The Best Ways to Book a Cruise Using Points and Miles

Disney cruise ship

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You probably think of points and miles as a great way to book a flight or hotel room without spending a lot of money. While those are great ways to use your points, there are other types of travel you can book with points, too.

A cruise might not be something you think you can book with points or miles, but it can be done! In this post, I’ll walk you through all of the ways you can use your points and miles to book the cruise vacation of your dreams.

While there are no programs that offer a cruise line as a transfer partner, you can still use your points to book a cruise. The key is knowing which type of points you need and how to use them wisely.

As always, we’ve got you covered here at Upgraded Points — this guide will give you all the tools you need to book your next cruise with points.

Credit Cards That Use Points as Credit Statements

One of the easiest and best ways to use points to pay for your cruise is by using a “fare erasing” credit card — one that earns points or “miles” that can then be redeemed as a statement credit. These types of cards tend to be easy to use and a great option when you want to book something other than a flight or hotel.

Capital One Credit Cards

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

With the Venture Card, you’ll earn 2 “miles” per dollar spent on all purchases. Then you can use your miles to book any type of travel — including cruises.

Hot Tip: Don’t get confused — Capital One uses the term “miles,” but they actually function as points.

There are 2 ways to use your Capital One miles to book a cruise:

  1. You can try the “Purchase Eraser” feature. This allows you to use your miles towards reimbursement for any travel purchase made within the previous 90 days.
  2. If you would prefer not to pay for your cruise upfront, you can use your miles to purchase your cruise in the Capital One Travel Portal.

You’ll get 1 cent per mile in value when you book a cruise through either of these methods.

This card’s generous welcome bonus (see table below for current info) makes it a great option to help you start quickly accruing points for your cruise.

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

If you prefer a card with no annual fee, consider VentureOne. This card earns 1.25 miles per dollar spent, so it’s not as much of a powerhouse as Venture. The good news is that you can still take advantage of the Hotels.com bonus with this card — you’ll earn 10 miles for each dollar you spend on hotels through Hotels.com/venture.

Bottom Line: With Venture or VentureOne you’ll be able to use your miles to “erase” your cruise purchase or you can use your miles towards the price of a cruise in the Capital One Travel Portal.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard

This card is easy to use, so it’s a solid choice for beginners or anyone wanting lots of flexibility with their points!

With this card, you’ll earn 2x points for every single dollar you spend. There are no complicated earning structures or bonus categories to figure out. Plus, you’ll also get a 5% rebate on all the points you redeem and a nice welcome bonus (see table below) to get you started.

The points you earn are worth 1 cent each and can be redeemed for any type of travel including cruises. When you redeem your points they will show up as a statement credit that will “erase” any travel purchases you have made.

Discover it® Miles Card

While Discover cards aren’t one of the usual suspects in the world of travel rewards credit cards, the Discover Miles card can be helpful when you want to book a cruise. That’s because the miles you earn on this card can be used as a statement credit against any type of travel purchase.

This card shines for the first year but then fizzles out. While you’ll earn 1.5x miles on all purchases with this card, as part of the welcome bonus all of the miles you earn the first year will be doubled at the end of the year — that means you’re essentially earning 3x points on all purchases your first year of having this card. That’s a great deal for someone who doesn’t want to mess with bonus categories.

Those points can then be redeemed for 1 cent each as a statement credit for anything travel-related.

Bottom Line: You can earn 3x miles on all purchases on the Discover Miles card for the entire first year of having the card — then those miles can be redeemed as a statement credit towards your cruise.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

Chase Ultimate Rewards Points get a lot of hype when it comes to their great transfer partners.

There are so many ways to earn Ultimate Rewards points and they can be used for all types of redemptions which includes through the Chase Travel Portal, making this is a great option when you want to book a cruise.

The value you get for your points will depend on which credit card you have. Here’s a quick look:

Ultimate Rewards earning credit cardValue per point when used in the Chase Travel Portal
Chase Freedom® card1 cent
Chase Freedom Unlimited® card1 cent
Chase Sapphire Preferred® card1.25 cents
Chase Sapphire Reserve® card1.5 cents
Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card1 cent
Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card1.25 cents
Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card1 cent

As you can see having the Chase Sapphire Reserve gives you the most value for your Ultimate Rewards points.

Chase credit cards also have different rates of earning points — here are some of our favorites:

Recommended Chase Cards (Personal)

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card - This is our favorite beginners travel rewards card which has a 60,000 point bonus (highest ever) after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

This sign up bonus is worth $750 in travel purchases (flights, hotels, car rentals etc) when you redeem your points through Chase's travel portal, which works like Expedia. The bonus alone could get you multiple round-trip flights or hotel stays.
Chase Sapphire Reserve® - Consider this premium card if you want to get into a lot of airport lounges. The current sign up bonus is 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. You'll also get a $300 travel credit per year which wipes away a big chunk of the $450 annual fee.
Chase Freedom Unlimited® - A simple, no annual fee card that earns you a $150 bonus after you spend $500 in your first 3 months. Easy earning at 1.5% on all purchases. Just know that you won't get any travel benefits or the ability to earn bonus points with this card.

Recommended Chase Cards (Business)

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card - This is our #1 recommended business card and comes with a whopping 80,000 sign up bonus after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. This bonus is worth $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards for travel purchases (flights, hotels etc). Also, if you pay for your cell phone bill with this card, you can get up to $600 in cell phone insurance coverage per year.
Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card - earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. In addition, get up to 5% cash back on a range of business expenses such as office supply stores, internet, cable, and phone services. This is one of the best no annual fee business cards.

Once you have enough points, you can take a look at the cruises offered through the Chase Travel Portal. The good news is that you’ll find cruises from all the major cruise lines you would expect including Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Princess, Celebrity, and more.

chase travel portal
You’ll easily be able to see how much your points are worth before you call in to book your cruise. Image Credit: Chase

You’ll see the prices listed in dollars so you’ll also have to do the math to figure out how many points you will need. You’ll be able to see the total amount of credit you have at the top of the cruise portal screen.

Once you have selected your cruise, you’ll have to call 855-234-2542 to book as cruises can’t be booked online through Chase.

Bottom Line: Cruises can be booked using Ultimate Rewards points but you’ll have to call 855-234-2542 to make your reservation. The value you’ll get for your points is determined by which Chase credit card you have, with the Sapphire Reserve offering the most value for personal cards.

American Express Membership Rewards Points

American Express Membership Rewards are a popular type of point because they are easy to earn and have lots of great airline and hotel transfer partners.

You can also use Membership Rewards points through Amex Travel, a travel portal that acts like an online travel agency, but you can use your points to pay for your trip instead of cash.

The downside is that you’ll get less value for your points when you use them this way. Booking through Amex Travel will give you about 0.7 cents in value while transferring your points to hotel or airline partners can get you 2-4 or even more cents per point in value.

If you’re also interested in flights and hotels, your best bet will be to transfer your points. However, if a cruise is what you’re after, the lower value might be worth it if you’re getting to book the vacation of your dreams.

There are lots of great cards that earn Amex Membership Rewards — here are some of our favorites:

Recommended Amex Cards (Personal)

The Platinum Card® from American Express - There's currently a welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 3 months. This is our favorite card for getting into 1,200+ airport lounges worldwide (including Priority Pass) and we get about $2,700+ in value from the card every year.

Plus, get up to $200 in Uber credits annually ($15 per month and a $20 bonus in December) — and up to $200 in annual credit for airline incidental charges (e.g. baggage fees). For rates and fees of the Platinum Card, click here.
American Express® Gold Card - We love using this card as it earns 4x points at restaurants worldwide and 4x points at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x). There's no better card in our opinion if you eat out and/or shop at supermarkets regularly.

With a welcome bonus of 35,000 points after you spend $4,000 in your first 3 months and a $100 airfare credit per year, for many this is an easy addition to your wallet. For rates and fees of the Gold Card, click here.

Recommended Amex Cards (Business)

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express - Right now, there's a welcome bonus of up to 75,000 points. Earn 50,000 points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 after you spend an additional $10,000, on purchases within the first 3 months.

We get ~$5,525+ in value per year by leveraging many of the benefits & perks.

This is the best business card for lounge access as you'll get into 1,200+ airport lounges worldwide. For rates and fees of the Business Platinum, click here.
American Express® Business Gold Card - probably our favorite Amex business card because we earn 4x points across the top 2 select categories that we spend the most money in each month. The 4x points applies to the first $150,000 in combined purchases from these 2 categories each calendar year. This means you'll max out at a (whopping) 600,000 points per year. After that, you earn 1x. For rates and fees of the Business Gold Card, click here.
The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express - This is a simple card that earns you 2x points on any business purchase, up to $50,000 annually (then 1x). That makes for an easy 100,000 points per year! The card has no annual fee. For rates and fees of the Blue Business Plus, click here.

How to Book a Cruise With American Express Membership Rewards Points

  1. To book a cruise using your Membership Rewards Points, just search for your cruise on Amex Travel as you normally would.
  2. After you select the cruise you want to book, you’ll see the cruise summary page. Click on the small calculator underneath your fare summary.

    American Express pay with points
    Image Credit: American Express
  3. That will bring up a pop-up where you can select how much of your cruise you want to pay for in points. You can pay for the entire cruise if you have enough points or just a portion of the cruise.

    Amex Pay with Points
    Image Credit: American Express
  4. You may notice that your total cost still shows in dollars. That’s because the full cost of the trip will be charged to the credit card that’s linked to your account. Then you’ll see a credit based on the amount of Membership Rewards points you chose to apply towards your cruise.

Bottom Line: You can book a cruise through Amex Travel online or by calling 866-669-4423. You’ll be able to pay for your entire cruise with Membership Rewards points or you can choose to pay for only a portion with points (a great option if you don’t quite have enough!).  You’ll get about 0.7 cents per point in value when booking a cruise through Amex Travel.

Amex Cruise Privileges Program

As an American Express cardholder, you’re eligible for some extra perks when you book a cruise.

When you search for a cruise, keep an eye out for the Special Offers tab that will be next to your search results. This tab will list the current deals offered to Amex credit cardholders. Perks can include things like onboard credit or pre-paid gratuities.

Amex Travel Cruise Specials
Look out for Special Offers when searching for a cruise through Amex Travel. Image Credit: American Express

Cruise Privileges for Platinum Members

As a member of The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, you’re eligible for exclusive benefits when you book a cruise through Amex Travel.

On eligible cruises of 5 nights or more, you’ll receive a shipboard credit of $100-$300 per stateroom (based on cabin type and cruise line) plus an additional exclusive amenity based on your cruise line.

Here are the extra amenities you can expect to receive from each cruise line (please keep in mind these are subject to change at any time):

  • AMA Waterways: $100 spa voucher per stateroom.
  • Azamara: Behind the scenes ship tour and a bottle of premium champagne.
  • Celebrity Cruises: Bottle of champagne or wine.
  • Crystal Cruises: $200 shore excursion credit per stateroom.
  • Cunard: Bottle of wine.
  • Holland America Line: Plate of chocolate-covered strawberries.
  • Norwegian Cruise Line: Complimentary dinner for 2 at Le Bistro Restaurant.
  • Oceania Cruises: Premium wine tasting event and a bottle of wine of your choice from the tasting menu.
  • Princess Cruises: Plate of canapés.
  • Regent Seven Seas Cruises: Exclusive private galley tour.
  • Royal Caribbean: Bottle of premium champagne or wine.
  • Seabourn: Exclusive “suite dreams” turndown service which includes one glass of wine per person and a bowl of strawberries with white chocolate mousse (once per cruise) plus a bottle of wine.
  • Silversea: Bottle of Dom Perignon (or similarly valued champagne) per suite plus an exclusive tour of the ship’s galley.
  • Uniworld Boutique River Cruises: Bottle of champagne and a box of chocolates.
  • Windstar Cruises: Canapés, a bottle of champagne, and chocolate-covered strawberries.

To redeem these benefits, book online with your Amex Platinum or call the Platinum Travel Service at 800-525-3355.

Hot Tip: If you need a few more points for your redemption, check out these ways to earn more American Express Membership Rewards points.

Citi ThankYou Points

Citi ThankYou Points are another option when you want to book a cruise with points. Just as with Chase and American Express, you can use your ThankYou points in Citi’s travel portal to book your cruise. The value you’ll get probably isn’t as great as you would get by using one of Citi’s transfer partners, but if a cruise is what you want, it may be a good option to explore.

You’ll get 1 cent per point in value when redeeming ThankYou points in the Citi Travel Portal and unsurprisingly, there are many ways to earn lots of ThankYou Points:

Cruise Credit Cards

If you are interested in booking a cruise, you might be tempted to check out a co-branded cruise line credit card. These are generally not the best value — even for booking a cruise. But, if you’re still interested, we’ll give you a quick taste of what you can expect.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the credit cards offered by cruise lines:

Carnival® World Mastercard®

This card comes with a welcome bonus of 20,000 FunPoints which is worth $200 towards a cruise purchase. You’ll earn 2x points on any Carnival Cruise purchases and 1x points on all other purchases. You can redeem your FunPoints for 1 cent per point towards Carnival cruises, including onboard charges. Unfortunately, this card’s points are tied to Carnival and no other cruise perks are offered.

Royal Caribbean Visa Signature® Card

This card comes with a measly 10,000 point welcome bonus which is worth $100 in ship credit on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, or Azamara Club cruises. You’ll earn 2x points on Royal Caribbean and sister brand ships and 1x point per dollar spent on everything else.

The Royal Caribbean MyCruise® Points program is complicated — they’ve got a list of specific redemptions with very specific requirements. If you’re looking for a straightforward, easy way to pay for your cruise with points, this isn’t the program for you.

Princess Cruises Rewards Visa Card

This card is another lackluster cruise line credit card. The welcome bonus is 10,000 Princess Points which is worth $100 as a statement credit towards a Princess Cruises purchase. You’ll earn 2x points on Princess Cruise Line purchases and 1x points on all other purchases.

princess cruise lines credit card
Generally, a cruise line credit card is NOT the best option when you want to use points to book a cruise vacation. Image Credit: Princess Cruise Lines

Norwegian Cruise Line World Mastercard

With the Norwegian Cruise Line® World Mastercard® you’ll earn 3 WorldPoints for every dollar you spend on Norwegian Cruise Line purchases and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. This card also comes with a 10,000 point bonus offer which is worth $100 towards upgrades, discounts, onboard credits, and more.

Celebrity Cruises Visa Signature Card

This is a standard cruise line card, offering a welcome bonus worth $100 in onboard credit. This card earns 2x points on Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruises, and Azamara Club Cruises. You can redeem your points for onboard credits or cruise vacations.

Disney® Premier Visa® Card

While the Disney® Premier Visa® Card isn’t specifically a cruise card, the points you earn can be applied to Disney Cruises. This card comes with a decent welcome bonus worth $250 and even offers bonus categories for points:

You can use your Disney Rewards Dollars toward Disney Cruise Line packages and onboard charges.

Bottom Line: If you are looking to book a cruise with points and miles, surprisingly, a cruise line credit card isn’t your best option! These cards don’t offer very lucrative welcome bonuses or earnings categories. Plus, they don’t give you much flexibility with your points. In most situations, you’ll be better off with a credit card that lets you use your points as a statement credit or a card that earns flexible points.

Marriott Bonvoy Points

You may be surprised to know that you can use your Marriott Bonvoy points to book a cruise! While many people might think of Marriott points as a hotel point, they are actually transferrable and very flexible — they can be used for hotels, flights, Hotel + Air packages, and even cruises!

Marriott partners with Cruise With Points to allow you to use your Marriott Bonvoy points towards a cruise vacation (or you can choose to earn Marriott points on cruises that you pay for).

How to Book a Cruise Using Marriott Bonvoy Points

  1. To book a cruise using Marriott Bonvoy points, first head to the Marriott cruise portal. You can click here or go to Marriott.com and click on About Marriott Bonvoy>Redeem Points>Travel>Get On Board.

    Image Credit: Marriott
  2. Next, click on Redeem Points at the bottom of the screen.
  3. Here you’ll be able to search for an available cruise. Once you find a cruise, you’ll need to call 800-596-0452 Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. EST to make your reservation.

You can redeem your points for a certificate to apply towards your cruise.

Number of Marriott PointsDiscount Certificate Awarded
63,000$250
125,000$500
250,000$1,000
625,000$2,500
1,250,000$5,000
Varies based on priceFree cruise

While it’s great to have this option, unless a cruise is the only way you want to travel it’s not the best use of your Marriott points — you’ll only get 0.4 cents per point in value when booking a cruise. Marriott points are generally worth about 0.7 cents each so you are missing out on some value.

Bottom Line: You can use your Marriott Bonvoy points to book a cruise or get a discount off of a cruise by calling 800-596-0452 Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. EST. You will get 0.4 cents value per point when using Marriott points this way.

United MileagePlus Miles

Did you know that you can book all or part of a cruise using United MileagePlus Miles? You can also choose to pay for your cruise and earn United Miles on the cost of your stateroom!

As with most options for booking a cruise, using United miles isn’t the best option as far as value is concerned — you’ll get about 0.8 cents per mile when booking a cruise. United miles are generally valued at right around 1.6 cents per mile so you’re getting about half the value you could get if you used your miles for a flight.

But if you’re flush with United miles and just want to go on a cruise, it might be an option to consider.

How to Use United MileagePlus Miles to Book a Cruise

  1. Click here to get started or go to United.com and click on MileagePlus>Use Miles>Cruise Awards.
  2. Search for a cruise as you would on any other online travel agency.
  3. You’ll see that the prices will be listed in United miles instead of dollars. The price will be shown in total and per night just as it would if it were listed in dollars.

    united miles for cruises
    Image Credit: United
  4. Once you select your cruise, you’ll be prompted to log in to your United account.
  5. During checkout, you’ll be able to see the price breakdown in miles just as you would with dollars. You’ll even be able to purchase a travel protection plan with miles! Unfortunately, you’ll also be charged a service fee in miles, too.

    United Cruises
    You can use your United Miles to book a cruise! Image Credit: United
  6. Next, scroll down until you see a slider where you can choose how many points you want to redeem. You’ll be able to pay for all of your cruise (if you have enough miles) or part of your cruise with your United miles.

    United mileage slider for cruises
    You are in control of how many United miles you wan to apply to your cruise. Image Credit: United

Hot Tip: You can expect to get about 0.8 cents per mile in value when booking a cruise with United miles.

Other Cruise Perks, Discounts, and Bonuses

Here are a few other ways to get the most out of your next cruise.

MGM M Life Benefit

MGM M Life Platinum and Noir members receive a free cruise on Royal Caribbean or Celebrity Cruises each year. You can status match from World of Hyatt to M Life, but unfortunately, you won’t be able to get either Platinum or Noir status through a match.

Amex Offers

Amex Offers are a great perk of having an American Express credit card. Keep an eye out for offers on cruises — you may be able to get an additional discount or bonus Membership Rewards points. These offers can be stacked with any other discount or bonuses! You can always pay for part of your cruise with your credit card to get the bonus, then use points for the rest.

Amex Offers on Cruises
Keep an eye out for cruise deals in your Amex Offers. Image Credit: American Express

Earn Tons of Points When Booking a Cruise

If you decide you would rather pay for your cruise and save your points for a better redemption, be sure to set yourself up to earn the most points on your next cruise.

SkyMiles Cruises: When you book your cruise through Delta you can earn up to 30,000 Delta SkyMiles when you book a balcony or suite stateroom.

United Cruises: You can earn up to 100,000 bonus United MileagePlus miles when you book select cruises through United. Most cruises offer the chance to earn up to 25,000 miles, but United MileagePlus credit cardmembers can earn up to 45,000 bonus miles per cruise.

American Airlines Cruises: Earn up to 100,000 bonus American Airlines miles on select cruises when you book through American. However, most cruises earn 1-2 bonus miles per dollar (capped at 10,000 bonus miles or 20,000 bonus miles if you are an American Airlines credit cardmember).

Marriott Cruises: You can earn up to 30,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points (3 points per dollar spent) when you book a cruise through Marriott.

Hot Tip: If you’ve booked your trip and it’s time to start prepping, check out our Ultimate Cruise Packing List (it’s printable)!

Final Thoughts

While booking a cruise with points and miles might not be as straightforward as booking a hotel or flight, it can be done! There are lots of options to pay for your entire cruise with points or to use points to get a substantial discount.

Keep in mind, with most of these methods, the value you are going to get for your points is less than what it could be if you were using them in a more traditional way (for flights or hotels). But, if a cruise is what you want and your points can help get you there, then it’s a good redemption for YOU! Happy sailing!


FAQ

Can I use points for a cruise?

Yes! While it’s not as good of a value as using points for a flight or hotel, you can use your points for cruises. Look for cards that earn points or “miles” that act as a statement credit for travel purchases. Check out programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards and use these types of points in their travel portals for cruises. You can also use Marriott Bonvoy points and United Airlines miles to book cruises.

Can I use airline miles for a cruise?

Yes, you can use United MileagePlus airline miles towards a cruise. You can no longer use American Airlines Miles, Southwest Rapid Rewards points, or Delta SkyMiles for a cruise.

Can I book a cruise with Hilton points?

No, you can no longer book a cruise with Hilton Honors points. The only hotel points you can use to book a cruise are Marriott points.

Katie Seemann

About Katie Seemann

Katie is an Ohio native who caught the travel bug after spending a semester in college in Nottingham, England. In addition to exploring England, she visited Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands during that time and loved every minute of it (everything except the hostel in Scotland – that’s an experience she doesn’t intend on repeating!) In 2015, Katie discovered the world of points and miles, and since then she’s earned countless points and has an embarrassingly large number of credit cards in her wallet (which she needs a spreadsheet to keep track of!)

Disclaimer: Any comments listed below are not from the bank advertiser, nor have they been reviewed or approved by them. No responsibility will be taken by the bank advertiser for these comments.

2 comments

  1. Off topic. But can you use the capital one miles to erase purchases of tickets to theme parks?

    • Katie Seemann · October 9, 2019 · Reply

      Hi Lisa,
      Generally, no, theme park tickets don’t count as travel and therefore can’t be erased with Capital One Miles. The exception is when you purchase your tickets through a travel agency (the charge would need to be through the agency, not through Disney) There are 1 or 2 online travel agencies that you can purchase your tickets through that will code as travel. Good luck!

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