30 Days of Boat Drinks – Introduction

30 Days of Boat Drinks – Getting Informed

30 Days of Boat Drinks – Credit Card Plays

30 Days of Boat Drinks – Barclay Arrival Miles and Ultimate Rewards

30 Days of Boat Drinks – Membership Rewards and Cruise Privileges

30 Days of Boat Drinks – Shopping Strategies and Getting Booked

30 Days of Boat Drinks – Backup Plan

30 Days of Boat Drinks – Onboard Spending Strategies and Life On Board

30 Days of Boat Drinks – Conclusion

Membership Rewards

In the next installment of my 30 Days of Boat Drinks series, I would like to cover American Express Membership Rewards points and their uses in paying for cruises. Membership Rewards are the favorite currency of many travelers, and have a number of uses including transferring 1 for 1 into partner programs like British Airways Avios or Delta SkyMiles. You will likely find those options more valuable to you than paying for a cruise, but if you don’t need to fly, here’s how Membership Rewards works with cruising.

When you book with American Express Travel you can pay for all or a portion of your cruise fare with Membership Rewards points. You can book online or call, but either way, a phone call is going to be required to redeem points for your cruise fare. The bad news is that your redemptions are worth a penny per point. So a $300 cruise fare would be 30,000 points, and there are no rebates or points discounts for booking travel. If you happen to use the Business Platinum Card, then you are still eligible for the 20 percent redemption bonus on Membership Rewards that used to apply to the personal card as well so that cruise would only cost you 24,000 points. Membership Rewards, as great as they can be, aren’t quite as good as Ultimate Rewards or Barclaycard Arrival Miles for this exercise. That said….if you have a few to spend it can be done.

Cruise Privileges

I am a little leery of bringing up the excellent Cruise Privileges Program that comes with the Platinum and Centurion Card products, because I’m chosen to focus on the short 3/4 night cruise market for the pricing sweet spot that might allow one to spend 30 days on a cruise ship on points. One of the key rules with the program is that it only applies to cruises of 5 nights or longer. However, if you’re willing to get adventurous, I’ve identified a few 5 night cruises that are extremely affordable and you might be able to take advantage of one of these itineraries if the chips fall correctly. For that reason, I’m bringing Cruise Privileges into our discussion. I’ll cover the 5 night cruise options in my upcoming “feeling lucky?” post.

The basics of the American Express Cruise Privileges Program are this:

  • $300 per stateroom shipboard credit, or two-category upgrade (depending on ship, category booked and availability – in other words…if you book the cheapest stateroom on the ship, your benefit will be less than this)
  • Additional exclusive amenities unique to each cruise line (typically a complimentary specialty restaurant visit and/or a bottle of wine)

As of November 24, 2013, the participating cruise lines are:

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Consult this page for the most up to date list of participating cruise lines and benefits.

We’ll start pulling together the finer details of getting the most cruise for your hard-earned points in the next post – Shopping Strategies and Getting Booked.

-MJ, November 23, 2013