I recently took my third cruise of the past 4.5 months. We’ve got several non-cruise trips planned this year, but I often say that you have to strike while the iron is hot….and it has been on fire in Atlantic City as of late, so I had to take an unplanned trip to Atlantic City, NJ last weekend in order to match my way around for yet another “free” cruise (which would be a bit closer to free this time if you’re working with double occupancy). Here’s my story….
Dave Grossman at MilesTalk has a very comprehensive guide to the status match merry go round that starts with Wyndham and ends with a bunch of casino statuses that may be of good use even for non-gamblers. I used his guide as a blueprint to make all of this work.
We’ve long written about the status match-go-round between Wyndham and Caesars and years ago I wrote about leveraging benefits like the Caesars Diamond celebration dinner in Las Vegas and the free show tickets (which I think aren’t really much of a thing anymore). Almost five years ago, I wrote about why it might be worthwhile to take a road trip to Atlantic City for some status matching shenanigans, which was related to a post from Angelina Travels about getting up to 7 free nights in Atlantic City from status matches. While I wrote about those Atlantic City matching opportunities years ago, I didn’t jump on them because I’m just not very into Atlantic City. Free nights there didn’t really excite me.
However, Dave’s guide caught my eye because of stuff I kept catching in his MilesTalk Facebook group about a free MSC cruise where you don’t even pay the port taxes. While my cruise newbie impression of MSC is that they tend to be more of a “value-priced” cruise line than a luxury one, I saw reports of people sailing on the newest MSC ships — and since I was pleasantly surprised by my European Carnival cruise, I figured that there would be no harm in giving MSC a try. One of the things I love about all of these matching games is that it makes a type of vacation that never really interested me (cruising) a no-risk (or very low-risk) option to try out. What I mean there is that if I had decided to pay for a cruise, it probably wouldn’t have been on Carnival since my impression of Carnival wasn’t great. But since I got to cruise with them for next-to-nothing, I got to find out that I was perfectly happy with that European cruise. The same could be true with MSC.
The wrinkle in my plan is that a key component in getting the free cruise relies on being able to match to high-level tier status with Hard Rock Atlantic City and that property has announced that they are replacing their current loyalty program with the same program currently used at Hard Rock in Las Vegas. It was expected that the “new” program (called Unity) might launch on March 1st and then we didn’t know whether or not they would continue offering matches and how that might affect the rest of the game.
I’m happy to report that as of this past weekend, Hard Rock has not yet launched the Unity program and I was told that won’t happen until “sometime in the spring”.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up to the beginning and lay out the steps for matching your way to a free cruise in Atlantic City.
Start with Caesars Diamond or MGM Gold
To kick off this little match merry-go-round, you’ll need either Caesars Diamond or MGM Gold status.
Getting MGM Gold status
The easiest way to get MGM Gold status is to match from Hyatt Explorist or Globalist (either will match instantly to MGM Gold). You can connect your accounts and match here.
If you have MGM Gold, head to Borgata in Atlantic City to pick up your MGM Gold card. Notice that there is a shorter priority line for Gold members (there is also another line for Platinum and higher, so you’ll have to wait while those with higher status get served first, but it was still shorter than standing in the general line). MGM Gold provides free parking, which is charged on the way out of the garage at Borgata. You’ll just need to show your MGM Gold card and your ID as you exit.
If you don’t have Hyatt Explorist or Globalist, you’re very likely to be working on the Caesars Diamond path. I guess you might be able to get a status fast track with Hyatt based on your employer, but otherwise there isn’t really a way to match to MGM Gold.
Getting Caesars Diamond status
There are two distinct paths to Caesars Diamond depending on whether or not you want a business credit card.
The easiest and cheapest path is via the Wyndham Earner Business credit card. This card offers automatic Wyndham Diamond status. It’s also just a great card to have because the annual fee is only $95 and the card comes with 15,000 Wyndham Rewards points at each anniversary (which can easily be worth more than $95), bonus categories like 8x on gas and 5x on utilities, a 10% discount on free night awards with Wyndham (including Vacasa rentals).
Wyndham and Caesars have a partnership whereby those with Wyndham Diamond status can match to Caesars Diamond status (which you can do at this page). Note that match usually takes about a week, though some people have reported trouble with the match not going through and needing to follow up with Wyndham Rewards or with Caesars via Twitter.
Once you have Caesars Diamond status, you’ll move on to the next section of the post.
An alternate path to Caesars Diamond status (for those who don’t want or can’t get the Wyndham business card) is to sign up for FoundersCard. FoundersCard is not a credit card but rather a membership card that offers discounts with many different merchants and travel providers. It also offers some fast tracks to elite status and in a few cases automatic elite status. One complimentary status you can get with FoundersCard is Caesars Diamond.
I’ve written about FoundersCard before. It’s an expensive membership, so making the membership make sense long-term would require heavily using the benefits. That said, in this case, it would provide a way to effectively “buy” Caesars Diamond status to get on the status match-go-round. We don’t know that matching back and forth with Wyndham will continue to be possible in the future, but in my case I have been able to continue to match back and forth from Caesars Diamond to Wyndham Diamond and then from Wyndham back to Caesars each year.
That’s because Wyndham and Caesars run on slightly different membership years: Wyndham status ends on 12/31 and Caesars ends on 1/31. I had matched Wyndham Diamond to Caesars Diamond last year. When my Wyndham status dropped back down to nothing on 1/1/23, I was able to match Caesars Diamond back to Wyndham Diamond (now good through 12/31/23). Then, when my Caesars Diamond dropped off on 2/1/23, I was able to match from Wyndham Diamond back to Caesars Diamond (now good through 1/31/24). On 1/1/24, I’ll lose Wyndham Diamond status and hopefully I’ll continue to be able to match back and forth (Caesars indicated last year that it might end this, but it hasn’t yet).
I should note that FoundersCard is a membership aimed at “entrepreneurs and business executives”, but all it asks for is a company name and title and it doesn’t seem to explicitly require owning a business. Again, this isn’t a credit card but rather a membership card.
I believe that you can currently get a free 3-month trial to FoundersCard through a referral (perhaps only from select people?), but automatic Caesars Diamond status was not a perk that was available for free trial members when I had previously done a free trial. The cheapest I’ve seen lately is $295 per year with when you prepay two years or $395 per year when you sign up through a referral, so FoundersCard is a much more expensive path to Caesars Diamond status. I’d certainly recommend going with the Wyndham Business Earner card if the only FoundersCard benefit you would use is Caesars Diamond status. But if you can use things like the United discount or select hotel discounts, etc, then it could be worthwhile.
Picking up your Caesars Diamond Card
Once you have your Caesars Diamond status, you’ll need your Caesars Diamond physical card. That part is very easy: Caesars Atlantic City has an automated kiosk right in front of the player’s club desk (and I saw at least one other such machine in the casino). It’s a tall machine and you just pop in your license and it spits out your Caesars Diamond card. That’s all you need to do at Caesars for this match.
In my case, I still went to the players club desk to verify that I had the Diamond Celebration dinner loaded to my account (note that there is a priority line for those with Diamond status). One of the benefits of Caesars Diamond is an annual $100 Celebration dinner, but there have been rumblings that Caesars is only allowing this benefit for those who have earned a minimum of 100 Tier Credits (the elite status metric that comes from gambling with Caesars). I haven’t earned 100 Tier Credits this year and the $100 Celebration dinner was indeed loaded to my account. I did earn more than 100 Tier Credits last year, though not enough for Caesars Diamond status. Maybe those tier credits still counted for unlocking the celebration dinner, I don’t know. If you’re in town for this match and you want to quickly earn some Tier Credits, you might consider their sportsbook app.
At any rate, once you have your Caesars Diamond card, head over to Hard Rock Atlantic City.
I should note that Caesars Diamond members get free parking. Caesars charges for that on the way out of the parking garage, so you’ll just need to show your Diamond card and ID when you’re exiting to avoid the fee.
Match to Hard Rock Atlantic City Rock Royalty
This was the part of the match that was up in the air as to whether or not it would work, so my wife wasn’t thrilled when we arrived and had to pay the $25 parking fee at the entrance to the parking garage, not yet sure that the match would even work (but it did work out in the long run).
Hard Rock was still widely advertising their tier match on signs throughout the casino.
As you can see on the sign, it notes that “coming soon” is “Unity by Hard Rock”. Unity is the program offered at Hard Rock Las Vegas. It was expected that Hard Rock Atlantic City might change to Unity on March 1st and it was unknown whether they would continue to tier match and map to such a high level.
However, I am happy to report that they have not yet switched to Unity (at least not as of 3/4/23). When I asked the agent at the Players Club desk about when they will switch, she said “sometime in the Spring”. I think Spring officially begins on March 22nd, so if we are to take a single customer service agent’s word as truth (which is something I always caution against doing), there are probably at least a couple of weeks to go. And I’ve heard that Hard Rock Las Vegas is still matching to a tier that should work for the next step of the match.
At the time being, Hard Rock matches Caesars Diamond or MGM Gold to their Wild Card program’s Rock Royalty. That’s the top tier with a published requirement (there is also an invite-only “X” status that would require being a high roller). I went to the desk and told them that I had both Caesars Diamond and MGM Gold and asked whether there would be any difference matching one or the other and the agent said that it was the same either way. I therefore handed over my Caesars Diamond card and they immediately matched me to Hard Rock Rock Royalty.
There are a few benefits that may be of interest with this match:
- A free two-night stay at Hard Rock Atlantic City (the agent said this would be bookable 24 hours after matching)
- A $50 free play (this gets loaded to your card automatically)
- Free parking at Hard Rock Atlantic City
- A free monthly car wash
The free play was easy to use — you just pop your card into a machine and enter the PIN and you can load the promotional balance to the machine. For those unfamiliar with Free Play, you have to play through the “free” money and then you get to keep your winnings. In other words, I had to make $50 worth of spins on a slot machine and then I could keep anything left after that. I went to video poker and played $1 a hand (because it was easier for me to keep track of the 50 spins). I cashed out $32 after my 50 spins, effectively taking care of the parking fee I had paid on the way in. May the odds be ever in your favor.
Match to Ocean Prime
The final step in Atlantic City is to march your Hard Rock Rock Royalty status over to Ocean Casino Resort. If you’re doing this during the daytime, I imagine you could walk right down the boardwalk as Hard Rock and Ocean are fairly close. I drove to Ocean and pulled into the garage — thankfully, Ocean’s parking works like Caesars rather than like Hard Rock. That is to say that you pay the parking fee on the way out — and by then, you’ll have Ocean Prime and won’t need to pay for it.
At Ocean, I headed directly to the Rewards Club desk with my Hard Rock Rock Royalty card and said that I wanted to sign up for a card and that I had Hard Rock Rock Royalty status, showing my card. The agent right away said that they match that status and took my Hard Rock card and ID and got me signed up for Ocean Rewards with Prime status.
This match comes with several key benefits:
- 1 complimentary entry to the Avila Lounge for member + 1 guest (only valid for 72 hours)
- A complimentary 2-night stay at Ocean (valid Sunday through Thursday)
- A complimentary 2-night stay at Wynn Las Vegas
- A complimentary Caribbean cruise on MSC in an ocean view cabin for up to 7 nights
- Complimentary parking at Ocean Casino
These benefits are solid. First of all, the Avila Lounge was essentially a buffet dinner with a full bar, so it’s worth showing up hungry. The food was decent and service was speedy.
But I was most excited about the free cruise (and the free Wynn stay, which could come in handy).
The agent at Ocean told me that the free MSC cruise could be booked 72hrs after matching, but I think he misspoke and was probably talking about the free nights at Ocean. I think that because the literature (that he forgot to give me, but that Dave at Miles Talk pictures here) mentions that the travel benefits (which are considered to be the Wynn stay and the MSC cruise) are available on the 15th of the month following the month in which you reach status. That means that since I matched in March 2023, I theoretically would not be able to book either benefit until April 15th.
I hadn’t realized that part before matching and it’s a key detail because the Ocean status is only valid until June 30, 2023 (the end of their current membership year). I would need to cruise by June 30th, so I’m not going to have a lot of time to use that benefit. The Wynn stay needs to be booked at least 30 days in advance. I think it might be possible to book the Wynn stay for a check-in date after your Ocean status ends (provided you make the booking while you still have Ocean status), but not the MSC cruise.
All that said, I called MSC yesterday and they said that I could book the cruise right away. I’m only about 30% confident in what the agent told me and I didn’t book it because there wasn’t availability on the dates I wanted. Key things to know about the MSC cruise:
- You don’t pay port taxes or any fees for the free cruise
- You do pay a $400 deposit that you get as an onboard credit
- The free cruise is based on double occupancy. I asked about bringing my kids and they would be $359 each.
Thanks to a tip from a reader named Mira, who was very helpful in explaining how all of the MSC stuff works, I matched Hyatt Globalist to MSC Diamond before my Hyatt Globalist status expired last week. I understand that would get me complimentary dinner at a specialty restaurant one time during my cruise, a free cocktail reception, and some other onboard benefits (which makes for a great stack). It may also make it possible to negotiate a better rate for an upgrade to a balcony (or maybe the cost of the kids?). I didn’t actually book, so I didn’t try hard to see what I could get with my MSC status.
The complimentary cruise would be a great deal here for two passengers, particularly those who would ordinarily spend on drinks and specialty restaurants and/or excursions onboard. My wife and I probably wouldn’t ordinarily spend $400 onboard, so the effective requirement to do so turned me off a little bit. That wouldn’t stop us from booking, but also having to pay $720 combined for our kids makes me less sure that I’ll use the cruise benefit. Still, at $1120 for a 7-night cruise for 4 people with $400 in onboard credit, it’s still a terrific deal — and at $400 for two people with $400 in onboard credit it seems like it would be well worth a ride to Atlantic City if you’re within driving distance.
I had read in the Miles Talk guide about some people having success getting something from Bally’s when showing their Caesars Diamond celebration dinner. I went to Bally’s as soon as I mentioned having status at another casino at the players club desk, the guy started waiving me off before I got any farther, saying that they don’t offer any sort of match or benefits. Silly me, I said that I’d just hold off on signing up for a players club card then. That was silly because with a players club card, I’d have only paid $10 for parking — but because I didn’t even sign up for one, they got me for $25 on the way out of the parking garage. Argh.
If you’re also heading to Philadelphia (which is only about an hour away from Atlantic City), there is a casino there called Philadelphia Live. I’ve heard that they were matching to one of the Atlantic City statuses and until February 28th that level of status came with a free three-night stay at Baha Mar. We didn’t head back toward Philadelphia, so I’m not sure whether they are still offering anything (the word on the street was that they would probably offer something, but that it wouldn’t be as good). If you match in Philadelphia after 2/28/23, let me know what you get.
You may want to hold off on this status match go round
Update: Thanks to reader Martin who chimed in with a link to the Ocean Prime match explaining that members who match after March 1, 2023 will automatically have Prime status expended through June 30, 2024. That’s great because it makes the rest of the strategy in this section irrelevant — there’s no reason to wait to match. In fact, it ight make more sense to do it sooner rather than later to start the clock on a potential re-match.
If you’re a gambler, it might make sense on holding off on this match until after July 1st. That’s because the Ocean Rewards Club membership year runs from July 1st – June 30th. The free MSC cruise benefit is once per calendar year. If it were possible to match from Hard Rock to Ocean Prime after July 1st, you could presumably get a “free” MSC cruise during 2023 and another during 2024 (before your Ocean Prime status runs out on June 30, 2024). The problem is that we don’t know for sure that Hard Rock Atlantic City will continue matching Caesars Diamond or MGM Gold to its new top-tier equivalent when they launch the Unity program. Furthermore, we don’t know that Ocean will continue matching high-level Hard Rock status to Ocean Prime. We know it’s possible to match now — so if you could use the cruise before June 30th, it’s probably worth taking advantage of this now. In my case, I’m not sure we’re actually going to be able to use my free cruise. Something went awry with my wife’s match from Wydham Diamond to Caesars Diamond, so she didn’t have a status that could work for this status match go round last weekend. Once she gets her Caesars Diamond status resolved, I think we’ll hold off and consider heading to Atlantic City in July to see if she can match then if we decide that we do want to spend the $400 deposit and $359 per kid since we’d have more opportunity to fit a cruise in later this year or next year.
Look around for similar opportunities
I should note that while this post is about Atlantic City, I have heard of deals like the free MSC cruise with matches in other parts of the country. If you live in or are traveling to an area with casinos, it is worth looking into whether they have any tier matching opportunities and what benefits accompany the matched tiers. Matches often won’t be worthwhile, but as evidenced here the value can sometimes be pretty extraordinary.
On a smaller scale, a couple of years ago, I matched around at casinos in South Florida one night and made a few hundred bucks. Plenty of other states have clusters of casinos where I imagine that you may be able to put together a nice collection of benefits.
And if you ever do get to Las Vegas, keep in mind that Caesars Diamond status means no resort fee and no parking fees at their properties. As a Diamond member, I sometimes see rooms from $10 per night (others report seeing complimentary rooms). MGM frequently sends me free room offers of 1-4 nights depending on the casino — and MGM Gold comes with no resort fees and free parking also. Leveraging matches can make for a cheap trip to Vegas and/or outsized benefits in other places like these Atlantic City matches.
If you have either MGM Gold or Caesars Diamond (which is pretty easy to get for those in this game), you can parlay that into yet another “free” cruise offer (this time with a small deposit that you get back as an onboard credit, but no port taxes) — but the catch is that this can only be done in-person in Atlantic City, NJ. There are a few steps / stops to make, but it’s probably worth the time if you’re within a drivable distance of Atlantic City. Some free play money to try to win big on the house’s dime, some free nights if you want to return to Atlantic City (from Hard Rock and Ocean) and a darn near free 7-night Caribbean cruise is a pretty solid deal for starting with a $95-fee-Wyndham Earner Business card. It’ll take a little time to ride around and do the matches, but the return on time investment here is pretty good.
@Nick Reyes Are you 100% on the timeframes of the free nights in AC? Was hoping one of the free nights could be used same day as I’d be headed there to match and need to stay the night anyway. I only ask because for both properties you just quoted the agent, and we know they aren’t always right…
I just checked my Live! Rewards status online for Live! Philadelphia and it looks like I was matched to Black Rewards (not sure which of my statuses got matched to that as they took a picture of all 4 of my status cards).
Looks like with the new status levels, Black Rewards only gives you two free nights at the Baha Mar after you pay for two nights (BTGT). There are other perks though like $300 birthday celebration dinner, $200 reimbursement for Live! partner travel and complimentary 3 night stay at the Hilton at Resorts World Las Vegas. The Jade tier level is where the real Baha Mar and Norwegian Cruise would have been nice. Will be interested though if the $200 reimbursement and free Hilton stay are not too hard to use.
Also, just as a note: they only give you the basic card when you sign up. You have to go back to the casino to pick up your new Black Card Once you are matched.
Data point: Live philadelphia does status match but is not instant, they submit your current atlantic casino status and they will get back to you on which status you get -.o
You can get MGM Gold also without Hyatt status. I was in Atlanta a month ago and did it the other way around so I actually got Hyatt Explorist following MGM Gold.
The option is mentioned in Dave’s article.
The starting point is Wynham Business Card which gives Wyndham Diamond and you match to Caesar Diamond. Caesar match with MGM is dead… However, there is a longer but working way: Caesar -> Hard Rock -> Ocean -> MGM Gold.
I appreciate all your leg work for this post.
But here’s the thing about MSC, you will either love them or you will hate them. I feel the later. MSC is a nickel and dime line for everything. Food can be very average or really good. Entertainment is definitely not up to the other main stream cruise lines. The ships are very nice though. Very contemporary. Wi-fi is the worst of all the cruise lines. From our experience, the ship’s crew are very hard working and offer very good service. But MSC as a cruise line, they compete on price.
MSC has had promos for a week cruise for less than $500 including port taxes, in a balcony cabin. One can do a MSC cruise for a lot less than other cruise lines.
But MSC is, for many people, a one and done experience. Maybe, this is a good way for you to have the MSC experience, yourself, without making any investment other than your time? Maybe I would have felt differently if I had not paid for our cruise. Lots of “what-ifs” with MSC. But you should not go on an MSC cruise thinking that it will be like Carnival or Royal Caribbean.
To me, MSC had much better food than RCL/Carnival/Princess. It was authentic Italian so that was amazing but traditional American was lacking (order the homemade mozzarella and pastas, not the chicken and waffles). Also the entertainment was much more impressive for me too. They had real ballerinas instead of “dancers” and their singing was the best I have heard on a cruise line. Sit up close to the action so you can see the costumes too. They clearly had their Italian designers at work. I usually fall asleep during shows but on the first night after having been up the entire night before traveling, I stayed awake for it.
There are lots of nitpicky complaints about MSC (specifically their teensy staterooms and incompetent customer service), but food and entertainment is absolutely not it.
Oh and their coffee is the best for a cruise line too.
I was a travel agent for almost 30 years. I owned a cruise-only travel agency for 7 years. I have sailed over 60 cruises. I have inspected at least another 25 ships. I have sailed on every major cruise line. MSC is absolutely despised in the travel industry. They handled Covid issues during the pandemic in the worst way possible. I would NEVER recommend MSC to anyone. I was actually on the MSC Grandiosa in Spain in March 2020. MSC canceled the cruise and left us on the pier. MSC did nothing for the almost 400 passengers that night! MSC took 10 months for us to get us our “Future Cruise Credit”! 10 MONTHS! MSC has their headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. That office makes every decision on upgrades, refunds, cancelations, etc. That office moves at a snail’s pace.
We finally sailed on the MSC Virtuosa in March 2022. Everywhere we went on the ship, they were constantly trying to sell us their premium dining packages. That went on for 4 cruise days. In that time, the main dining room food was very low quality. Sometimes, we thought it was re-prepared leftovers from the lunch menu. The food was the worst of any cruise I have EVER taken. After 4th night, the hawking of dining packages decreased substantially. Then suddenly, the main dining room food increased in quality and quantity. Why? Because now MSC had to impress us, if they ever expected passengers to go on another MSC cruise.
Everything with MSC is trying to get passengers to spend more money in a very obnoxious and constantly in your face way. All cruise lines try to upsell, it’s a business. But MSC is just obnoxious with upselling.
You like MSC, good for you! You think they are better than Royal Caribbean, Princess, Carnival, that is your opinion. An opinion which is not widely held, by experienced cruisers. I would not tell my clients to not use a specific travel supplier because bad mouthing a product is not good business. But after sailing MSC, who I avoided for years, I could definitively say no way would I ever sail MSC, again. The only reason we chose MSC was because there are only 2 cruise lines sailing the Med in winter, MSC or Costa. MSC had a 3 month old ship versus Costa’s 15 year old ship. What a mistake that was!
I agree with you completely on customer service. Especially coming from a travel agent. The standard answer is once you have your booking… Do not call to change your reservation or even ask any questions because they will screw it up. Seriously, truly, horrible. Never ending complaints with that. They also do nothing for COVID. They used to mandate travel insurance for COVID coverage… Not sure if they is still mandatory.
But if you want to be nickel and dimed and constantly upsold? Go on RCL. 10 times worse than MSC. Carnival wasn’t too bad in this way interestingly enough and I thought MSC was no worse than Carnival for upselling.
I was on Virtuosa in early May 22 so just a month or 2 after you. Absolutely delicious food. Again, their “American” food wasn’t great. But their pastries were better than any cruise line I have been on and anything Italian was fantastic. Food was better than the other “cheap” lines. The only cruise line with better food was Pullmantur (being Spanish, of course) but they had other issues… And COVID did them in so it is moot.
The other big advantage I forgot to mention for MSC is you can actually get a stateroom with a single supplement of 10 percent! Not always, but frequently. I don’t know any other that has reasonable costs for singles.
Thank you for being forthright. If you sail as a single then NCL is for you as they have single only cabins. They call them studios. The rates are usually decent. Not as low as 2 people in a regular cabin though, but not outrageously more.
Holland America and Cunard, also has single cabins. Some of biggest Royal Caribbean ships also have single only cabins. Celebrity and Virgin occasionally offer no single supplements.
But even the single only cabins can be way over a regular double occupancy fare, sometimes only a couple $100 more. It all depends on the season and the way a ship is selling.
Put us in the “despise” MSC column. My wife and I are veteran cruisers, with more than 60 cruises under our belt. We sailed with MSC once, aboard the MSC Divina on a repositioning from Miami to Brazil. Customer service was in fact terrible (MSC does two things: cargo shipping and cruise shipping. Unfortunately, their customer DISservice treats cruise passengers like cargo). Worse yet, they changed the dates of embarkation by six days without notifiying us — we found out about it on the internet and contacted them. And no the food was not better than Princess . . . that is crazy, unless you want to live on Pizza and Pasta for 19 days. And they repeated every public announcement in SEVEN languages. Really? On a cruise from Miami to Brazil? How about just English and Portuguese? And there was more, too much to cover here. MSC, NEVER AGAIN.
Nick, word of warning. Due to my schedule I booked the free MSC cruise for only 3 nights. I was told some of the benefits of the MSC Diamond status don’t apply on those shorter cruises like the dinner benefit.
[…] in Atlantic City Fishing for Another Free Cruise: See this post on Frequent Miler. Nick really has a zest for finding these deals. I’m not willing to travel to a casino […]
Nice report, Nick! One of you needs to bite the bullet and do a trip to Vegas and provide us with a similarly detailed report!
Just back from the free 7 day MSC Seascape cruise through the Ocean status match. I too matched to MSC Voyagers Diamond before the cruise. We ended up with a free balcony upgrade. Also one free specialty dining for diamond member and 1 guest in cabin (who is not a diamond member). This is for a tasting menu which included select items from the full menu: one appetizer, on entrée and one dessert per person. It was a nice menu though as I had a fillet. Bottle of champagne & macarons, free diamond party (drinks and appetizers), on board discounts, priority boarding and disembarkment, drawstring bag, chocolates, etc. Nice perks! We purchased drink pkg, inet and excursions at a discount prior to the cruise so we also were unsure of using the $400 deposit on board. But you can load it to your card at the casino to play and then cash out there.
Boom. My wife asked me precisely whether the onboard credit would work for that. Good to hear that worked.
Did you get the free upgrade to the balcony room when you called to book? The first person I spoke with said it would be like an $800 upgrade to a balcony, but someone else had told me about a cheap balcony upgrade as a diamond member also. Did you get that upgrade at the time of booking or did you get upgraded sometime in the days before the cruise or something?
About two weeks after on-line check-in we received our room assignment and saw it said balcony. We never had any offer to upgrade prior to that so it was a nice surprise. My husband and I each qualified for the cruise offer so we booked two cabins and took my brother and sister in-law. My husband had only matched to gold status for the second room. Unfortunately when we booked we didn’t notice they had booked that as an interior even though the offer said ocean view. When we tried to call back and have it changed they said the ship was completely full. That cabin did end up being accessible though which worked out well for my brother and sister-in law because it was larger.
The Ocean is matching X, Rock Royalty and Icon all to Prime right now, according to their chart. So if Icon will be the 2nd level, why the worry?
Second, does the Hard Rock match have to be at Har Rock AC? Or is that to make sure one great Rock Royalty?
Third, does your Prime card expire 6/30/23 and then they’ll extend? I also saw the extension ofvstatus for matches in the next few months.
That Wynn Las Vegas freebie would interest me. We don’t gamble, but Las Vegas is prime pickings for deals. Years ago the Wynn LV offered Amex Gold and higher a free 2-night stay, plus a couple of free meals. I worked all the angles I could find on shows and meals, and we had a pretty amazing 2-night LV vacation and ate in some of the highest-end restaurants for practically nothing. It’s also the perfect place to FHR-hop (take advantage of the full FHR benefits at each hotel and then hop to a different FHR hotel, using the late check-out and early check-in to avoid any “homelessness” between stays), especially if you can travel off-season and/or on weekdays when rates are low. In the past we have had a couple of stays that were amazing deals, like the Four Seasons with a free breakfast and free dinner from FHR that were worth as much as the room rate.
Well then I’ll entice you further: I now realize that I forgot to add that the Wynn stay comes with a $50 dining credit 🙂
I did the same Atlantic City matching run last year, used the cards to get my upcoming Carnival 12 night Baltic cruise.
Nick, go to the MSC website and you used to be able to status match into Voyagers Club which is MSC frequent cruise program. I did it in Oct 2022, they matched my Hilton Diamond to MSC Black which is their highest level. Check to see which of your hotel/airline statuses are the most valued by MSC prior to attempting. We like MSC, when you’re paying and not using casino matches they often allow kids for free just paying taxes
Hearing about your Carnival 12 night Baltic Cruise may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back… Seriously contemplating a 9 hr drive to Atlantic City… 1 Carnival and 2 MSC cruises seems like too much to pass up
Its 4 hours drive for me so I did the matches, stuffed myself with shrimp at the free Avila pass in Ocean casino earned by matched, walked on the beach. 9hr each way for me would be an overnight, if you have the ability/time though I would. I never would have paid for the Baltic cruise out of pocket, I didn’t know at the time that you could match to Holland America as well…..I need more PTO!
The Ocean website has a link that says status will be extended through Jun 2024 for those signing up Mar – Jun 2023. Also it sounds like the free Wynn stay must be booked within 60 days via their special number 609-783-8000. I would post link but I think my initial comment was deleted because of it…
Thank you! It didn’t get deleted, it just hadn’t gotten manually approved yet, but I did approve it at some point earlier. Thanks for the info!
Nick, looks like your Ocean Prime should get automatically extended through 2024! Check this out: https://www.theoceanac.com/prime-tier-match
Since you are close to Turning Stone casino in Verona, NY, in the past they’ve matched Caesars Diamond to their Onyx. You had to renew it every six months and it was good for free rooms (we’ve had nice rooms and suites), free valet parking and other perks. They will now only match once. Mine expired February 28. My wife held off on the match so hers will expire August 31.
I used to go to Turning Stone back in the day (before marriage and kids), but I haven’t been in years. The last time I looked into this, I didn’t see any concrete benefits. That said, I’m not surprised that you’d get offers for rooms and suites with their higher tier. Years ago, I used to get free room offers with pretty minimal gambling. Have you tried Rivers in Schenectady? I just got thinking about them the other day and wondered if they offer anything.
Only went there once and wasn’t impressed. Not very many machines and not the ones we like. Atlantis in the Bahamas was nice and we’ve used the Caesars Diamond promo the last three years.
I admire your zest for these free cruises! I booked an MSC cruise for next summer (not free, paying cash for it). It has the itinerary I want in Europe and is the least expensive line for a balcony room.
Thanks! I think I have a zest for deals. I don’t know that I’ll cruise forever, but while it’s this cheap I’d be crazy not to!
Is the oceans match rewards only good for first time members. I signed up for years ago, but they weren’t offering the same benefits.
Inactive members can do the match. (Inactive at least 12 mos.) https://www.theoceanac.com/prime-tier-match
Nope. You need to not have been active for 365 days from what Dave has written at Miles Talk. That means that if you’ve played at all there in the past year, you need to wait for a year from that day. Then you can match again.
Is that just casino play? Is staying at their hotel considered activity?
Great post. Fingers crossed for the new HR program
Hi! Just wanted to share, I visited the Hard Rock Seminole in Hollywood, FL this past week. and they joined the Unity Program already. They matched Caesar’s Diamond to the Unity Icon Card, which I believe is similar to the Rock Royalty Card (level wise).
That’s awesome. I’ve heard the same about Las Vegas, so I bet it’s going to continue. That said, as per the update, thanks to Martin’s comment, it sounds like Ocean Prime status is being extended for people who match after March 1st anyway.
Very interesting findings! Anyway to match the Ocean Prime to MGM Gold? I’m still wanting MGM Gold to get easy status for a Hyatt stay in May. Is Explorist status worth it?
Nope. Not at the moment.
As to “is Explorist status worth it”, the only real benefit is 2pm late checkout. You can a small bonus on points earned on a paid stay, but it’s pretty negligible.
You can match to MGM Gold from Prime according to their Tier Match site
Ocean Rewards Club: Ocean Casino Resort
PRIME: advance to MGM Rewards Gold tier
RESERVE: advance to MGM Rewards Platinum tier