Carnival Rolls Out Enhanced Casino Program

There’s fun for all ages on the new Carnival Horizon.( Photo by Andy Newman courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line.)There’s fun for all ages on the new Carnival Horizon. ( Photo by Andy Newman courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line.)
High rollers on the high seas now have more to look forward to aboard Carnival Cruise Line.

A refresh of the Carnival Players Club casino program is bringing new offers and experiences to the table. And, the benefits apply ashore, as well.

The program includes a new “Dealer’s Choice” offer with exclusive cruise savings opportunities, complimentary in-casino drinks for qualified guests, and invitation-only Carnival Players Club events.

Carnival has also upgraded several new programs that provide guests with an enhanced cruise and casino experience. Value-added benefits, privileges and exclusive events are based on the level of play. Four different program levels include Getaway, designed for players interested in a short vacation. It’s available on three- to five-day cruises. Guests receive extras such as in-stateroom gifts, priority check-in and luggage delivery, complimentary in-casino drinks for qualified players, and a chance to win up to $10,000 in free play, cash, and prizes.

The Premier level is for more avid players. Premier is available on cruises of six days or longer. Guests receive all the benefits of the Getaway program. Additionally, they receive a complimentary pre-cruise gift, priority debarkation, a special Welcome Aboard party, invitation-only casino tournaments, and a chance at $20,000 in free play, cash, and prizes every cruise.

Loyal players will receive an invitation to the Ultra level. They’ll receive all the benefits of the Premier program, plus a chance to win $100,000 in cash and gifts on board.

The Elite program is reserved for the line’s best players. It provides perks such as complimentary parking or local airport pick-up and drop-off; early stateroom access, complimentary drinks throughout the cruise; a free shore excursion and Wi-Fi; special Welcome Aboard and sail away parties, and VIFP Platinum status for the entire voyage.

“Carnival offers the most enjoyable and rewarding casinos aboard our 26 ships and with our enhanced Carnival Players Club program we’re providing our valued guests with a variety of expanded offers and unique experiences simply based on their level of play,” said Marty Goldman, Carnival’s senior vice president of global casino operations.

Additional enhancements to the program include new branding and logos, plus a new Carnival Players Club web site.

The line’s newest ship, Carnival Horizon, was christened in New York a few weeks ago.

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Norwegian to auction cabin upgrades

Haven Suite photo by Dave Jones

Borrowing a page from Priceline, Norwegian Cruise Line said it will allow select passengers to bid on cabin upgrades prior to sailing but after making final payment.

The process would let passengers upgrade one or two meta-categories. So for example, a guest in an oceanview cabin could bid to move to a balcony or mini-suite, but not a suite.

Norwegian said passengers eligible would be notified by email, as will their travel sellers. Selection is based on a variety of criteria including but not limited to what guests already paid and the type of cabins available on their sailing.

After bidding a “nominal” amount, guests will be notified with an immediate confirmation email of a winning bid. If a bid has not been accepted, guests can improve it or cancel it up to 48 hours prior to departure.

Travel agents are only notified of winning bids, and are eligible for additional commission on the upgraded fare. They will get incremental commission due in a separate commission payment, Norwegian said.

Norwegian is not taking bids on identifiable cabins or specific categories, but only at the meta-category level. Guests eligible to bid on suites or The Haven will be able to bid on each separately.

Norwegian did not say if minimum bids would be set.

The program, called Upgrade Advantage, is scheduled to start Feb. 8 on the Norwegian Escape, Getaway, Breakaway, Epic and Pride of America, with the remaining fleet set to begin participating in the second quarter.

Agencies are allowed to opt out of eligibility by sending an e-mail to NCL sales.

In a note to agents, Norwegian senior vice president of sales Camille Olivere said a pilot program tested very well with guests and agents.

“I highly recommend that you participate in this program,” Olivere wrote. “Upgrade Advantage is a great way for you to enhance the guest experience and earn more commission with very minimal effort.”

Currently, Norwegian offers upgrades through an Upsell Department, which identifies sailings with potential for upgrades and emails guests, who can then call in and bid on upgrades.

“This new system will be completely automated and allow for a level playing field where all guests can easily bid for an upgrade simply by clicking through,” Norwegian spokeswoman Christina Baez said. “It also notifies the travel partner who made the booking and automatically provides them with the commission on the higher fare if their bid is accepted.”

The Escape a step forward for Norwegian Cruise Line

Part of the Guy Harvey hull painting on the Norwegian Escape. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

PAPENBURG, Germany — The Norwegian Escape will be a bigger, and improved, version of the two ships that preceded it in the Norwegian fleet.

On a tour here, Norwegian executives showed off the line’s 14th ship, which is about six weeks away from its debut in Miami in early November.

Although it is based on the same platform as Norwegian Breakaway and Getaway, the Escape will be notably different in its details and carry more passengers.

Escape, designated Breakaway Plus in early discussions, will have one more deck of cabins, giving it a capacity of 4,270 at double occupancy, up from 3,969 for its predecessors.

The extra deck also allowed for a two-story design in the deluxe Haven area, which now has an elegant glass-enclosed curving staircase connecting the two levels. The Haven also has an indoor-outdoor restaurant, a feature from Norwegian Epic that was skipped on Breakaway and Getaway but is being resurrected.

The pool area of Norwegian Escape. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

On almost every deck, Escape has something that distinguishes it as new. On the top deck, the ropes course has been expanded to three levels and has 99 elements, including five zip tracks. The Plank, a balance beam that extends out over the side of the ship, is now on either side of the ship, doubling the opportunity for passengers to try it.

The Aqua Racer water slide has been given a bigger diameter and can accommodate 1,000 riders an hour, up from less than 500 previously.

Breakaway/Getaway’s ice bar has been deep-sixed in favor of The Cellars, Norwegian’s first wine bar. Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville replaces the more generic Flamingo bar near the Spice H2O entertainment area, and his 5 O’Clock Somewhere bar will use the space occupied by the Fat Cats jazz and blues club on preceding ships.

At the new Food Republic, guests will order dinner on iPads. “These ships come out with ever-more innovative features with every ship we build,” said Norwegian President Andy Stuart.

Stuart said that the outdoor dining area in The Haven and the ropes course are among his favorite additions on Escape. “The ropes course is going to blow people away,” he said.