While sailing isn’t for everyone, there’s a large niche of travelers who choose to cruise. There’s something to be said about unpacking once and opening your eyes to a new destination every morning.
Although cruise lines, such as Norwegian Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival Cruises, run their own rewards programs, they’re not as lucrative as those operated by airlines and hotels. The major draw for cruise lines is the product itself: the size of the ship, quality of service and number of amenities, such as pools, restaurants, night clubs, and even race tracks.
Among cruise lines popular with families, Disney cruises are often top-rated. And what’s not to love? On the Disney Cruise Line, you can sail to the Caribbean, to the Mediterranean and even to Alaska with your favorite Disney characters. The live shows onboard a magical ship make you sing your favorite songs for the rest of your trip, and fireworks sparkle even brighter at sea.
Those who collect Chase Ultimate Rewards used to have access to Disney cruises via the Ultimate Rewards Travel Center. It was possible to redeem points at a rate of 1.25 to 1.5 each toward such a trip.
Unfortunately, the option to redeem Ultimate Rewards points towards a Disney cruise is no longer available. However, it doesn’t mean that you’re out of luck in an effort to save a buck. Here are some ways you can save money on your next family cruising vacation.
How to Save on Flights to A Port City
With the exception of a few other cities, most Disney Cruise Line ships depart from Miami and Port Canaveral, Florida. Unless you live within driving distance to either of these ports, you need to book a flight to position yourself for your cruise.
Using miles is a perfect way to fly to your port of choice.
Miami International Airport and Orlando Melbourne International Airport are your go-to airports for Miami and Port Canaveral cruise departures, respectively. Tons of airlines serve Miami, and you can redeem all kinds of points and miles to fly there, but Orlando Melbourne isn’t a huge base. You will have better luck redeeming either American Airlines AAdvantage miles or Delta SkyMiles for a trip there.
Most domestic round-trip flights will set you back 25,000 miles. If you’re lucky, you can score an even better redemption rate! Delta Air Lines runs flash sales periodically and offers award flights for as few as 5,000 SkyMiles each way. Promotions like this can help you save even more on your trip, especially if you don’t have enough miles to cover flights for your entire family from the get-go.
Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card
30,000 SkyMiles after $1,000 spend in the first 3 monthsLearn more
If you live within 1,151 flight miles of Miami, you can use British Airways Avios to book a one-way economy award ticket on American Airlines for 7,500 Avios. That means a round-trip would only cost you 15,000 Avios per person. Since British Airways is a transfer partner of both Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards, you won’t have any trouble earning the necessary Avios.
Keep in mind that things can go wrong, and flights can get delayed, which is why it’s important to give yourself enough time (perhaps, one night) before and after the cruise to ensure your vacation goes without a hitch. If you’re not at the pier at the agreed-upon time, the cruise will leave without you.
How to Save on Hotel Nights Before/After Your Cruise
As mentioned above, you don’t want your family to miss the boat by booking flights too close to your cruise departure time. You want to give yourselves enough time to connect, and I recommend flying in the day before and booking a hotel for the night.
“But I’ll incur extra costs,” you might be thinking. “How am I supposed to save money by spending money?”
Here’s where credit cards come in. Many of them offer free night certificates every year you hold the card, and those are perfect for booking these one-off nights. Credit cards to consider that earn a free night are the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card, the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, the Hilton Honors Aspire Card and the World of Hyatt Credit Card.
Hilton Honors American Express Card
75,000 Hilton Honors points after $1,000 spend in 3 monthsLearn more
You can offset your annual fees by redeeming a free night at an eligible property every year. As long as the cost of the free night is higher than the cost of keeping the card, you save on your trip.
Of course, you can also transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt to book your award night or even book through the Chase Travel Portal.
How to Book A Disney Cruise on Points
And now to the main event. Cruising. How exactly can you book a trip at sea on points?
Thanks to cards that earn fixed-value points, such as the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard and the Capital One Venture Card, you can erase your travel purchases with points. Points earned with these cards are worth 1 cent apiece and can be used to cover some of your cost.
Barclaycard Arrival Plus Credit Card
70,000 bonus miles after $5,000 spend in the first 3 monthsLearn more by visiting our
credit cards page.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 monthsLearn more
With the Arrival Plus Card, you earn 2X miles per dollar spent on anything and generally comes with a welcome bonus of 50,000 to 70,000 Arrival miles which are worth $500 to $700 in travel credits. So, you and your spouse each can apply for the card and earn up to $1,400 worth of points. Of course, you have to strategize your spending to earn all these points, but with enough planning, it’s doable.
The Capital One Venture Card regularly offers a 50,000-point which is worth $500 when used toward travel purchases. Like the Arrival Plus, this card also earns 2X points per dollar.
It’s possible to make multiple payments toward your cruise, and you can erase a significant chunk of the purchase with these fixed-value points.
The points earned with the Capital One Venture can now be transferred to many airline partners at a 2:1.5 ratio. However, you can still use the purchase eraser feature which can be perfect if you like to cruise.
Another option is to use your annual $300 travel credit offered by the Chase Sapphire Reserve as a rebate on a cruise payment. You’re going to use it anyway, so you might as well reduce your cruise cost.
Keep in mind that you’re not exactly “saving” money by purchasing a cruise this way because points are worth money, but keeping cash where it is and spending points instead will leave more money in your wallet for shore excursions.
This could be a great way of helping you achieve your dream of taking a Disney cruise with your family.
Where to Look for Discounted Cruises
If you’re a Costco member, I recommend looking into Costco Travel. The popular retailer offers top-brand cruise packages, and most include extras like shipboard credits or Costco cash cards that can be used toward gas or merchandise at the store.
Another great website for cruise enthusiasts is Vacations to Go. This website lists thousands of discount cruises for subscribers. For last-minute deals, Vacations to Go is where you should look first. You can set your parameters from dates, cruise lines and departure ports, and see the options rolling in. You won’t know what to pick!
Credit card rewards are wonderful because they can offset the costs of many aspects of travel, be it flights, hotels or cruises. Learning which cards are used for what is the hard part, but the knowledge is worth hundreds of dollars in saved cash.
Disclosure: 10xTravel has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. 10xTravel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.
Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. You can read our advertiser disclosure here.