NCL Cruise Benefits

Read my Mr. AC Casino Columns in the Atlantic City Weekly:

'Comp cruises aren't exactly free' and 'How much those free cruises actually cost'.

Updated: 6/16/21

Making the most of your NCL cruise benefit

(click any image to enlarge)

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

The Seven Stars Voyage must fit certain criteria:

      • Travel in Europe, the Caribbean, Bermuda, Florida, Alaska or the Bahamas.

      • Must be completed by January 31.

      • Last up to seven days.

The Seven Stars Voyage may exclude 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 seven days.

What you pay:

    • Taxes and port charges (typically anywhere between $150 and $250, but, sometimes more, depending on the itinerary, per person), admin fees (approximately $150 per person) and daily service charges (currently $14.99 per person or $17.99 per person for guests staying in suites or The Haven).

What you get:

    • Balcony room on most cruises, or oceanview room on cruises to Alaska.

    • Room for use of up to two people.

    • Meals at the buffet and non-specialty restaurants.

    • Use of most of the facilities, except spa services.

    • Complimentary well drinks in the casino while you're playing.

Insider Tips

Norwegian Cruise Line offers paper straws with its beverages, but they're pretty flimsy and tend to collapse after a few sips or if they sit in your glass for too long. As an alternative you may want to consider reusable straws. This package of four, right, with cleaning brush is $9.99 and available at Target or online by clicking here.

If you choose a specialty dining venue that has a dress code, e.g., Le Bistro, be aware that the dress code is not enforced the first or last night of the cruise. I learned the "hard way" when a young couple was seated across from me at Le Bistro the final night of one of my cruises. The couple – wearing swimsuits and flip flops – constantly dangled the footwear on their toes or doffed them totally as they sat on their legs with their bare feet extending into the aisle between our tables. Not a pretty sight!

Something else to consider bringing on your cruise are clips to attach your pool/beach towels to your deck chair. While a couple of simple old-fashioned hinged clothespins will work, there are some cute alternatives sold on the ship or available online. These toucan clips are $6.99 on Amazon.

Insider Tip

In addition to the annual complimentary cruise fare benefit, NCL offers discounts on other cruises based on your tier level:

  • Seven Stars - 30%

  • Diamond - 20%

  • Platinum - 10%

Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises also offer discounts based on tier levels:

  • Seven Stars - 20%

  • Diamond - 10%

  • Platinum - 5%

For more information, click here or call 888-201-1720.

Planning the cruise

If you're traveling solo and eat at the buffet, you may want to create a small tent card to leave at your table that says something like: "Please do not clear. Be back shortly." More than once I've even had a whole plate of food and a full can of beer discarded by an overly enthusiastic NCL employee who was taking his job a little too seriously. Download a template by clicking here.

On most ships 37 on the television is the Movie Channel. To get a schedule you'll need to ask at Guest Services. Someone will bring the schedule to your cabin.

If you're prone to losing things, or just want the convenience of having it close at hand at all times, consider placing your key card in a plastic insert that hangs from a lanyard around your neck. You can buy them onboard for $9.99 (or three for $24.99), but they're a lot less expensive if you buy them at a local store before you leave on your cruise.

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.

NCL's website,, 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.

Be sure to redeem your slot machine voucher(s) before the casino closes on the last day of your cruise. They're void after that.

Insider Tip

NCL serves only Pepsi products on its ships.

The best way to plan the cruise is to call NCL directly at 877-742-9521. Have your Seven Stars player 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 by email or 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.

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 a penny to $25, with several $1/$5/$25/$100 mixed denominations. Video poker payouts range from 92 to 97 percent 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 6-to-5 most of the tie, but tables with minimums of $25 or more will pay 3-to-2. Resplitting after aces is not allowed, and most tables allow doubling only on 9, 10 or 11.

All casinos operate in U.S. 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 $3,000 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 on board 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.

The Bliss and Joy have dedicated smoking casinos that are totally enclosed.

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 while they're playing in the casino. Free drinks include draft and bottled beer, well drinks, and basic fruity drinks such as pina coladas. Considering that an adult beverage is a minimum of $5 or more, this is a decent benefit.

Insider Tip

Even if you're on the Ultimate Beverage Plan, you cannot get complimentary bottled water or energy drinks. Consequently, use your casino drink benefits to get these for free in the casino.

Prior to checking in you need to complete a Public Health Questionnaire. It's a lot easier if you arrive with the form already filled out. You can download the questionnaire by clicking here. Simply print it on a sheet of white 8½" by 11" paper and cut it in half. Or just ask for a couple extras the next time you sail.


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

insider Tip

You can use a Caesars Rewards Gift Card to pay for any onboard purchases on ships departing from the following ports:


Be sure to cash-out your voucher before removing your players card. If not, any remaining balance will revert to your account and you'll have to download it at the next machine you play. To do this, look for the illustration of a stack of green bills, click on that, then enter your day of birth and the last two digits of your birth year.

In addition, be sure that no one else's players card is already in a machine before you insert any cash-out voucher from a previously played machine. If you insert your voucher, then you pull that other person's card, the amount/value of that voucher will be deposited into the other person's account.

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 may find a note from the casino host along with chocolates, yourplayers 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 complimentary hors d'oeuvre and free drinks available at the bar while you listen to the casino host talk about the casino and its 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. Your stateroom key doubles as your on-ship card to charge merchandise, beverages and other add-ons to your stateroom account.

Insider Tips

Bring a highlighter along on your next cruise. It’s a great tool for planning your day when checking the "Freestyle Daily" (daily schedule of activities which you receive the night before as part of your turndown service).

Also, bring along a couple small magnets. Hang your "Freestyle Daily," invitations, free art, etc., on the wall. It’s also a good way to leave a note for your cabin steward, spouse or roommate.

Some people don't like the small coffee cups used in the main dining rooms and bring along their own [plastic] mug.

Most cabins don't have clocks, so, if knowing the time is important to you – and your watch or smartphone isn't sufficient, bring along a small travel clock.

Check your bill daily – either on the in-room television, or request a printout at Guest Services.

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 buy in with $80-$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. Some tournaments offer winnings that day, while others are satellites for a larger tournament later in the year. Be sure to ask before you buy in.

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

NCL players club

Insider Tip

If, like I do, you enjoy an alcoholic beverage with your breakfast, e.g., a bloody mary, keep in mind that the Premium Beverage Package (formerly the Ultimate Beverage Package) expires sometime early the morning of your disembarkation day. As an alternative, on the full last day of the cruise, order a drink (or two), toss the ice and any garnishes, and pour the remaining liquid into an empty water bottle or glass to take to breakfast your last morning onboard. Keep in mind, though, that your cabin refrigerator will be locked the evening prior to departure so don't put the drink in there. Chill it in your ice bucket, or don't even bother; it won't spoil.

NCL has its own players club, Casinos At Sea. (Regent Seven Seas and Oceania Cruises now share the same program.) Details can be found on the NCL Players Club page. NCL does not match status with any land-based casinos.

You'll read and hear frequently that you should reserve show and seating times in the restaurants well in advance. While that's true, and if you wait too long, you may find that a show or restaurant is "sold out" for the time you want. However, people frequently reserve and don't show up for performances, or cancel dining reservations just in time to avoid a fee. For shows, those without reservations almost always will get in if they show up about 15 minutes prior to curtain. Same with restaurant reservations. Generally, you can just show up and snag a reservation even if signage shows it's fully booked.

Alcoholic beverages

If you care for an alcoholic beverage with your meal, it's probably a good idea to stop by one of the many bars and bring it into the restaurant. Because most of the ship's restaurants don't have their own bars, it can be quite time-consuming between when you order your beverage, a server goes off to fetch your drink, and it's served to you.

Not throwing in the towel animals

Insider Tip

Ships with ATMs charge $5.99 per transaction, plus whatever fees your bank may impose.

When you travel for the first time, you start at NCL’s lowest Jade tier. 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 onboard expenses, or convert them to free play.

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

Check the Casinos At Sea page for details of the amenities you receive at various levels.

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 onboard 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 its Premium Beverage Package, Specialty Dining Package or onboard 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.

    • 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 stateroom.

    • When getting free drinks in the casino, 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 Rewards loyalty program. Benefits accrue as soon as the second cruise, including a Latitudes Rewards free cocktail hour and giveaways.

    • NCL runs a "CruiseNext" promotion where, if while onboard your cruise, you make a $250 deposit (or more in $250 increments) towards a future cruise, you get an onboard credit for your current cruise. (Purchase two $250 deposit certificates and you essentially get one for free.) That deposit is good for four years on any NCL cruise of more than four days, including a future Seven Stars Voyage or one where you use a cruise certificate provided by your casino. In that case, you can use the $250 credit for prepaying port taxes, service charges, admin fees, etc. Generally, you can use only one certificate per cruise, but NCL has been running a special for months allowing up to two certificates per voyage if you book at least six months out. (Check to see if this promotion is still available.) 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 on board. 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.

When you returned to your room at night you used to get a cute animal made from towels courtesy of your cabin attendant. No more. Because of the time these take and the laundering required, towel animals now are available only on request.

Movie channelMost ships have a channel on your in-stateroom television devoted to movies. You can get a list of the movies and what times they play by visiting the Guest Services Desk in the Atrium.

Not sure which direction you're headed – front (fore) or rear (aft) of the ship? Just follow the fish on the carpeting. Watch out for that one red fish that's determined to "swim" backwards.

Amenities update

NCL used to provide small bars or soap (in addition to the soap dispensers in the shower and at the sink), but no longer.

Also, no longer provided are those small tubes of body lotion.

In addition, while NCL has eliminated plastic straws onboard, paper straws often are in short supply. To be safe, bring your own straw(s) – reusable or disposable.

Tender policy

Certain vessel transfers, such as tendering and gangways, may not be fully accessible to wheelchairs or scooters, and a guest may not be able to go ashore. When a ship is unable to dock, guests are taken ashore on smaller boats called tenders. Some guests with limited mobility may find it difficult to embark or disembark while at dock or tendering.

Scooters cannot be taken across on the tender; guests must utilize a collapsible wheelchair. If the guest can walk onto the tender, the total weight of the wheelchair cannot exceed 100 lb. (A guest may have to utilize steps or a staircase to access the tender and re-board the vessel). If the guest is unable to walk onto the tender, the total weight of the guest cannot exceed 100 lb. This is for the safety of the crew as NCL depends 100 percent on manpower to lift the wheelchair or the wheelchair guest onto the tender.

The only one who can determine if the transfer takes place is the Staff Captain. Factors such as weather and sea conditions are taken into consideration.

Note: Scooters, wheelchairs and/or guests who weigh more than 100 lb. will not be lifted or carried to the tender and/or to the shore.

If you have any questions or comments about this Tender Policy, contact NCL at 866-584-9756 or visit