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When it comes to sailing the high seas, there are plenty of options for relaxation, adventure and fun in the sun. Whether you're looking for a party boat or a refined, small-ship experience, the cruise industry has something for you.
But these vacations can come with a hefty price tag, so it's no wonder that financially savvy travelers ask: Can miles or points be used for cruises?
What many may not realize is that it's possible to both earn and redeem points and miles on cruises. Here’s a quick look at the best ways to do just that.
Ways to earn or redeem points and miles on cruises
Research which of your existing loyalty rewards programs offer partnerships with cruise lines. If you're starting fresh (with no loyalties), you might consider strategically selecting a program — and applying for its co-branded credit card — to jumpstart your points and miles collection.
Airline cruise booking portals
Many major airlines have cruise booking platforms, which are online travel agencies that book cruises and award frequent flyer miles in the process. These include American Airlines Cruises, Delta SkyMiles Cruises, Spirit Cruises and United Cruises, among others.
Depending on the price of the cruise, you can earn miles for every dollar spent. For example, AAdvantage members earn 1 mile for every dollar they spend, up to 10,000 miles, with American Airlines Cruises.
With United Cruises, you can earn as many as 25,000 miles per cruise with a normal booking or up to 45,000 miles if you book with one of United’s co-branded credit cards, like the United℠ Explorer Card.
In addition, United Premier elite members are further incentivized to book cruises with the airline to get access to additional perks like complimentary drinks, spa credits and more.
Knowing how many air miles for a cruise will largely depend on the season, ship and length of the cruise; however, you can score a cruise vacation for as little as 22,000 miles. If you don’t have enough miles, you can sometimes use a mix of miles and cash to pay for a cruise.
Marriott Bonvoy's Cruise with Points
Hotel loyalty program Marriott Bonvoy has a cruise portal that also allows members to earn and redeem hotel points on cruises. In addition to the standard 3 points earned per dollar spent, Marriott Bonvoy credit card holders can earn an additional 2 points per dollar spent on cruises.
Members can redeem hotel points in increments to reduce the cost of a cruise. For example, you can take $500 off the total price by redeeming 125,000 points, allowing you to pay in part or in full for the cost of a cruise with points.
If you have more Marriott Bonvoy points than you know what to do with, this can be a solid option for an upcoming cruise.
» Learn more: The best ways to rack up Marriott Bonvoy points
Club Wyndham and Norwegian Cruise Line
A partnership between Club Wyndham, Wyndham's timeshare ownership program, and Norwegian Cruise Line means you can redeem Club Wyndham points for Norwegian cruise sailings.
A three-night Bahamas cruise can start as low as 248,000 points. Other options include Hawaii, the Mediterranean, Alaska and more sailings.
World of Hyatt and Lindblad Expeditions
If you have a nice stash of World of Hyatt points, this unique partnership allows you to redeem them for a Lindblad Expeditions adventure. This tour provider offers exciting trips to places like the Galapagos Islands and Antarctica.
If you're craving more World of Hyatt points, you can earn 5 points per dollar spent with Lindblad Expeditions.
On top of that, nights spent aboard a Lindblad vessel count toward World of Hyatt elite status. When booking through this partnership, World of Hyatt members also receive a $250 onboard credit per reservation.
Credit card points
Credit card programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards®, American Express Membership Rewards and Capital One Miles reward member spending with points for every dollar. These points can then be spent like cash to offset the cost of a trip, helping members purchase airfare, hotels, rental cars and cruises at a discount.
Using credit card points for a cruise or even the airfare portion of a cruise vacation is a smart way to get value.
There are often additional special offers that can add to the experience. For example, The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express have occasional discounts through the AmEx Offers program, such as a $200 travel credit applicable to cruise bookings before the end of the year.
The Cruise Privileges program provides additional discounts for American Express cardholders, such as earning double points on bookings made directly in the AmEx travel portal.
» Learn more: The beginner's guide to points and miles
Cruise credit cards
There are several co-branded cruise credit cards, like the Carnival World Mastercard, that offer points for everyday spending. While these offer exciting benefits for frequent cruisers, they may not be the most rewarding of credit cards for other travelers.
» Learn more: Which cruise credit card should you get?
Unless you have specific cruise plans in mind or like to cruise frequently, these are not credit card loyalty programs from a purely strategic perspective. These cards reward points in a single cruise program, making them less useful than cards with flexible points programs.
More flexible travel credit cards that earn points that can be redeemed for cruises and other travel (like airfare or hotel stays) include the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® or The Platinum Card® from American Express.
We recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card because Ultimate Rewards® points have outsize value. You’ll get a baseline value of 1.25 cents for every point with the Preferred card and 1.5 cents per point from the Reserve card. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® also offers a $300 travel credit, which can be used toward cruises.
If you want to use points and miles on cruises
Can frequent flyer miles be used for cruises? Yes. Is it the best value? It depends on what you have planned for your miles.
If you’re saving your points for a long business or first class flight, you will probably squeeze more value from them with that kind of redemption. If you typically use them for cheaper domestic flights, redeeming for a cruise can make more sense.
With a little advance planning, you can put your points and miles to work to enjoy a free or discounted cruise.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card