The cruises were the last to return to service since travels were discontinued in 2020. They are just starting up again and my goodness, there are some great deals out there right now. But you have to know how to find them.
This first article on cruises explores the possibilities of using our points and credit card miles to cover or lessen the cost of this travel modality. In addition, we have focused on popular and, let’s face it, more affordable airlines and destinations. We regretfully leave the excursions with the National Geographic or Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection Cruise ships for the moment.
How and where to start?
The first three months of the year are said to be the time when the best offers are available from all cruise lines. And this is for trips taking place in the next twelve months or even two years in advance.
Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Boxing Day and Labor Day are also days when you can find good promotions. For example, 60% off the rate for the 2nd occupant, 80% off the 3rd, plus a $300 credit. Sign up for the cruise newsletters. You will be kept informed of promotions.
Norwegian Cruise Line is particularly well known on these days for its 30% discount and the choice of 2 out of 5 bonuses worth nearly $3,000 US:
- open bar,
- à la carte restaurants,
- free or substantial discounts for children on some boats,
These days are to be monitored as long as you have done the preliminary work, i.e. defining your objectives.
What are you looking for? A Disney-themed getaway? A boat with a kid’s club? A funny cruise? The cheapest cabin possible? Frédéric, an expert member of our community, first chooses the cruise line and itinerary and then waits for the discounts.
I present you some platforms for booking cruises and their modalities. So that we can decide whether or not to invest our points and credit card miles.
1. Les Croisiéristes
It is possible to book directly with the cruise lines and then apply your reward points to the expense. If you plan on flying the same company a few times in the future, you should know thatthey all have their own loyalty program that gives benefits for each new booking.
From the second or third booking, an agent, as is the case with Holland America, is assigned to your file and will work for you. Interestingly, unlike hotel status, cruise ship status is acquired for life.
2. Canadian travel agencies and advisors
In addition to their expertise, accredited consultants, for example for Disney, can save us unnecessary expenses. We would also be surprised at the bonuses that agents have access to, such as credits to spend on board or cabin upgrades. Ask for a quote.
3. The online sites
Different websites can help you to book your cruise:
- The American site cruisecompete.com uses its member agencies when you request a quote. With free registration, you will receive quotes that you can compare. No fees to pay. It is the American travel agency that you choose among those proposed that will pay a commission to the site if it sells you the trip. You are not required to make a reservation once you receive your quotes. I picked up an interesting one for a 5 day cruise on the Disney Dream ship during Spring Break 2023 at $2,190 USD / 2 people for an ocean view cabin.
- Costco travel is not to be overlooked. They sometimes offer discounts – which in the past were given back to you in Costco gift cards. The same 5-day cruise on the Disney Dream ship in 2023 is advertised at $2,894.66 USD for 2 people in an outside cabin.
The AIR MILES loyalty program, enhanced by its affiliated credit cards, offers in collaboration with redtag.ca, the possibility of using our DREAM miles for cruise reservations. Just go to the member page and under the travel tab, choose Cruises. The exchange ratio is 909 miles per $100.
So if you have 8,000 dream miles, you can apply $880 to the price of your cruise. Plus, you earn miles on the cash portion.
There are many possibilities for cruising at Redtag. Generally, port fees are included in the price but taxes and other fees are not. The AIR MILES cruise interface is well designed with filters that highlight opportunities:
- drinks and Wi-Fi included,
- Prepaid tips,
- special for Canadians etc.
In short, there are small prices for 2-3 day cruises that retail for less than $300 in an inside cabin (a loss leader with no onboard credit) and 35-day transatlantic sailings for over $12,000. For more information and to make a reservation call 1-866-973-3824. However, opening hours are not always respected.
Of course, in most cases, you’ll have to go further south first to catch your boat. The three Florida ports of Cape Canaveral, Miami and Fort Lauderdale have hundreds of departures per week. Be sure to arrive the day before and take advantage of a nearby Marriott hotel because if the plane is delayed, the ship will not wait for you.
Flights with Aeroplan, Avios, Membership Rewards points? Departure from an American airport? Use of the car ? In short, it remains an expense to add to the budget.
AIR MILES: Credit Cards
Two people in a couple who would like to collect 20,000 AIR MILES miles over a 2-year period (to save $2,200 on a cruise) could opt for the following cards:
Air Canada and Aeroplan vacations: flight + cruise
It is possible to book a cruise with our Aeroplan points, with or without flights. The ratio is 1:1 via the purchase of gift cards. There is no limit to the number of gift cards you can use.
You must contact the Reservations Department at 1-866-529-2079 as Disney has recently begun not posting its prices and conditions on third party sites. Points are also accumulated on the flight portion, but only one person can accumulate points on the cruise portion paid in cash.
We return to our 5-day cruise on the Disney Dream ship from February 27 – March 4, 2023. I asked for a quote for an adult and a child of 12 years old; outside cabin, therefore with porthole.
After a call to Disney, the Air Canada Vacations agent informed me of the cost: $2,964.66 USD / 2 people. That’s nearly 300,000 Aeroplan points. Since it’s Marvel week at Disney, all onboard activities are included as well as a private island stopover with food and beverages. Only specialty cafes, alcohol and certain activities on the island such as jet skis remain charged.
The flight portion can also be paid for with Aeroplan points. The flight is refundable 24 hours in advance and one checked bag per person is allowed.
Aeroplan: Credit Cards
Here is a selection of Aeroplan credit cards to earn points for your cruise:
Marriott Bonvoy : Cruise with points
If we are used to using our points in the various Marriott Bonvoy hotels and by the same token calculating their value according to a certain scale, Cruise with points Marriott takes us elsewhere. This service opens up the world of cruises where points can be used to compensate for cash that would otherwise be used.
The exchange rate is this:
- 63,000 points = US$250
- 125,000 points = US$500
- 250,000 points = $1000 USD
- 625,000 points = US$2,500
- 1,250,000 points = US$5,000
- As many as required = one free cruise.
Some will see it as a heresy because the point is worth 0.4 US cents here, whereas in hotels the value is much higher (usually double). Again, it is up to each person to judge what they want to do with their points. One person’s reality is not another’s.
This conversion of points is converted into a certificate. We top up the amount to be paid in USD with our credit card as needed, with no conversion fees, or take advantage of promotions with our Canadian Marriott BonvoyTM American ExpressMD* Card.
We’re back to our 5-day cruise on the Disney Dream ship during Spring Break 2023. It is advertised at $3,000 USD for 2 people in an outside cabin. We are talking about 750,000 points. It remains to compare with the above examples, if there are credits on board included in the price.
At the time of writing this article in mid-April 2022, a promotion if we use our Canadian Marriott BonvoyTM American ExpressMD* Card, grants us for this cruise 3 basis points per USD dollar in addition to the two we are usually given. This will help amortize the 2.5% conversion fee.
It’s up to you to decide whether or not you want to use a credit card that doesn’t charge a conversion fee and apply your Marriott points to your cruise.
Other benefits at Cruise with points Marriott:
- wide choice of cruise lines and products offered: all major companies are represented
- 110% guaranteed price policy
- 75% discount on certain cruises compared to the prices advertised in the brochures (which are sometimes inflated, let’s face it)
- one-time bonuses such as cabin upgrades (please note that our hotel status is not recognized on the ships)
- more than 4,500 personalized excursions during stopovers
Marriott Bonvoy: credit cards
Here is a selection of credit cards to earn Marriott Bonvoy points for your cruise:
The travel points of our financial institutions
1. National Bank Rewards Points
National Bank’s À la carte Rewards program allows you to book a cruise with travel points in two ways.
NBC ‘s “a la carte” travel agency offers a ratio of 10,000 points to $100.
You can of course top up your purchase with cash if you don’t have enough points. You will accumulate some on this cash top-up.
It is also possible to apply your points as a credit to the account if you find a deal elsewhere than on the National Bank platform. For example, you can use your points on the cost of a cruise found at a lower price through a Disney agent and paid for with your credit card. But the trading ratio is less: 11,000 points per $100.
Check out this article that explains how to apply your National Bank points to travel. And take note of the various current offers of this banking institution. You may be able to collect additional points that can be applied to reduce the price of your cruise.
NBC : credit cards
Here is a selection of NBC credit cards for your cruise:
2. TD Rewards Points
TD’s travel platform is called Expedia for TD. There are various products including cruises. The most cost-effective way to use TD Rewards points is by booking travel directly on this site. One point is worth 0.5 cent.
TD Rewards points can also be applied as a credit to the account if you book your cruise elsewhere. The value of the point will then be slightly lower.
Find out about current offers at TD. Many of the bank’s credit cards allow for the accumulation of points that could lower the cost of your cruise.
Cruises save vacationers time spent on travel. No traffic, no parking to be found. It is the boat that moves for us. Moreover, it is interesting to be able to unpack.Aline
TD: Credit Cards
Here is a selection of TD credit cards for your cruise:
3. HSBC points
HSBC can be reached at 1-855- 235-1030. This will take you to the website operated by Red Label Vacations Inc. which does business as Travel Brands and is not part of the HSBC Group.
But the easiest and best way to use the HSBC Rewards program is by booking travel with your credit card and applying points to the expense. This way: 10,000 points = $50
However, please note: redemption will be by ladder, with a minimum of 25,000 points ($125), and in 10,000 point increments thereafter (25,000 – 35,000 – 45,000).
The HSBC World Elite® Mastercard® is one of the best for saving on conversion fees. This represents a 2.5% value on your cruise excursion purchases as they are charged in USD money. And that’s not counting the 3% return on purchases categorized as travel.
Finally, after paying for your cruise, simply apply HSBC Rewards Points to the purchase to receive an account credit: 100,000 points = $500
HSBC: credit cards
Here is a selection of HSBC credit cards for your cruise:
4. BMO Points
BMO Rewards points can be used for various types of travel, including cruises. The value of your BMO Rewards points will be :
15,000 points = $100 (i.e. 0.67¢/point). It is a fixed value.
Of course, you can supplement your travel purchases with points and cash.
Don’t forget to use BMO Rewards’ Best Price Guarantee policy if necessary. Be aware that the company will guarantee the best price for most travel suppliers but are Canadian.
BMO: Credit Cards
Here is a selection of BMO credit cards for your cruise:
5. CIBC Aventura
CIBC Points can be used to purchase an airline ticket to the cruise.
These tickets must be in Economy class. Taxes are added, payable in cash or by redeeming 100 Aventura Points for $1.
CIBC: Credit Cards
Here is a selection of CIBC credit cards for your cruise:
6. MBNA Rewards
The best way touse MBNA Rewards points is to apply them to carded travel purchases such as cruises:
10,000 points = $100.00 or a value of 1.0 cent per point.
There is one credit card that belongs to the MBNA Rewards program: the MastercardMD Platinum PlusMD MBNA Rewards Credit Card.
MBNA: Credit Cards
Here is a selection of MBNA credit cards for your cruise:
7. Scotia Scene+
The most lucrative way to use Scotia Scene+ points is to apply them to your travel purchases (hotel, air, Airbnb, VRBO, cruises, etc.): 10,000 points = $100 or 1.0 cent per point.
Scotia: Credit Cards
Here is a selection of Scotia credit cards for your cruise:
8. American Express Membership Rewards points
These points are for American Express credit cards.
Everyone agrees: the American Express CobaltTM Card is one of the best credit cards in Canada for fast point accumulation.
Indeed, the main attraction of this card is that it gives 5X points on everything categorized as restaurants, food deliveries and groceries. These Membership Rewards points are equivalent to a 5% return.
Then, once used, the reward points appear as a credit to the account on the credit card statement: 30,000 Membership Rewards points = $300.
It is therefore possible to use these rewards points to cover the costs of the cruise.
American Express: Credit Cards
Here is a selection of American Express Membership Rewards credit cards for your cruise:
9. Cash back credit cards
All the cash back credit cards are excellent for saving on a cruise. Cash backs are ideal for people who don’t want to book through the banking institutions’ booking platforms. However, you have to be disciplined and put those savings aside for the cruise.
Cash Back: Credit Cards
A word about the MV Bella Desgagnés
In closing, I would like to introduce you to my favorite Quebec cruise: the M/V Bella Desgagnés.
It is a cargo ship whose primary mission is to serve the communities living between Rimouski and Blanc-Sablon by delivering goods by sea. But the story doesn’t end there, because the Bella Desgagnés allows tourists like us to come aboard and discover the landscapes of the otherwise difficult-to-access lower North Shore. We take excursions, visit interpretation centers and enjoy guided tours during stopovers.
A cargo-passenger vessel that can accommodate 381 clients, 160 of which are in the cabin, since some residents of the region do not require sleeping accommodations. Then there are 39 crew members.
To give you an idea of the price: in high season, it varies for a 7-day cruise departing from Rimouski, between $1,832 and $2,342 CAD for 16-65 years old. For the youngest and oldest, it costs between $1,522 and $2,040.
There is also the option of a five-day trip from Sept-Îles. You will deduct approximately $300 per person from the above prices. The cabins are simple but beautiful (check out the pictures). They all have a porthole, a shower and a television. The cafeteria and dining room have a very acceptable menu and are open from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm. And for those who pay for the select cabins, there is a VIP lounge.
In short, who is tempted by Tête-à-la-Baleine, Harrington Harbour and La Tabatière?
Other benefits of credit cards for cruise vacations
Access to the lounges before leaving
Many credit cards offer complimentary or paid access to airport lounges to get your cruise off to a more comfortable start.
Many credit cards offer comprehensive travel insurance. Check to see if you need to buy another one. Your information booklet that came with the credit card contains all the information on the subject.
A cruise trip requires research, comparison and preparation. Several products on the market but also several angles to check. We will discuss them in a second article.
Finally, when we equip ourselves with the best credit cards based on our consumption habits, and the programs that suit us, it is possible to accumulate points to pay for a cruise. We’ve walked the main avenues for you to get there.
Define your goal and the type of cruise you want and then move on to the game plan with your credit card points. Don’t forget to watch for promotions from both cruise lines and credit card issuers.
I would like to thank Aline, Frédéric and Jean-Francois, expert members of Milesopedia and frequent travelers, for accepting to advise me on this issue.