NCL Cruise Benefits

When you achieve Seven Stars status or when your renewal for the year is confirmed, you can book a Seven Stars Voyage cruise on Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL).  This Seven Stars Voyage is given independently of other cruise offers, e.g., Seven Stars Signature Events, Level IV Signature Experience, or promotional offers where you visit your favorite casino and are given a certificate for a free cruise.

 

The Seven Stars Voyage must fit certain criteria:
  • Travel in Europe, the Caribbean, Bermuda, Florida, Alaska or the Bahamas
  • Be completed by March 31 of the calendar year following your current Seven Stars anniversary date, i.e., if your current Seven Stars status began April 1, 2013, you have until March 31, 2014
  • Last 5-8 days

 

The Seven Stars Voyage excludes some cruises:
  • Those that overlap with certain major holidays: Easter, New Year’s, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, but there may be others
  • Cruises to Hawaii
  • Cruises that last fewer than five days or more than eight days
What you pay:
  • Only taxes and port charges, typically about $200 to $250 per person.
What you get:
  • Balcony room on most cruises, or ocean-view room on cruises to Alaska
  • Room for use of two people
  • Meals at the buffet and non-gourmet restaurants
  • Use of all the facilities except the spa
  • Complimentary well drinks in the casino

 

Planning The Cruise
 

NCL’s Web site, www.ncl.com, has information about the various ships and destinations.  You can use this as a starting point, but keep in mind that not all cruises are eligible for this benefit,  and there are sometimes capacity controls in place, meaning that only a certain number of staterooms per cruise are available.  You may see a balcony room online, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get it.

 

The best way to plan the cruise is to call NCL directly at (877) 742-9521.  Have your Seven Stars player’s card number handy, because you will be asked for it.  A cruise “consultant” will check your name against a list of Seven Stars customers and will help you learn what rooms and cruises are still available.

 

Be sure your passport is up-to-date and does not expire for at least six months after your cruise ends.  Otherwise, you may not be allowed on the ship.

 

Before Embarkation
 

You will receive confirmation in the mail from NCL, along with luggage tags and tickets.  If you want to arrange for credit and/or front money checks, you should review the confirmation for instructions on doing this.

 

Embarkation
 

Be sure to arrive a couple hours early to board.  You don’t want the ship to sail without you.  There is often a special check-in line for “Casino at Sea” customers.  It is often faster and shorter than the other check-in lines. 

 

When you board, you may need to wait a couple hours for your stateroom to be ready.  When you enter your stateroom for the first time, you will likely find a nice note from the casino host along with chocolates, your player's club loyalty card, a free drink card, and an invitation to an exclusive party or reception either that day or the next day.  At the reception, there are often some nice hors d'oeuvre and free drinks available at the bar while you listen to the casino host talk about the great casino and their loyalty program.  The program typically lasts 30 minutes at which time the bar closes, so don’t be late.

 

On The Ship
 

On the ship, you do not get any special Seven Stars privileges other than free well drinks at the casino bar.  Your stateroom key doubles as your on-ship card to charge merchandise, adult beverages and other add-ons to your stateroom account.

 

The Casino
 

The casino is open when the ship is at sea.  When at sea, slot machines are open 24/7 while table games typically open up around  10 a.m. on sea days and about an hour after the ship leaves port on port days.   The size of the casino varies by ship, with the newest ships like the Epic and Breakaway having larger casinos. 

 

Slot machine variety is very good, with a mix of classic reel slots, recently released reel and video slots, and video poker.  Denominations range from penny to $25, with several $1/$5/$25/$100 mixed denominations.  Video poker payouts range from 92 to 97percent based on the pay schedules and optimal play.  The casino is catering to a captive audience, literally, so slot payouts can’t be the highest available.  All machines are ticket-in/ticket-out.

 

A typical ship casino has one poker table, four to six blackjack tables, one or two roulette tables, one Caribbean Stud table, and one or two craps tables.  The less popular table games may be open only during peak times or upon customer request.  Table game minimums are typically $5 or $10, with low maximums on roulette ($200), Caribbean stud ($100) and craps ($300).  Some blackjack tables have maximums of up to $2,000.  According to casino brochures, high maximums can be arranged in advance of the cruise.  There is also a tucked-away blackjack pit with two or three tables for semi-private higher minimum action.   

 

As with the slot games, table game rules are not as good as many onshore casinos.  Craps tables offer 3X/4X/5X free odds behind the Pass Line.  Blackjack pays even money for bets less than $10, and 6-to-5 for bets of $10 or more.  Resplitting after Aces is not allowed, and most tables allow doubling only on 9, 10 or 11.

 

All casinos operate in dollars regardless of the ship’s embarkation point, destinations and currency of other on-ship purchases.   You can use $5 to $100 bills in the slot machines and at the tables.  You can also get up to $2,000 per day in chips or cash charged to your stateroom account.  If you presented a credit card for stateroom charges, this will appear on your account as a transaction charge in U.S. dollars, e.g., not a cash advance and not subject to foreign currency transaction fee; however, on ships that depart from the United States there is a three percent service charge for this convenience.

 

Some ships have a cigar bar.  Other than that, the casino is the only place onboard inside the ship where a person is allowed to smoke.  While that may be fine for gamblers, it is not for people passing by or those who are attired for a dress-up meal and want to be able to wear their clothes again during the cruise.  For some ships such as the Star or Jade, the casino is tucked away so this is not a big deal.  For other ships, such as the Epic, one has to walk through the casino to get to dinner.

 

Normally, a player has to accrue 1,500 points to get free drinks while playing in the casino (see Players Club below).  However, people traveling on a Seven Stars Voyage automatically get a card entitling them to drinks.  Free drinks include draft beer, well drinks, and basic fruity drinks such as pina coladas.  You don’t have to be actively playing to get drinks but can get them from the casino bar when it is open.  Considering that an adult beverage is typically $5+, this is a decent benefit.

On sea days, there will be a few casino promotions.

  • Slot Tournaments.  Typically $15 or $25 buy-in to play a round and qualify for the finals.  Depending on the number of players, the top eight or 30 will qualify for the finals with a top prize of up to $500 and runner-up prizes of T-shirts or the like.  Payback is often less than 50 percent overall.
  • Blackjack Tournaments.  Typically $25 buy-in to play 10 hands and qualify for the final table to win up to $500 with second and third prize based on the prize pool.  Payback is around 65 percent.
  • Texas Hold ’em Tournaments.  Typically $100 buy-in with $100 for rebuys and add-ons.  The house takes a portion of all of the above with a payback of around 65 percent.  It is similar to a Turbo tournament on land, with unused blackjack tables being repurposed for the tournament. 

The minimum age to gamble at the casino is only 18, regardless of from where the ship embarks.

 

NCL Players Club

 

NCL has its own Player's Club.  Details can be found on the NCL Player's Club page.  NCL does not match status with any land-based casinos.  When you travel for the first time, you start at NCL’s lowest “Lucky” tier and have all the benefits except that you don’t need to play to get complementary well drinks and you receive “stateroom goodies” of a chocolate tray.  Beyond that, points accrue much the same way they do at Caesars casinos: $5 coin-in slots or $10 video poker is one point.  Points accrual for table games is based on play.  If you earn 1,000 points you get $10 in free slot play, in $10 increments.  When you get to 2,500 points or more, you can redeem the points for comps to defray on-ship expenses or port taxes.

 

Points can be transferred from ship to ship, but you need to verify that you have the same Players Club number as with the prior cruise and you may need to have the casino host request a manual transfer.

 
The Players Club page lacks some details of the amenities.  Here is some information from an onboard flyer:
 
  • Casinos At Sea chocolate Tray delivered to your stateroom available for Hot, Golden, VIP, VIP+
  • Special room service treat delivered to your stateroom available for Golden
  • 3 Special room service treats delivered to your stateroom.  Choose your treats and delivery days – available for VIP, VIP+ on cruises three days or longer”
  • Complimentary Dinner for Two at a Specialty Restaurant (“Choose the specialty restaurant of your choice and we’ll pay the cover charges for two, and a bottle of wine from the complimentary house wine menu.  VIP & VIP+ may select Chef’s Table (upon availability) – receive your dining voucher from the Casino Host Desk.  Available for tier levels – Hot, Golden, VIP, VIP+”)
  • Complimentary Spa Access for Two (“Enjoy the relaxation in the spa which includes heated mosaic Lounge chairs, Thalasso Therapy Pool, Steam Room, Sauna, Japanese Plunge Pool and Jacuzzi Tubs") – 2-day access for Golden, 5-day access for VIP, 7-day access for VIP+
  • VIP Royal Treatment [Welcome aboard greeting from the hotel director/concierge with a personal letter, bottle of wine and an amenity in your stateroom, personal invitation to a VIP Party, dinner for two in a specialty restaurant (teppanyaki and a la carte items not included), priority tender tickets, priority disembarkation, concierge access when cruising in a suite"] –available for tier levels Golden, VIP, VIP+
  • Cigar & Cigarette Offer (“one pack of cigarettes or one cigar per day, cigar menu selection $4.50 - $8.50 for Golden, cigar menu selection $4.50 - $13.00 for VIP, VIP+”)
  • Soda package for two (“Unlimited fountain soda at any bar, lounge or restaurant throughout the duration of the cruise, includes Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Sierra Mist, Diet Sierra Mist, Mt. Dew, Root Beer, Club Soda, Ginger Ale, Tonic; thermal container is included, soda packages are available on 3-day or longer cruises, see Casino Host Desk for redemption or prearrange prior to your cruise with Casino Marketing, available for tier levels – VIP, VIP+”
  • Complimentary Private Transportation To/From Ship (“Pre-arrange complimentary roundtrip transportation to/from your home, hotel or airport to the pier on embarkation/debarkation day.  When you reserve your stateroom with Casinos at Sea reservation center, transportation arrangements can be made.  Two-week advance notice required and 50-mile one-way maximum transport.  Garden Villa guests, regardless of level, may arrange their debark transportation with the Concierge onboard") – available for tier levels VIP, VIP+
  • Convenience Fee Waived (“3% convenience fee waived for all gaming transaction charged to your onboard folio) –available for tier levels Golden, VIP, VIP+
  • Global Cash Fees Waived [“Global Cash transaction fees waived, maximum $1,000 per cruise, when facilitating a cash advance at the Casino Center (does not apply to bank charges)] – available for tier levels Golden, VIP, VIP+
  • Sail during your birthday week and receive a Happy Birthday gift
At The End Of The Cruise
 
There is a two-hour window on the last night of the cruise where you can redeem accrued points for comps or free slot play.  If you have more than 10,000 points for the trip, this is worth your time.  Although not documented, many players have reported receiving comps beyond the 100 Points: $1 ratio listed in the Player’s Club documentation. 

 

Playing after getting that comp applied to your on-board account will not get additional comps, however points accrued are valid for 18 months before expiring.

 

Other Things To Know:
  • When NCL offers a promotion for purchasing a cruise, such as a free gourmet meal or on-board credit, you get that as well as your Seven Stars benefit when booking your Seven Stars cruise.  If you book then see a better promotion, you can rebook to obtain that promotional benefit up to 90 days before your embarkation date.  Promotional benefits vary but have included room upgrade, free gourmet meals, and onboard credit.
  • The best room available to you is not always the most expensive category.  Generally speaking, the best you can get on a Seven Stars Voyage is a balcony “suite” near the middle of the ship.
  • When getting free drinks, tip the server and bartender at least a dollar!  This is proper courtesy and often leads to better quality beverages next time.
  • This is an international trip.  If you are carrying more than $10,000 including in checks, you need to report it to U.S. Customs upon boarding the ship in the United States or upon returning to the States.
  • If you plan to take more than one cruise, enroll in NCL’s Latitudes frequent travel program.  Benefits accrue as soon as the second cruise, including a Latitudes free cocktail hour and giveaways.
  • NCL runs an onboard promotion where if you, while on board your cruise, make a $250 deposit towards a future cruise, you get a $100 on-board credit for your current cruise.  That $250 deposit is good for four years on any NCL cruise, including a future Seven Stars Voyage or one where you use a cruise certificate provided by your casino.  In that case, the $250 credit goes towards the port taxes.  This is a great deal if you plan to go on another cruise.
  • Cruise Critic is a fantastic source of information about every ship, the layout, shows, dining, etc.
  • If you sail from New Orleans, Harrah’s is a short walk.  As a Seven Stars cardholder, you can park your car in the garage for free and walk over from the garage or hotel to the port.
  • No one says you have to gamble while onboard.  Gambling or not gambling won’t affect your Seven Stars status.  NCL will not require you to pay for your stateroom if you avoid the casino.