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Photograph courtesy of Crystal Cruises
Over the last 18 months, I have booked or completed six different cruises with Mediterranean cruise line MSC Cruises. Three of the cruises we chose travel to Caribbean islands like Antigua, Tortola, and Barbados, while the rest were European journeys to destinations like the Norwegian fjords, Greece, Croatia, France, and Spain.
While we have never considered ourselves “cruise people,” there is something insanely convenient about cruising — especially with kids in tow. You get to visit several different destinations with just enough time to get a taste of each one, for example. Still, you only have to pack and unpack once, and you get to avoid dragging your luggage from place to place like you would on a land-based trip.
With kids, cruising is almost a dream come true.
MSC Cruises and other family-friendly cruise lines offer supervised kid’s clubs — a.k.a. free babysitting — on board. Even if you don’t want to drop your kids off for extended periods of time, it’s wonderful to get a few hours of quiet and freedom every few days.
Cruising is also surprisingly affordable when compared to some other travel options. One cruise we booked on the newer MSC Seaside cost around $2,500 for seven nights and came with a “drinks on us” unlimited alcohol package. That price was for a balcony cabin, but we could have spent less for an interior or ocean view room. While $2,500 isn’t necessarily “cheap,” it’s important to remember all that’s included; your hotel for seven nights, three meals a day (plus drinks in this case), nightly entertainment, on-board babysitting, and transportation to our four cruise stops — Nassau, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and Jamaica.
In summary, cruising is a convenient and fun way to travel with kids. You can sit back and relax while someone else literally “drives the boat.” You don’t have to cook or clean or run people around, and you even have someone to babysit your kids. It’s hard to beat that.
4 rewards credit cards to use for cruises
But, it gets better.
While cruising offers an excellent value proposition already, it’s possible to cover all or part of your cruise fare with a rewards credit card. The key to making this happen is picking the right card for cruises — preferably one with a huge sign-up bonus. Also note that both spouses can sign up for each of these cards to earn two sign-up bonuses good for your cruise.
If you’re considering a cruise but want to save more than you’re saving already, here are the cards you’ll want to consider:
One of the best rewards credit cards for cruises is the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard. Why? Because this card lets you book any type of travel you want, including cruises, then use your points to erase all or part of the purchase from your bill.
Currently, this card is offering 60,000 points worth $600 toward a cruise after you sign up and use your card for $5,000 in purchases within 90 days of account opening. You also earn 2x points for each dollar you spend with the card, and each point is worth one cent toward travel.
While this card does have an $89 annual fee, it is waived the first year. And while you do have to redeem at least 10,000 points ($100 in travel credit) at a time, you get 5% of your miles back each time you redeem!
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card works similarly to the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard in the fact you earn 2x points on every purchase and have the ability to redeem for travel, including cruises, at a rate of one cent per point. Currently, this card is offering 50,000 points worth $500 in travel when you spend $3,000 on purchases in three months.
There is a $95 annual fee, but it is waived the first year. As an added bonus, this card comes with a $100 credit toward Global Entry or TSA Precheck.
The Citi ThankYou Premier is another strong rewards offer that is ideal for cruises. The current offer on this card is 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within three months of account opening. You also earn 3x points on travel including gas, 2x points on dining out and entertainment, and 1x points on all other purchases.
On the redemption side, the Citi ThankYou travel portal allows you to use your points to book cruises directly. You can also redeem your points for Royal Caribbean gift cards at a rate of one cent per point (10,000 points for a $100 gift card).
Finally, don’t forget about the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
This dynamic rewards card offers 50,000 points worth $625 in travel after you spend $4,000 within three months of account opening. You also earn 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases. There is a $95 annual fee, but it is waived the first year.
Like the Citi travel portal, Chase Ultimate Rewards lets you use your points to book cruises they offer directly. You do typically need to call into Chase Ultimate Rewards to book your cruise, however.
In addition to booking a cruise directly, you can also redeem points for Carnival Cruise Lines at a rate of one cent per point.
The bottom line
If you are ready to try a different type of vacation where all the details are handled for you, a cruise might be exactly what you need. Once you decide on a ship and an itinerary, all you really need to do is show up and enjoy the ride.
Fortunately, several rewards cards make cruising even more affordable than it would be otherwise. With the right combination of cards, you could even cruise for free!
Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred from Insider Picks’ partner: The Points Guy.
Click here to learn more about the Citi ThankYou Premier from Insider Picks’ partner: The Points Guy.
Click here to learn more about the Capital One Venture Rewards from Insider Picks’ partner: The Points Guy.
* This content is not provided by card issuers. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed here are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the card issuer.
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