You might imagine that I am frequently asked how to pay for a cruise with miles or points. My typical answer is that it’s possible, it will take more points than you like, and don’t do it unless you live in Florida and never want to fly anywhere. With those qualifiers out of the way, you can apply some travel hacking principles to cruising. When it comes to cruising, I’m an admitted ship lover. I don’t care where the cruise sails to, I just want to be on a ship. I love the fact that my hotel sails on blue water to multiple interesting places. In truth, I’ve walked on a ship and not left for 7 days. That’s how I roll. There are just too many opportunities to relax aboard a floating hotel. The peace of not caring about ports of call makes me uniquely qualified for cruise hacking.
Focus on shorter cruises. There are tremendous deals in the 3/4/and even 5 night cruise market. Sub-$50 per person per night rates abound. A favorite of mine is the 3/4 night Bahamas cruise market out of Miami. There are no less than three cruise lines with three different ships serving the market. You can walk onto a Royal Caribbean cruise on Friday, off on Monday and stroll over to a Carnival or NCL ship. Then rinse and repeat based on price.
Focus on the right points currencies. Barclaycard Arrival Miles and Chase Ultimate Rewards are best. There are reasonably large new account bonuses for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus, Chase Sapphire Preferred, and Chase Ink products. On the spend side, you’re always earning 2.2 percent with Arrival Plus as long as you redeem for travel, and you’ll get a 20 percent discount on redemptions for using Ultimate Rewards.
Keep an open mind. You are not going to get Lufthansa first class type redemption values out of redeeming for a cruise. On the other hand, the way airline programs are going, redeeming for a cruise may become a semi-reasonable option. It depends on you and your personal circumstances. Further, there are some limited innovative spending strategy opportunities that are available at sea. I don’t think they are going to perpetually fund your life at sea, but they might make a few miles for you or meet some minimum spend requirements. More on that after my next cruise. In the meantime, you might be interested in my 30 Days of Boat Drinks series.
-MJ, November 13, 2014