A reader writes:

Hey Marshall, I enjoy reading your blog and also enjoy traveling and…CRUISING (esp. with Celebrity!)!  I thought you would like to know the current season of Top Chef (Seattle) will have an episode where they cook on the Celebrity Millennium during an Alaska itinerary.  Do you have a credit card you recommend using to pay for cruises (free insurance/trip interruption/etc)?  Keep up the good work!
Thank you very much,

MJ Responds:

Hi there. Thank you for your email. I had seen a couple of advertisements for that Top Chef episode. Looks like fun. 🙂 Credit cards and cruises are a trick. There is no one perfect solution, and I am not aware of any card that provides the kind of insurance that would cover the cost of a cruise if something went wrong and you were unable to cruise. The American Express Platinum Card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card do offer some travel insurance that covers things like lost baggage, flight cancel protection, etc.

The Amex Platinum Card offers a program called Cruise Privileges which includes onboard credits, possible upgrades, and some ship board amenities. I weigh those benefits against booking through another channel which may include a bigger onboard credit or other benefit when making a decision on how to pay for the cruise. If the Cruise Privileges bennies win, then I pay for the cruise with my Amex Platinum Card. The downside of this card is that it carries an annual fee of $450 dollars. That said, I fly a lot, and the card offers airline lounge access with Delta (my primary airline). If I didn’t carry the Amex Platinum card, I would be buying lounge access from Delta, which incidentally, costs the same as the Amex annual fee and offers none of the other benefits that come with the card. There are other benefits with the card for travelers that in my mind, at least, pay for that annual fee, but those benefits aren’t worth the same thing to everyone.
Now, if I decide that the benefits of using the Amex Cruise Privileges program are outweighed by another offer like a significant onboard credit by booking with the cruise line, I pay for my cruises with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. This card offers 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar for all travel purchase including cruises. I like Ultimate Rewards a lot. They can be transferred to airline programs like United or British Airways, Hotel programs like Hyatt or Marriott, and you can even use them to pay for your cruise. I actually wrote a blog based on a reader question about cruise credit cards a few months ago. You can check that out here.
I have links to each of these credit cards on the blog. Please note that if one applies for and receives a credit card through those links, I will receive a referral bonus. There is no requirement to do so, and you are welcome to just click on those links and read the information available on the cards I mentioned without applying for any credit.
I appreciate your email, and hope this information is helpful. Feel free to write back if you have any questions.
Disclosure: There are no direct links to my credit card offers in this post as it is a cc of an email between a reader and myself. However, I do reference my “Credit Cards for Traveling Well” page, so in the interest of full disclosure, it is possible to click through to some links that will offer me a referral bonus if a credit card is applied for and received through those links. As always, your readership is appreciated whether you use my links or not.