Over the past year I went from NCL’s lowest elite level all the way to 1 level short of the top-level, that is, I am now Platinum Plus for life. Unlike airlines where you have to re-qualify each year, once you hit the required number of nights, you have it locked in.
Having said that, they can “enhance” the program. Back in 2017, NCL went from just 4 elite levels to the current 6 adding the Platinum Plus level as well as Ambassador levels. They removed the option to earn an extra night credit when you booked more than 9 months out (a big mistake imo as I will show in a bit). But they also added perks. Some are sweet – some are meh.
So how would I go about fixing the program? First off, the status / night levels are out of balance. I would suggest the following:
Rewards Point Structure
Tier Rewards Points
Bronze 1 – 50
Silver 50 – 99
Gold 100 – 199
Platinum 200 – 299
Platinum Plus 300 – 499
Why these changes? Even with the removal of the ability to earn an extra night elite credit for booking more than 9 months out, with Suite bookings and insiders deals you can (as I did myself) very quickly go from Bronze to Platinum Plus. It should be harder to reach the top elite levels especially since this status is lifetime. Also, Ambassador at 700+ is just ridiculous – especially so when it only takes 175 nights to reach one level lower (with just about all the same perks).
In addition to, and with the above in mind, I would add some other perks to drive more sailing’s / nights.
Specially restaurants: The addition of an additional specialty restaurant for free at the Platinum level and above was a wise move. However, adding one of them for Gold would be a smart more. Also, Ambassadors should have a 3rd one added (or even maybe a 4th).
Internet: Delta is moving to “free” (slow) internet soon on all its jets. We always need to be connected. While a cruise should be relaxing, I still must connect to the world even when in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. Even with the “free” minutes NCL gives out to Platinums and above, there is a connection fee. Really irritating. NCL needs to fix this and up the game and give out (with no fee) the following:
Bronze – No time
Silver – 30 minutes
Gold – 60 minutes
Platinum – 120 minutes
Platinum Plus – Unlimited slow wifi
Ambassador – Unlimited fast wifi
Again, we are talking about driving loyalty and nights. Motivating frequent floaters to always choose NCL to get higher status and then to use that status for the perks i.e. always sail on NCL ships. Wifi perks could do just that and make someone think – do I really want to go on another cruise line where I have to pay for wifi? What else.
Free cruise: I see zero reason, with the current perks, to ever work to become an Ambassador. A 1x lifetime “free” 7 day cruise is no big prize. Even booking all suites and insider deals you are talking at least 234 days onboard to reach Ambassador to get a 7 day cruise perk. The rest of the perk improvements are just not impressive. NCL should dump the free cruise and simply give a $1000 cruise credit when you hit 500 nights and the same thing again for each 500 more. Simple and you spend the credit as you want on any NCL cruise.
Now let’s look beyond the current charts of perks and think outside the hull if you will.
Haven access: The Haven on most NCL ships is very nice. At the Ambassador level you should have access even if you are not booked in the Haven. Even on a mega ship there will be few times there are more than a few Ambassadors onboard. Giving them this perk will not impact the Haven space itself.
Posh deck and Vibe beach club access: NCL now sells these passes on a limited first come first served basis once onboard. Platinum Plus and Ambassadors should have the option to buy a pass (at a discount perhaps) before the sailing. In fact, I would love for NCL to restrict the sales to ONLY Platinum Plus and Ambassadors!
Onboard credits: This should be a standard perk. Give $25 to Platinums, $50 to Platinum Plus and $100 to Ambassadors (non-refundable, clearly). This would cover tiny charges like the tax for a drink when in-port (on your prepaid drink package).
Ground transport: Ambassadors should get free hotel / airport to ship before the sailing and to the hotel / airport after the sailing. Again, make Ambassadors special! After all, NCL already works with GroundLink!
Restore the advanced booking night credit: If you are a frequent floater you know you can save a HUGE amount of money if you wait to book at about the 60 day mark. Prices can drop by thousands in the Haven and hundreds for a normal cabin. Bring back the advanced booking night credit perk but make it 1 year out. If I am going pay retail then give me more elite credits!
That is my list of improvements I would love to see NCL implement to make the program something special. To drive long term loyalty and motivate me to always book NCL and never sail on another cruise line. What do you think of my suggestions? – René
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