Points for Booking Cruises

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Miles/Points' started by jpruzins, Dec 27, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. jpruzins
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    jpruzins Silver Member

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    My mom asked me to book a cruise to Alaska for her & dad. They are traveling on NCL in June. How can I maximize points for booking this trip on their behalf? I have a myriad of cards - Chase Sapphire, Amex Delta/JetBlue/Hilton/Starwood, Discover Casbback, etc. Any tips?
     
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  2. viguera
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    viguera Gold Member

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    Depends on your target airline / alliance IMO. Delta, US Airways, AA and a variety of hotel chains offer you points for booking cruises through their portals -- some fixed (1:1) and some variable (DL offers "up to" 10k miles based on longer cruises).
     
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  3. IkeEsq

    IkeEsq Gold Member

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    I would be careful about booking through any of the airline sites. Hard though it may be to believe, they don't usually have the best prices and it is not like making a $10 purchase for $12. Cruises cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. Most of the airline sites give you 1:1 or less on spend. A reputable internet cruise-specialist can usually get you 10% off the published fare.

    If the airline sites price it the same as the cruise line, you are paying far too much. Just as a point of reference, I just priced a cruise I am planning for next summer through US Airways Cruises and it came to $6,054.04. Going directly through the cruise line the cabin was $5314.04. Through a travel agent I can get the same cabin for around $5055.48 or less.
     
  4. Tiki
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    Tiki Silver Member

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    I was going to use CO's cruise booking agency but was put off by the terrible service. Firstly, they sneakily added on transfers which I only found out when I used the online chat to ask why their price was higher than Princess web site. Then they add on $24.99 non-refundable fee. They are also very hard to deal with at your own convenience and they refuse to answer emails insisting you call them. I like to have written records of everything so I use emails or chat and save the transcripts. Many of them work from home so if they aren't available, you have to wait until they are, they aren't even in a call centre where you can ask for the supervisor. This is only a 2 day repo cruise from Brisbane to Sydney and would have gotten 1500 miles plus double for using my CO Mastercard but I just didn't like the way they do business. I decided to book on Princess.com as the price was the same whether booking with them or an online TA but for longer cruises I use Cruise Compete to get better prices and/or OBC.

    I think all the airlines use the same cruise booking agency, I looked at a few and they all look the same.
     
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  5. iolaire
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    iolaire Gold Member

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    + 1 for cruise compete, by on FT some people doen't like that style of service.
     
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  6. jpruzins
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    jpruzins Silver Member

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    I used Cruise compete to get a quote. Worked well. Priced better than my regular agent at Cruise & Vacation Desk (Discover Card agent). I think I will use my Chase Sapphire card and earn 2x pts on travel.
     
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  7. freecia

    freecia Active Member

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    You can also buy onboard credit ahead of time with a CC - http://www.princess.com/learn/onboard/gifts_services/onboard_credit/Index.jsp

    Works well if your parents are willing to pay you cash or were going to use a non-points earning CC when they settle their cruise bill. I believe any unused self-purchased (vs TA purchased) onboard credit can be cashed out from Guest Services at the end of the cruise. Plus I believe it should show up as a travel charge for Chase Sapphire.
     
  8. mailbroad

    mailbroad Silver Member

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    I have a fabulous cruise agent. She recently connected a reservation I have on a cruise with a group and got me an onboard credit of $150!
     
  9. deant
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    deant Milepoint Guide

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    I have used CruiseCompete.com and have been very happy with the prices. Have also used cruisequick.com . Cruisequick is completely internet but they give terrific service and prices. They nice thing with them is that everything is done by email so you have a record and they respond within a couple of hours.
     
  10. Jeffrey

    Jeffrey Silver Member

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    Are there any good points-for-cruise deals to be had anywhere? It looks like the individual lines' branded cards don't offer much incentive, but do any cards offer any lines as transfer partners?
     
  11. Jenny & Curt
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    Jenny & Curt Gold Member

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    Check Costco Travel, if you're a member. We were happy with the price for our next cruise. It was lower than the other travel agencies we checked, and included a post-cruise Costco gift card, which for us is much better than an onboard credit, as we tend to have zero incidental spend and have had mixed success getting the onboard credits applied to the gratuity. Used the Chase Sapphire, so we'll see if it qualifies as travel or not. and it appears that it did qualify as travel, for the bonus points.
     
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  12. deant
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    deant Milepoint Guide

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    Don't know of any transfer / partner that is good for a cruise. You best bet is to check Costco Travel, Cruise Compete etc to get the best price. Key is to know what you want because they will not give you the advise that you get with a normal TA.
     
  13. Steven Schwartz
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    Steven Schwartz Gold Member

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    My advice is two-fold. Use the Chase Sapphire card for double points and use a Virtuoso travel agent - you will get the points/miles and your parents will get perks they would not otherwise have, including spending credit onboard, possible special excursions, etc. I would clearly compare the agent's cost for the cruise with a discount carrier but in my experience, my agent has been able to meet the fare every single time.

    If you need a referral, let me know. She's wonderful!
     
  14. mtlfire

    mtlfire Gold Member

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    Perhaps its just me. But I find I do just as well direct through the cruise web site. With a past guest program and other incentives (such as Carnival's Stock Holder program) you can get a great price with onboard credit and then just use a travel card such as the Amex MR that gives 2x the points on travel expenses.
     
  15. Steven Schwartz
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    Steven Schwartz Gold Member

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    I'm sure you're right and it can always be done as you say. For me, when I can use someone who is skilled, pay no more and get some additional perks, I can't see how I lose.

    But much more than that, if it is the right person, I end up with an ongoing relationship that can work to my advantage in other areas. So I let her book my next cruise. The perks were no better or worse than I could have gotten thru Centurion Travel Services. But I also had $3600 in Hyatt certificates from the Capital One card. We were booked into the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome in a regular room with a Hyatt Diamond suite upgrade - which normally gets you a junior suite. She took over the reservation, called the hotel directly and was able to negotiate a favorable rate for the Executive Suite that included the fourth night free. Trust me, I could not have accomplished that!

    Like many of us here, much of my travel is award based and free. But when I can use her, I do and it never disappoints.
     
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  16. deant
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    deant Milepoint Guide

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    In my experience, I have found that some of the online agencies will discount the price that the cruise line will give by about 8%. The online agency will also pass along all the "perks" that the cruise line is offering (i.e. onboard credits etc.). Remember, the "discount" that you are getting is a reduction of the agency commission.

    There are some cruise lines that do not allow rebating of commissions so on these lines it is harder to get a discount.
     
  17. TheTravelAbstract

    TheTravelAbstract Silver Member

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    Cruises are not my forte but just wanted to interject, I got this flyer for United Airlines Cruises in my email today.

    Don't know how it stacks up to other offers.
     
  18. jpruzins
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    jpruzins Silver Member

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    Cruise deposit just posted to my Chase Sapphire Card - extra points for travel - whoohoo!!
     
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  19. MDDCFlyer

    MDDCFlyer Silver Member

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    Cruises are one of the few travel related activities where a good travel agent, one with a long standing relationship with the cruise line is worth having. A good travel agent will give you a discount on the published fare (usually by booking a group on the boat and passing some of the saving to you), on-board credit (which is can be combined with the share holder on-board credit - one of the few that remained such) plus other perks.
    I have used an agency that have a long standing relationship with the cruise line (being one of their top booking travel agents) and it is amazing how many discounts and perks one can get.
     
  20. mikesteg

    mikesteg Silver Member

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    Have you had good luck with group bookings? I haven't (that I know of) been booked into a group that I wasn't actually part of. (I'm now using an internet discount agent, but used to use Cruise1.) The group bookings that I have done with large groups (anywhere from 10 - 50 cabins) seem to wind up being on par with street price when all is said an done. Maybe a bit cheaper, but they are for GTY cabins which would typically be cheaper.

    This would usually be on CCL, and with CCL a group is not automatically eligible for price drops. The groups do tend to get good upgrades within the same category, but I feel like I've had better luck using a past guest "best in category" sale to know that I'm getting a specific category and cabin. It seems like CCL has a sale every few weeks (though none since November?) and the "free" past guest upgrades are usually part of that.
     
  21. MDDCFlyer

    MDDCFlyer Silver Member

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    I have some good experiences with group booking (and some less good). I have been using one particular travel agency that is the top booking agent for the particular cruise line - so yes, the discount was substantial, and although the room was not immediately assigned, it was a good selection in the end. Granted, on that cruise the group size was almost 500 people. You don't really realize you are part of a group booking - but you are, this is how the travel agent get to discount the price (the "free" cabins they receive as part of the group booking are sold, and the discount is spread around). In my experience if the price is not substantially lower, just book the cabin you want, and still get some perks from the agent.
     
  22. mikesteg

    mikesteg Silver Member

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    OK, that pretty much aligns with my understanding/experience. I don't tend to give the TA much flexibility: I know what cruise and what cabin I want before I contact them. I'd really have to luck into a group given that scenario.

    I think in the groups that I was in, the hosting site (Cruise Critic) reportedly took a substantial cut of the commissions, and the organizers took the free cabin(s). The group got a small OBC, and maybe a cocktail party, but nothing really substantial.
     
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  23. daninstl

    daninstl Gold Member

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    Everyone has differing opinions on this but after spending dozens if not hundreds of hours (yes I'm cheap) researching and booking a Carnival cruise last year the next time I do it I will find the best deal on vacationstogo website. I will find the exact dates and cruise I want there then I will research the latest deals with Costco and all the airlines cruise earning sites. Sometimes they run bonus miles earned specials. Once I find the best bonus deal and cabin available there then I will call the cruise line and use a mileage or points earning card to book the cruise with a person. The reason why is after I took this route last year I ended up booking through American Airlines site then shortly afterward I got a call from the Carnival sales reps on a question. They told me that they can match or beat any deal I find out there so I'm thinking they may be able to up the bonus miles, etc. I'm going to see if they will throw in VIP boarding for free next time since it really doesn't cost them anything. Another thing I do is book the travel insurance with a reputable 3rd party not the cruise line because it's cheaper for better coverage many times in my experience.
     
  24. deant
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    deant Milepoint Guide

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    Agree with many people about the different experiences with agents and how good of a price they can give. For my wife and myself, we tend to go on cruises that have a MAX 600 or so passengers on the ship. The vast majority have been ships that have about 150 passengers (Windstar). So no one agent is going to book "a large number" of rooms.

    In the past we have talked to local cruise agents and then checked online. Online always gave a much better price. We have checked prices through cruisecompete.com, vacationstogo and cruisequick. If cruisequick books the line you are interested in, we have found that they tend to have the best prices. One great thing about them is they do everything via email. Never a missed call. They normally respond within a couple of hours so you can look at the response when you have time and everything is documented. As for vacationstogo, I was not impressed with them because of some errors on their part. They did not send the cruise documents and I had to ask and follow-up to get them. Also had a couple of other small problems that bothered me. As for OBC etc., the internet agencies will match anything the cruise line is giving. The discount you are getting is just a rebate of the commission that they receive.
     
  25. daninstl

    daninstl Gold Member

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    So I stumbled into a few work around's for redeeming points or miles for cruise credits.
    I have found the following can be used for cruise credits:

    Hilton:
    120,000 points = $250 credit with Cruises Only
    240,000 = $500
    480,000 = $1,000
    Really not worth it unless you have a ton of points to burn.

    Marriott is about the same:
    70k = $250
    110k = $500
    145k=$1,000
    Seems like a better deal but still not a great return on investment unless you just have a ton to burn.

    Club Carlson is the best return for value I've found:
    8,000 points = $25 on a $450+ cruise
    31,000 = $100 on $750+ cruise
    78,000 = $250 credit on $1500 cruise.

    Just about any cruise for two people will cost over $450, most easily over the $750 or $1500 so not bad.
    Still trading the points for Avois or other miles might be a better return on value.

    I also ran into a Commerce Bank card that allows you to turn in 13,500 points (earned at 1:1 on spend) for a $100 cruise gift card.

    Besides the terrible cruise line Barclay rewards are there any others out there? I'm trying to hack my way onto a cruise with miles or points but I don't want to give away the bank in exchange.


     

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