This post is written by Shawn Coomer.  Shawn has spent nearly a decade traveling around the world with his wife and son. Today he writes Miles To Memories and uses his first-hand knowledge and experience to teach others how to achieve their travel dreams for the least amount of money possible.
There are few things better than watching the sunset from the deck of a cruise ship!

There are few things better than watching the sunset from the deck of a cruise ship!

As someone who loves both cruising and travel in general, I have been a little frustrated with the credit card offerings in the cruise space.  I can use a credit card bonus to book a $5k business class ticket, but it is almost impossible to cover the costs of my cruise fare by using bonuses from a credit card.  If you are like me then you hate to pay the retail price for travel, so I am always looking for a better way.

A few months ago I received my beautiful Barclay Arrival card.  This card gives two points per dollar on all spending. Each point is then worth $.01 for travel redemptions.  When you redeem points for travel, Barclay’s also gives you a 10% rebate back.  While the 40,000 bonus points at sign up weren’t enough to pay for a whole cruise, I came pretty close.

Back in September, I came across a sale on a re-positioning sailing of the Norwegian Jewel.  After finishing the summer season in Alaska, the Jewel was sailing back to New Orleans via Los Angeles and eventually the Panama Canal.  The first leg of that journey was sold as a six day itinerary from Vancouver to Los Angeles.  I was able to book this a week before sailing for $441 total for an inside cabin.  This included all taxes and fees.  It was a steal!

The Jewel sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

The Jewel sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

While this alone was a great deal and my Arrival card would have paid for $400 out of the $441, I was able to sweeten it a little. On a previous cruise I had purchased a future cruise certificate.  Most cruise lines offer some sort of deal where you put a down payment on board for your next cruise.

Norwegian gives you a $100 credit if you buy a $250 certificate good for a future sailing of six nights or more.  Since the $100 credit and the $250 charge go onto your account at the same time, you are basically buying $250 for $150. For this re-positioning sailing, my travel agent also upgraded me for free to the highest inside category stateroom and gave me a $25 on board credit.

In the end, I was able to apply the $250 credit to bring my total charge to $191.00.  I paid for this with the Arrival card and had a wonderful time on the cruise.  At the end of the cruise, my daily tips and other charges were posted to my on board account.  I was then able to close that out with the Arrival card and redeem my points to pay for those charges.  Essentially, I received a six day cruise including all on board charges and gratuities for $150.

The Jewel docked in San Francisco.

The Jewel docked in San Francisco.

While my situation was unique to the time of year, itinerary of the cruise and specific sailing, the Arrival card is simply the best option for cruisers.  You receive 2% back in points that can be redeemed for any travel expense.  Compare that to the 1% in points that you earn back on all of the cruise line cards and you are certainly coming out ahead. Additionally, the Arrival points aren’t locked into the specific cruise line like with the co-branded offerings.

Money Saving Tips

  • Find a good travel agent who will give you the best price and provide other perks such as an on board credit. Cruise Compete allows agents to bid against each other to provide you with the best perks and lowest prices. I have had great experiences with their agents and have found some incredible deals.  Most cruise lines participate with Cruise Compete, but unfortunately Norwegian does not.
  • Take advantage of future cruise offers.  If you know that you like to cruise, it makes perfect sense to invest in your “vacation future” to save a little money.  While every cruise line’s program is different, most of them allow you several years to book your next cruise.  Norwegian for example generously gives you four years.
  • Be flexible with your dates and consider re-positioning sailings.  By doing this you can often find the lowest prices.  If your aim is to pay as little out of pocket, then this is important.
  • Use travel cards like Barclay’s Arrival to cover extra expenses.  Even if you are on a $3,000 cruise, your Arrival points could take care of your on board expenses.  Since the cruise line charges you in one lump sum, you can pay for your bar tab, gratuities and/or shore excursions with Arrival points!


While my example is probably extreme since I had some flexibility and booked my cruise at the last minute, there are so many ways to save on a cruise.  By spending a few minutes to learn a few trick of the trade, you may find that you can suddenly afford to upgrade to that balcony suite or go on that dream shore excursion. You may also find that you will finally find luck in the casino….or not!