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How to book a cruise using points and miles


If you’re eager to embark on a cruise and have accumulated points, you might not have to pay for your next trip.

In this guide, we will explore strategies to help you optimize your points and miles to reduce the cost of your cruise vacation. We’ll discuss leveraging your existing loyalty programs and the best ways to unlock savings on your cruise fare.

Here are the top ways to use your points and miles for a cruise.

Should you book a cruise with points and miles?

Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas. ROYAL CARIBBEAN

While various options are available for redeeming your points and miles toward a cruise, it is important to note that the value you receive may not always be optimal (i.e., less than TPG’s valuations). In the realm of travel rewards, there are often more lucrative opportunities to leverage your points and miles for flights or hotel stays, where the value and flexibility tend to be higher.

If you have American Express, Capital One, Chase or Citi points, you might be able to get a redemption value of 1 to 1.5 cents per point for cruises. In this case, you’d get $100 or $150 off your cruise fare by redeeming 10,000 points. While this may seem high, it falls short compared to the value some travelers get when redeeming points for luxury hotels or first-class flights.

Some cruise lines have their own credit cards, but a few have formed partnerships with other brands. For example, Marriott Bonvoy members can earn and redeem points on Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection cruises. These partner options are often limited, though, and may require loyalty to a specific travel brand.

You can always use points to reduce travel expenses for any cruise vacation. For example, you can use American Express Membership Rewards points, Bilt Rewards points, Capital One miles, Chase Ultimate Rewards points and Citi ThankYou points to cover costs associated with airfare, hotels or rental cars for your cruise. This often proves to be a better use of your rewards.

However, if you really want to use your accumulated points to reduce your cruise costs, here are various options for booking a cruise with points and miles.

Book a cruise with credit card points

You can use certain credit card points to book a cruise. Typically, you will be required to make the reservation through the portal provided by your credit card issuer, but some require calling a booking center. You may also be able to charge the cruise to your card and then redeem your rewards for a statement credit against some (or all) of that purchase.

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Here’s how you can book a cruise on points with several major credit card companies.

Amex Travel Pay with Points

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Viva. NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE

If you have an eligible American Express card that earns Membership Rewards points, you can use those points to cover the cost of your cruise through the Pay with Points program. With this program, you can redeem Membership Rewards points at a value of 0.5 to 0.7 cents per point for most travel purchases. However, we value each Membership Rewards point at 2 cents when you maximize the program’s transfer partners, so you would be using them at a lower value.

The Amex Travel portal has a user-friendly search feature that allows you to explore different cruises based on specific filters such as date, destination, cruise line and trip duration even before you log in.

AMERICANEXPRESSCRUISE.COM

To book a cruise using Pay with Points, log in to the travel portal and do the following:

  • Select your preferred cruise itinerary and cabin.
  • Enter your passenger information.
  • When it’s time to check out, enter your Membership Rewards-enrolled American Express card information and select “Yes” to determine how many Membership Rewards points your account has.
  • You can pay for the entire cruise using Pay with Points or erase a portion of the cost and pay the rest with cash.

Alternatively, you can look up the cruise you want and call 800-297-5627 to book directly with the Amex Travel team over the phone.

Related: The best credit cards for booking cruises

Chase Ultimate Rewards

The Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal is similar to Amex Travel, but the redemption value is higher.

Points from the $95 per year Chase Sapphire Preferred Card are worth 1.25 cents each toward travel booked through Chase, while points from the $550 per year Chase Sapphire Reserve are worth 1.5 cents.

Unfortunately, Chase’s booking system doesn’t let you book cruises directly through Chase’s online Ultimate Rewards portal. You’ll have to call the Ultimate Rewards booking hotline and talk to someone in the cruise reservations department instead.

ULTIMATEREWARDSTRAVEL.CHASE.COM

To book a cruise and pay with Chase Ultimate Rewards points:

  • Find the cruise itinerary and availability you want directly through the cruise line’s website. If you have a specific cabin in mind, have that information handy. Unfortunately, reports indicate that you cannot book Disney Cruise Line sailings with Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • Call a Chase travel specialist directly at 855-234-2542, and be prepared to walk the adviser through the cruise line booking page on their end so they can find and book the cabin and options you want. Cruise advisers are available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST.
  • Your cruise adviser will set up the itinerary for you and, upon checkout, will ask you how many points you want to apply against your final balance.

Citi ThankYou Rewards

The Citi ThankYou portal allows cardholders to use their ThankYou points as credit toward a cruise. Some cardholders can redeem points at a value of 1 cent apiece.

Finding your cruise within the Citi ThankYou portal can be frustrating because the search functionality isn’t very robust. Travelers can only search for cruises by destination or cruise line, not by available dates.

To book a cruise using Citi ThankYou points:

  • Log in to the travel portal by navigating through your Citi account (or directly at thankyou.com) and clicking on “Cruises” on the travel booking page.
  • Then, filter by cruise line or destination. (Note that you can’t search for cruises by a specific date.)
  • Once you’ve identified the cruise you wish to book, call 800-842-6596 to speak directly with a Citi ThankYou travel specialist, who will allow you to apply Citi ThankYou points toward the final cost at checkout.

You can also use Citi ThankYou points to book a Disney cruise if you desire.

Capital One miles

Capital One offers more flexibility and a more straightforward redemption process than Amex, Chase and Citi. Unless you transfer your miles to an airline or hotel partner, each mile is worth a flat 1 cent toward travel.

Redeeming points doesn’t require booking through a portal, thus freeing you up to book your cruise directly with the company or via a travel agent to get extra perks. This option also lets you pursue promotional package rates or discounts that might not be available through the Amex, Chase or Citi portals.

The award redemption process is straightforward: Use the card when paying for your cruise package, then log in to your account and use the “cover your travel purchases” option to apply your mileage balance as a credit toward the total amount you owe on your credit card statement.

You can earn Capital One miles with cards like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card. Each has varying features, so do some research to decide which card is best for you.

Related: Capital One Venture Rewards vs. Capital One Venture X: Worth the extra $300 in annual fees?

Book a cruise with airline miles

You can also book cruises using airline miles. However, like other options, the value of your travel rewards is often underwhelming. The following travel providers offer cruise portals that allow you to redeem rewards:

For example, in the United Cruises portal, this seven-night Disney cruise out of San Juan, Puerto Rico, costs 151,571 United MileagePlus miles per person for an interior cabin — worth $2,198 by TPG’s current valuation for United miles.

CRUISES.MILEAGEPLUS.COM

In contrast, the same room and sailing dates cost just $1,061 per person when paid for with cash — clearly a better value than paying with United miles.

CRUISES.MILEAGEPLUS.COM

Use cruise cobranded credit card points to book

With cruise line cobranded credit cards, you can earn points for purchases that you can then use to offset the cost of your cruise booking. However, this might not be your best option for earning and redeeming points.

Here, you’ll want to be sure you can use your points toward the cruise fare instead of only onboard purchases. For example, the Royal Caribbean Visa Signature® Card offers a welcome bonus of 25,000 MyCruise Rewards points after spending $1,000 or more on purchases within the first 90 days of card membership to use on your next cruise. Your redemption choices vary.

For instance, you can redeem 25,000 points toward your companion’s cruise fare on a three- or four-night Royal Caribbean cruise (certain conditions apply, i.e., minimum available ocean-view cabin and may not exceed $500 in value). Or, you can redeem 30,000 points for a $300 discount on a Celebrity Cruises voyage. To learn more about how to redeem MyCruise Rewards points, check out this PDF.

The information for the Royal Caribbean Visa Signature has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Redeem Marriott Bonvoy points

The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection’s first vessel, Evrima. CHRISTOPHER CYPERT/RITZ-CARLTON YACHT COLLECTION

In 2021, Marriott announced that The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection would participate in the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program. Members can redeem points on Ritz-Carlton cruises and enjoy elite status perks on voyages. However, the redemption rates aren’t great.

You can redeem a minimum of 180,000 points toward a flat $1,000 savings on the cruise fare. After that, you can redeem increments of 90,000 points toward $500 in savings, up to the entire cruise fare. This redemption rate equates to about 0.56 cents per Marriott point, well below TPG’s valuation of 0.84 cents per point.

Related: 17 ways to earn lots of Marriott Bonvoy points

Additionally, Marriott Bonvoy’s Cruise with Points program allows you to cash in Marriott points for credit toward any cruise that’s bookable on the Cruise with Points website.

You can redeem points in the following denominations, all valued at 0.4 cents per point:

  • 63,000 points for $250 off your cruise fare
  • 125,000 points for $500 off
  • 250,000 points for $1,000 off
  • 625,000 points for $2,500 off
  • 1,250,000 points for $5,000 off

To redeem Marriott points for a cruise, call 1 800-596-0452.

Use points and miles for pre-cruise hotels and flights

You might make better use of your points and miles by redeeming them for flights to your departure port and for pre- and post-cruise hotel stays instead of for the cruise fare itself. With flights and hotels, you can often get more than 1 or 1.5 cents per point, unlike cruises, which generally provide lackluster redemption rates.

For example, you could transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United MileagePlus and get 3 cents per mile by booking a flight from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Miami International Airport (MIA). If you’re an elite member or have a United credit card, you might even have access to special member award pricing.

Or, you could use 12,000 to 18,000 World of Hyatt points or an annual Category 1-4 award from the World of Hyatt Credit Card to pay for a room at the Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport in Florida before heading to Port Canaveral the next day.

By using points on this given one-night stay, you’re getting 2.5 cents per point.

Bottom line

It isn’t always easy to get great value for your points and miles when you use them toward cruise redemptions — at least, not the way you can for first-class flights. However, redeeming your points for free or discounted cruise travel is possible.

That said, you should steer clear of using airline miles or hotel points for cruises if you want to redeem your rewards for maximum value. Those are better used on flights and overnight stays.

It’s a similar story for credit card currencies. Capital One offers the most flexibility of all the major issuers because you can book your cruise directly or through a travel agent. With multiple booking options, you can take advantage of additional perks and access promotional rates from travel agents and online retailers that aren’t available through credit card portals. You could even stack those deals for additional savings by booking via an airline portal to earn miles.

Once booked, the Capital One award redemption process is straightforward; simply apply your mileage balance as a credit toward your total credit card statement. Each mile is worth a flat 1 cent toward travel, so you always know the value for comparison purposes.

If you ask me, that’s how I’d book a cruise with points and miles to get the best value.

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