined this year will be north of $15,000!

  8. Just returned from a cruise on the Bliss. here are a few tips and comments –
    1.The ship is new and fabulous
    2. its huge holds 4100 guests and 1700 crew
    3. Ship is probably understaffed by 25%
    4. Crew and staff are very nice
    5. When ship is fully booked unbelievably hard to find a deck chair to be by the pool
    6. Vibe is a private beach Club area where they rent about 30 deck chairs but you need to be first in line in the a.m. to book ($129) pp
    If you’re on deck 15 sometime the music /thumping/booming from the pool area can be heard (felt) until 12:30-1 A.M.
    7. Food is excellent
    8. Observation area very nice to sit indoors and relax when you want a sun break.
    9. Only 2 sets of elevators so it you can chose your room try to choose midship so you have easy access to both
    10. Disembarkation process was amazingly smooth considering the number of people the move on and off the ship
    11. Renes comments are “right on”
    12. To make dinner reservations its easier to do so on the many screens in each elevator bank than at the concierge desk.

  9. I’d rather have a variety of cards that pay 2%-5% cash back than travel reward cards. I used to churn travel cards for the bonuses, but the hassle factor has grown too large for me.

  10. I’m going on the Bliss end of July…:) fam. of 4. I don’t know how you could amass so many points but I certainly couldn’t. I did get the friends and fam. discount though for what it’s worth.

  11. @JBC – If you are willing to get the right card mix, study up on creative spending (as well as the time to do it), you can harvest about 1 million points a year. I do.

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