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Travel Hacking: Cruises

June 18, 2020


Travel hacking for cruises is a little more difficult than flights and hotels. It’s not more difficult technically, there are just less options out there. First thing is to say “No” to cruise line credit card offers in general. They are weak compared to other offers you can get like the ones I’ll outline below.

Barclay Arrival World MasterCard 

This card is similar to the Elite version listed below, but with no annual fee and with a lower bonus. You get 20,000 points for $1,000 spent within the first 90 days. 20,000 miles will likely not get you a free cruise so if at all possible go for the World Elite card listed below.

Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard 

This rewards card makes it easy to earn a free cruise.  The deal is this: Spend $3,000 on the card within 90 days and earn 40,000 miles. The nice thing about the Barclay cards is that you can use the points for partial credit towards a cruise. So if a cruise costs $600 and you only have 40,000 points then you can just pay any difference in cash as opposed to not being able to spend any of your points until you have enough.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

If you already have one of the Barclay Arrival cards, your next best bet is signing up for the Capital One Venture Rewards credit card for their signup bonus of 40,000 miles.If you spend $3,000 in 90 days you will earn 40,000 bonus miles.

If you’re not interested in getting credit cards to get cheap or free cruises, you do have more options! It may not be travel hacking as much as tips to spend the least amount possible on cruises.

  • Be flexible- Buying cruises at the last minute is the best way to get great cheap deals on cruises. This means you may have to buy a flight beforehand and cross your fingers that the cruise won’t sell out (which it almost never does unless it’s peak season or a holiday). Although this likely won’t happen you should be ready for the possibility.

  • Don’t go during peak season- Off peak travel in general is the best time to go anywhere (adult Disneyland trip anyone?) but cruises are a big one. You can see differences of hundreds of dollars per person.

  • Don’t buy the extras- Don’t be fooled by a great price per room. The Cruise companies make most of their money through the extras like alcohol and restaurants that aren’t included. Only bring a certain amount of money on the trip or find a way to keep that belt tight! Those margaritas look pretty good, but with all of those extras you could have upgraded to a room with a fancy window…or a month in SE Asia.

  • Plan your own off shore excursions– The excursions the cruises offer have inflated prices and it’s really not too difficult to just show up and ask for what you want for the price you want. I prefer to rent a scooter right when the cruise ports and just go exploring as far as I can in the time I have. Make sure to drop a pin on your maps or at least know where exactly the port is so you aren’t having a stressful experience getting back to the ship!

Cruises are great, but the least expensive ones will likely be the smaller ships without a lot of extra amenities. Most people don’t have that samurai discipline to not buy the cruise ship extras so plan on spending at least an extra $100 at some point. Happy Cruising!


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