I never thought I would be excited about cruises, but it turns out that learning how to cruise for free (well, almost free) has piqued my interest. After two weeks on cruise ships this year, I’ve already got a couple more cruises booked for next year. The fun part is that I’m paying next to nothing for these cruises — and you can do that, too.
I’ve previously written about my experience with the Carnival Fun Match and about the Royal Caribbean match, but this post will lay out the steps for how to get “free” cruises with both of those cruise lines (and you may even be able to find other offers). I put “free” in quotation marks because, just like when you book a “free” award ticket, you’ll still be on the hook for taxes and some fees (like gratuities), but just like when you book an award ticket, the value can be very outsized.
My “free” cruises this year
So far this year, I cruised on the Carnival Pride in a balcony room for 10 days, sailing from Rome, Italy to Santorini, Greece; Kusadasi, Turkey (Ephesus); Athens, Greece; Katakolon, Greece (Olympia); Messina, Sicily (Italy); and Naples, Italy before returning to Rome. We were also scheduled to visit Mykonos, Greece, but we were unable to dock there due to high winds (we got an extra day at sea).
With taxes and fees, we would have paid a net cost of $470 and gotten the balcony room and $200 onboard credit if we were just two passengers. More detail on total cost with a family (as well as ways we cut cost further) later in this post. While this cruise wasn’t the epitome of high-end experiences that you can access with miles and points, the port stops and the convenience, particularly when traveling with a family, have turned me from someone who hates boats and had zero interest in cruises into someone ready to go on another “free” cruise at the next opportunity.
At the end of November, I boarded the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas for four nights in a balcony room, stopping at Nassau, Bahamas and Royal Caribbean’s private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay. This cruise ran about $400 in taxes for the four of us plus about $250 in gratuities and a small upgrade charge — but the ship itself was better. I left the boat wishing I had a few more days on board, which is something I never would have imagined before this year.
Next year, I have a Western Caribbean cruise booked and I’m working on making a decision on something more exciting — all for basically the cost of port taxes and gratuities.
How to cruise for free with Carnival (almost)
Last fall, I wrote about Carnival’s “Fun Match” opportunity whereby it is possible to get a deeply discounted cruise. If you match from the right program, you’ll end up with a balcony room for two with $200 in onboard credit for $100 per passenger plus port taxes (and it may get even better). Even if you don’t want to cruise with Carnival (but you do want to cruise with some other line), you should consider this match as it makes for a good comparison offer to get other matches.
To summarize, Carnival will “match” your land-based casino status by offering you a “free” Carnival cruise (if you don’t yet have land-based casino elite status, keep reading). They may not offer you a free cruise immediately, but lots of data points indicate that people are still signing up and receiving free cruise offers. The key is to be patient and play your cards right. Note that some people do not receive the free cruise offers. Lots of us have gotten them, but a small percentage of folks report never receiving the emails. I don’t know why. Keep in mind that I can’t guarantee who will match what, but the blueprint below is based on enough data points for me to be reasonably confident that most people will get the deal.
Speaking of cards, the nice thing for credit card enthusiasts is that having the Wyndham Earner Business card gives you Wyndham Diamond status. If you sign up for a Caesars Rewards account, you can connect your Wyndham and Caesars accounts and match your Wyndham Diamond to Caesars Diamond. You can then submit a digital image of your Caesars Diamond card to Carnival and you’ll likely end up with a free cruise offer. Note that in the past, you had to visit a physical Caesars location to become a member, but these days you can sign up online.
Alternatively, if you have an MGM Rewards account and you have Hyatt Explorist or better, you can match your Hyatt status to MGM Gold. We have had recent positive data points of MGM Gold members eventually receiving a free balcony room offer from Carnival.
Note that many who have executed this strategy have received a free interior room offer initially, but almost all report getting a free balcony offer within a week or so after receiving the free interior room offer (and if you don’t book it right away, it seems that the emails keep coming once a month for about a year).
Here are the steps in summary:
Wyndham / Caesars Path to a free Carnival Cruise offer
- Get the Wyndham Earner Business card (get Wyndham Diamond status)
- Create a Caesars Rewards account if you don’t have one
- Connect your Wyndham account with your Caesars account and match Wyndham Diamond to Caesars Diamond
- Submit proof of your Caesars Diamond status to Carnival through their Fun Match Program (if you have status with other casino programs, you can submit multiple). My wife just used the Caesars Rewards app on her phone to take a screen shot of her Caesars card and submitted the same photo for “front” and “back” and that worked.
- Wait for the free cruise offers to come via email (typically within a few days). If you receive a free interior room offer, wait — you’ll likely receive a free balcony offer eventually.
Again, you can see the original post for more detail. It’s also worth reading the comments for plenty of other good info. Be patient. Sometimes free cruise offers come in a few days, sometimes in a few weeks.
Hyatt / MGM Path to a free Carnival Cruise offer
- Get Hyatt Explorist status. This could be through nights (30 elite nights in a calendar year) or it may work if you do a match from American Airlines elite status (I don’t know for sure that you can match to MGM Gold if your Hyatt status comes via match).
- Sign up for an MGM Rewards account if you don’t already have one.
- Match Hyatt Explorist (or better) status to MGM Gold.
- Submit proof of your MGM Gold status to Carnival through their Fun Match Program (if you have status with other casino programs, you can submit multiple). You should be able to get a screen shot of your MGM Gold card in your MGM account or via the MGM app.
- Wait for the free cruise offers to come via email (typically within a few days). If you receive a free interior room offer, wait — you’ll likely receive a free balcony offer eventually.
Again, you can see the original post for more detail. It’s also worth reading the comments for plenty of other good info.
Tips regarding the Carnival free cruise offers
The tips in this section are solely based on my experience. Your experience could be different.
- When we got the first “free balcony room offer”, it said that we had to book by a specific date. If you read the old post, you’ll know that in the very beginning my wife and I each booked the offers. However, we later canceled those bookings. We started getting the balcony offer again soon after cancelling. We didn’t rebook that balcony offer at first because we weren’t ready, and about a week after the first offer expired, we received a new “free balcony” offer with a new expiration date. I eventually booked one in my account, but that monthly offer pattern repeated for my wife until a full year had passed since the original match before Carnival stopped sending her offers. Unfortunately, they stopped sending the offers around the time we were ready to book. Whoops!
- I think that even after I booked the balcony room the link to book a free interior room may have still worked. I didn’t try it because I didn’t want an interior room, but I wonder if I could have gotten another cruise out of the deal if I wanted. I don’t know.
- Availability really ebbs and flows. For example, we had booked our European cruise when we first matched in fall of 2021. We later canceled it. When we decided that we wanted to rebook, balcony rooms weren’t available. I kept checking and checking (sometimes once a week, sometimes every couple of days, etc) and eventually a balcony room opened up. Later, I only saw interior rooms. I saw a similar pattern on some other cruises where it changed over time. If the cruise you want isn’t available right away, it might be worth waiting a month or two (or more).
- The Carnival offer was easily bookable online. There’s no need to call and there was no need to “check in” with a casino host or anything. It was very simple. When I asked about the casino FreePlay, the attendant in the casino found my name on a list and pulled $200 out of the drawer for me, but if I hadn’t asked I never would have known. While Carnival surely expects you to gamble, there is no pressure (and on an itinerary like mine, casino time was pretty limited since we spent a lot of time in port).
- You can find reviews and often YouTube videos for most ships and cabin types. It’s worth taking a look. At one point, the only rooms on one of the Carnival Pride (the ship we took) were “obstructed view” rooms, but if you look at a YouTube video you’ll see that the lifeboats “obstructing” your view are below the balcony, so they only obstruct your view straight down — not out to the horizon. On other ships, that could mean a lifeboat directly blocking your view.
- Port taxes vary wildly by itinerary. The Carnival cruise I took had taxes of about $90 per passenger. Some itineraries have taxes of as much as three or four hundred dollars per passenger. It really just depends on your port stops. The Carnival offer worked for cruises in the Caribbean, Europe, Alaska, and the Mexican Riviera as well as on some of the Transatlantic and Transpacific cruises (I saw one with a balcony room that was 30 nights long and a member of our Frequent Miler Insiders group booked a 22-night Transpacific sailing for $100 + port taxes. Just remember that you’re still on the hook for gratuities, which add up with more days).
How much does the Carnival free cruise offer cost for two passengers?
The Carnival free cruise offer is based on double occupancy — if you put more than two people in the room, the cost increases (though with Royal Caribbean, if you book their “free cruise” offer during a “kids sail free” promotion, you’ll only pay taxes and gratuities for the kids). For maximum clarity, I’ll first cover the cost of the Carnival “free cruise” for two passengers since that’s the best deal (and if you’re playing in two-player mode, you could each do this offer and have two rooms — in which case, the cost for two passengers in each room is relevant for you). I’ll then cover how much I paid for four passengers, though the reality is that it gets a little complicated.
Fortunately, port taxes on a Mediterranean cruise are quite low – we paid about $90 per passenger in taxes and for some reason we each got a refund on the first or second day of the cruise for just over $10 in taxes (no idea why) and later got refunded $3.01 per passenger for the missed stop in Mykonos). Here would have been the breakdown for two passengers:
- $200 in nonrefundable deposit ($100 per passenger)
- $180 in port taxes ($90 x 2; minus $26 for the refunds on this cruise, but I won’t subtract those here)
- $290 in gratuities (about $15 per person per day). Note that these don’t really appear to be optional even though they are gratuities — plan to pay these (note that these gratuities get split amongst all the staff)
- Total = $670
And we would have gotten:
- A balcony room for 10 nights (note that food and coffee, hot chocolate, tea (hot or iced), lemonade, some juice, milk, and water are included, though if you want specialty coffee drinks you’ll pay more)
- $200 in onboard credit (which can be used for anything you pay for on board — drinks, upgraded dining, excursions, laundry, video games in the arcade, Internet access, and so on)
- $200 in FreePlay Money. I don’t know whether you’ll receive this offer (I see they are currently advertising $50 in FreePlay money). What made this a great deal in my case is that on my cruise they gave this out as $200 in cash (US Dollars) in the casino. In other words, you didn’t have to gamble it — this effectively cut $200 off the $670 cost for two passengers on my cruise and would have dropped the net cost to $470. This was a nice little surprise. I got to spend some time hanging out with a member of our Frequent Miler Insiders group (and his family) over the course of my cruise and he heard from another person on the cruise that the offer we had all used also included some free play money in the casino – I wouldn’t have even known to ask for it otherwise, so cheers to Geoff and Andre. Note that I would ordinarily expect FreePlay money to be put on a players card like it was during my South Florida Shenanigans, so don’t expect to receive cash, but be happy if you do.
That all adds up to a great deal if you’re interested in the port stops the ship makes (and note that Carnival has a number of different European itineraries, all operated with the same ship at this time). While you may not be interested in cruising with Carnival, I had a great time. Service was painfully slow in the main dining room, but overall I equated my free Carnival cruise to a week of dining at Applebee’s: I could almost always find something I wanted. Nothing was amazing, but most of it was totally fine and some things were surprisingly good. When you take that with the fact that I visited Santorini, Ephesus, Olympia, Sicily, and more — without having to unpack and repack my bags – I thought it was a slamming deal for the price. For comparison, the cash rate on the same cruise was well over $3,000 for a balcony room at the time I booked it.
The true cost of the cruise could come down further yet. Between the time I booked (at which time I needed to put down a $100 deposit per passenger) and the time I paid the final bill, there were a couple of different Amex Offers that came out for Carnival and there was a Chase / Bank of America offer for $40 back on $100 that I received on a number of cards. I was able to make multiple payments online toward the balance I owed (because my kids added to the cost) and trigger multiple offers.
How much does the Carnival free cruise offer cost for four passengers?
The Carnival Fun Match offer is based on double occupancy. If you have more people in the room, you have to pay for them — though the rate for a third and fourth passenger is significantly discounted from the rates you’d ordinarily pay for the first two passengers. We have two kids (age 4 and 2) and each of them cost $280 + port taxes (~$90) + gratuities. In other words, each kid came to just over $500. After the port tax refunds noted above, we paid a sticker price of about $1630 all-in for the four of us.
However, as mentioned at the end of the previous section, I used a number of different offers to bring that cost down. I split payment over multiple cards with offers for Carnival (I used an Amex Offer for my initial deposit payment and later used cards with Chase Offers / Bank of America offers to get several hundred dollars back in total). Subtract the $200 in cash that the casino gave me as a “Free Play” and whatever value you assign to the $200 in onboard credit (we just naturally spent what we spent and on the last day I noticed that we had gone $10 over the $200 in onboard credits — so I can say with confidence that it didn’t influence our spending patterns much).
I also bought some Carnival gift cards when Fluz was offering up to 12% back, so that helped defray my costs a bit more. When all was said and done, the 10-night cruise cost us less than $1,000 out of pocket.
At the end of the day, we were very pleased from a cost perspective. Our main concern going into the cruise was quality. That turned out to be a pleasant surprise.
How was the Carnival cruise and would I do it again?
Yes, I absolutely would do it again. My four year old left saying that he wants to go on a cruise again every year and only on the Carnival Pride (though our later cruise on Royal Caribbean probably convinced him to rethink that stance). While I don’t feel quite as strongly as he did, I’ll be back on a cruise again and that surprises me.
The bottom line here is simple: I was really pleasantly surprised by my cruise on the Carnival Pride. That means more than it may sound on the surface — truth be told, while I argued in the comments why I thought this offer might turn out to be great, I readily admitted that I may strongly regret it. I entered with an open-ish mind, but the truth is I didn’t expect to like it. I was therefore very surprised to walk away looking forward to cruising again.
I wrote a first impressions post that captured my main opinions.
How to cruise for free on Royal Caribbean (almost)
Like Carnival, Royal Caribbean currently has a match offer. I previously wrote about the offer here: “Free” Royal Caribbean cruise match offer & kids sail free stack (parlay that Carnival offer). Note that this offer is scheduled to expire 12/31/22.
In a nutshell, if you have a current free cruise offer from a competing line, Royal Caribbean will likely “match” it with a free cruise of up to 5 nights on select sailings. The landing page for the promo suggests that you can submit evidence of land-based casino status or a cruise offer, but I tested that by submitting my Caesars Diamond status and my wife’s Carnival offer. Royal Caribbean sent her a free cruise offer, but I only got a discount offer. You’ll want to submit the Carnival free balcony room offer to Royal Caribbean.
Here are your steps for a free Royal Caribbean cruise:
- Complete the Carnival match above through either the Wyndham/Caesars or Hyatt/MGM path.
- Submit a screen shot of your free balcony offer to Royal Caribbean. I found that the easiest way to get a good screen shot is to find one of the free balcony room offer emails from Carnival and click the link in the email since it brings you to a landing page for the offer that you can easily screen shot.
- Look out for an email from Royal Caribbean. Royal Caribbean will send a follow-up email (it has taken anywhere from a couple of days to a week or so to receive the email) with a free cruise offer. Note that this offer is only valid on select sailings. See my post to get an idea of what we were offered — it was mostly 3 to 5 night sailings in the Caribbean.
- Book your “free” Royal Caribbean cruise over the phone. The link in the Royal Caribbean email will bring you to a landing page with offer information and a couple of “redeem” buttons. Clicking a “redeem” button prompts you to fill out a booking request and it says that someone will get back to you within 48 hours. Nobody responded to that, so my wife called to book, which was a pretty painless process.
Before you call to book, you may want to pull up a deck plan for the ship so you can take a look at cabin locations and make sure that you don’t select a room right above the dining room or right under the night club or something.
How much does the Royal Caribbean free cruise offer cost?
Again, the cost of a cruise can vary wildly by the port stops. Just like with airline tickets, some countries levy higher departure taxes than others, so you can spend anywhere from not-that-much to a couple hundred bucks a person.
Another wrinkle in booking the Royal Caribbean deal is that on some ships (and this probably varies based on availability of rooms), you may need to pay an upgrade charge for a room that accommodates more than two passengers. We booked two different Royal Caribbean cruises and on one of them we were able to book a room that accommodates four passengers for only the taxes, but on the cruise we just took at the end of November we had to pay an up-charge on top of the port taxes for the four of us to be accommodated in one room. If it were just the two of us, we’d have only paid $201 in taxes and about $128 in gratuities for a grand total of $329 for the four-night cruise — the actual cruise fare was comped and port taxes were $100.47 per passenger.
As a family of four, our costs were:
- $401.88 in port taxes ($100.47 per passenger)
- $136 upgrade charge (for a room to accommodate four passengers)
- $256 in gratuities ($16 per person per day times four people)
- Total = $793.88
That made this cruise a less slamming deal than the Carnival one since the full price at the time of booking had been around $1600 plus gratuities. Still, it’s a nice discount for a balcony room. I was lucky enough to be the last man standing in the poker tournament on the last day of the cruise, so that helped take care of those cash costs :-).
The other cruise we have booked next year will be for 5 nights and there was no up-charge for a room that accommodates four people. Taxes on that itinerary were $108.22 per passenger, so we paid exactly $432.88. We will owe $320 in gratuities at the end of that cruise.
Note that this Royal Caribbean match offer does not come with any on-board credit or free play, which is a key distinction from the Carnival offer.
How was the Royal Caribbean cruise and would I do it again?
This cruise was very good overall. The ship itself was much nicer and more well-kept. Entertainment seemed more polished. Activities on-board were awesome: there was a splash pad zone that our kids loved, a huge rock climbing wall, a pickle ball tournament, a wave pool where you could actually surf, an ice skating rink, and a lot more. It would be hard to get bored.
I would (and am going to) cruise with Royal Caribbean again. That said, I was less impressed with some aspects of the experience. The ship felt far more crowded (perhaps there were just more people aboard), particularly in the buffet dining area, where we had a really hard time finding a seat and it didn’t feel particularly convenient to get to the food and back to your seat. Service in the main dining room was great, but the food was just so-so both from a taste perspective and in terms of the options. Unlike on Carnival, the kids club wouldn’t have been free for our two-year-old. The worst part was the check-in process, which was apparently thrown off by another ship docking unexpectedly on the same day. We talked to multiple people who said they had been on 25, 35, or 50+ cruises and all said they had never seen anything like it, so perhaps it is unfair to hold it against Royal Caribbean, but we spent hours in line waiting to board (with no food or water provided by the cruise line and very little shade).
Still, overall, I loved the ship and at the end I was wishing for a few more days. The port stop at Perfect Day at CocoCay was literally the perfect day for my kids. There was essentially a free mini-water park / splash pad for kids and they were living their best life on it. There was a also a paid waterpark for older kids. We had a lot of fun.
I’ll also add that WiFi was surprisingly good on Royal Caribbean. I had some issues connecting the first night, but apart form that it was a speed that would have been acceptable in a hotel or even at home for those who don’t need super high speed Internet. Royal Caribbean uses Starlink from SpaceX. I was pretty impressed and for the most part had no trouble getting work done.
How to cruise for free on other cruise lines
The reason that Carnival and Royal Caribbean are giving away “free” cruises is that they want to attract gamblers. They figure that if you’re a high enough roller, they can make back the cost of the cruise and more from your casino play on board.
Many major international cruise lines feature casinos on board, so surely Carnival and Royal Caribbean aren’t the only games in town. While Carnival is notably generous in matching land-based casino status to a free balcony room, I get the sense that many cruise lines will want to see that other cruise lines find you valuable enough to offer you a free cruise. That said, I also get the sense that the cruise industry has been slower to rebound than other travel sectors, so I wouldn’t be surprised if other cruise companies are hungry for new customers. You may therefore be able to leverage Carnival’s generosity into good offers with other cruise lines.
If you do one or both of the matches above, you should shop around for other opportunities to match those offers and your other casino statuses. Some readers have chimed in with suggestions that may be appealing options for parlaying these offers into offers with other cruise lines that you may find even more interesting.
I don’t know the extent of gambling you may have to show or what would be expected of you, but I can at least confirm that these first couple of offers didn’t require much. I do happen to play some, but I don’t know as though anybody really noticed or cared much on Carnival or with this Royal Caribbean offer.
I had a couple of very good experiences this fall with status matching for nearly-free cruises. Just like with an award ticket, we still paid port taxes and we were also on the hook for gratuities, but we paid far less than retail price for the balcony rooms we enjoyed. More importantly, we really enjoyed the cruises. I wouldn’t want cruising to be the only form of travel that I did because there are a lot of things I prefer about going to one place for an extended time. However, just like my opinion about all-inclusive resorts changed after I went to one with a young child, so has my opinion of cruising changed. I probably won’t become a lifelong dedicated sailor in this lifetime, but my family had a blast on two great cruises for a total of 14 nights this fall for a really reasonable out-of-pocket cost. I’d gladly do it again if for nothing else but for the chance to relax and have fun with my family without the stress of picking a place for dinner or whether we’re going to waste money on an entrée that someone won’t eat and with plenty of laughs and entertainment for everyone. And if the casino thinks it’s worth giving me that at a highly reduced cost, who am I to argue?
It took over a month but finally got a free balcony offer from Carnival, too bad most of the balcony options are sold out 🙂
Also, I didn’t receive anything using my ORIGINAL carnival cruise # from several years ago, but then I created a new email and submit my fun match again this past week, and a few days later I received the offer with my original email. Not sure if related but seems too weird not to be a coincidence. So I guess if you didn’t get an offer, create a new email and submit again perhaps.
> Submit proof of your MGM Gold status to Carnival through their Fun Match Program (if you have status with other casino programs, you can submit multiple). You should be able to get a screen shot of your MGM Gold card in your MGM account or via the MGM app.
The screenshot from web or app doesn’t have any expiry date, also doesn’t have back part. Anyone has datapoint, if that will work?
Hi Nick, Thank you for the great article, I got the free offer from Carnival. Is there a portal to submit on Royal Carribean website. I searched their website and couldnt find any place to submit the offer?
I submitted through the Carnival site putting a screen shot of my Caesars diamond in the front and back pic and got immediately registered to Carnival with an account number but with a message saying “Sorry this deal isn’t available to you. (You can totally grab one of our others though!).” They obviously haven’t had time to review my submission. Will I get an email with offers in the future or was I rejected for some reason?
Great article, very helpful!
I did manage to status match from my Hyatt Globalist to getting MGM Gold card.
And then promptly applied and received Carnival VIFP Club membership using MGM Gold card.
That was three weeks ago, should I have received any cruise offers by now?
In April I’ll be in Vegas to get my physical MGM Gold card and then match it to Caesars.
Maybe offers will come after getting the Caesars match?
I now have Caesars Diamond status thanks to the steps here. I notice in the Caesars app that they have a partnership with Atlantis in the Bahamas. Diamond members are eligible for a complimentary stay?! The offer may end 1/31, but I am curious if there are any DP on that offer.
Yes, that’s an annual benefit. It’s not actually “free” — you pay a (not insignificant) resort fee. I last wrote something about it quite a while back: https://frequentmiler.com/why-you-might-want-to-book-atlantis-while-you-can-via-caesars-diamond-status/.
MilesTalk has a good guide to it: https://milestalk.com/free-atlantis-stay-via-caesars-total-rewards-diamond-what-to-expect-food-costs-fees/
I submitted a match to Carnival at the tail of the year. For myself used MGM Gold, for my wife Caesars Diamond. We’re receiving some emails from Carnival now, not free offer yet though. Carnival has both of us as “BLUE VIFP CLUB MEMBER”. Is this correct status with Carnival?
I know we’re calling this a “match” (because that’s what they’re calling it), but it’s not a true status match — think of it more like a cruise offer that matches your status level from some other casino. Your Carnival status is just determined by the number of lifetime nights you’ve sailed with Carnival — blue just means you haven’t cruised with them before. If you scroll about three quarters of the way down it explains the color system here:
Just keep watching your email for offers. They come and go.
I never got the free cruise offer unfortunately, just discounted offers. I matched Caesar Diamond and MGM Gold like many, just unlucky I guess. I know you (Nick) mentioned to not apply to the Royal Caribbean Casino Royale Match with a land based Casino, but since I didn’t get the Carnival one to match over is there any harm in matching now with the Caesar and MGM and are there any data points of people getting a free cruise w/ Royal this way? Thank you.
I am not aware of any DPs of a free Royal Caribbean cruise with a land-based casino status match. I tried that with Caesars and got a discount offer only (someone else said it was 10% I think). Not worth it.
Thanks for the reply Nick. I am not sure if I can apply to Carnival at a later date, but I may as well wait. We were looking to do a Royal Caribbean cruise but may move to something else since it seems this offer is only good for people who haven’t recently sailed with them. We were going to also try the New carnival Venezia when it ports in NY, but we will wait on that as well most likely just incase recent sailings on Carnival will play a roll in the match?
Nick, is there a way for a family of 5 to reasonably take advantage of these “free” cruises?
I got the carnival offer months ago and submitted a match to RC on 12/9 and never heard a word back from them on it. (submitted the carnival balcony offer).
where did you see that the RC match offer is “scheduled to expire 12/31/22″?
Also do you happen to know what is the current last sailing date for RC offer? is it still till 03/31/2023?
Matched with MGM gold, a week later received an offer for “cruises starting at $55ppn” so not even free interior. Hoping a better offer will eventually come.
No luck here. Submitted Caesars diamond and mgm gold in August and was met with silence. My guess is as a past cruiser, I’ve never gambled
maybe try resubmitting. i received offers from carnival despite having cruised with them and never gambling.
They only allow you to submit once.
Is there a customer support email or phone number we can call. I had submitted this over Black Friday and there is no response yet from Caesars. My online account doesn’t show Diamond yet.
what did you submit to Caesar’s? can take weeks so dont worry yet.
I had done the status match request on the Caesars website, will keep waiting
My wife has done it three times over the past 4 months but nothing from Caesars. They told her sorry, please submit again.
Hi! How did she get in touch with them ?
Any update on this? I’m (not so) patiently waiting also!
Great article. Is there a way to do this on NCL?
Hello Nick and Cruisers, I don’t gamble, but love to cruise. I only have taken 2 this year with the family. How would you suggest me going about getting a cruise for “almost free”? Yes I belong to the Carnival club and I have carnivals card.
Man, I read this headline and thought… ok, maybe for free… but i hate casinos even more than i hate the idea of a cruise ship haha, so i think I’m still going to pass!
My husband and I have gotten 4 of these offers over the past 8 months and have booked each one. You can take anywhere from 3-8 day cruises and it only costs $470, plus gratuities. Well worth it
how did you get 4 offers?
Neither of us did anything special. The first one came to my husband about 8 months ago, so we booked it. After the cruise I received one for my account, so we booked that one. Then I received another one and he received another one so we went ahead and booked those too. Again, nothing special was done. And none of my friends nor my oldest son received offers. And they cruise on carnival all the time.
did all these offers start with the carnival one via Caesars diamond as Nick suggested?
were they all with carnival?
Can these offers be matched each year? Or only once per lifetime?
Does Holland have this kind of free offer?
I assume once per lifetime (that’s what I got when trying to resubmit Carnival, because my wife had never used it, and Royal Caribbean, because my initial attempt was only with my Caesars Diamond card and got me a discount offer rather than free cruise offer. Both said once per customer). I’m not aware of something for Holland America, but see other comments and the section about booking on other lines.
If it is once per lifetime, Will the offer expire if unused? (Or can i rematch next year if it is expired) I am asking since I wonder if there is any timing issue. Should I submit my info for this offer only when I am ready to book?
I matched MGM Gold (via Hyatt status) to Carnival when the first FM post came out, and I’ve been receiving pretty regular emails for free interior room. Have never received the free balcony room offer, or even free ocean view offer. Not sure if I did anything wrong, or just that they don’t like my account.
I’m in the same boat as you. I receive the same interior room offer email every few weeks. I click the links and browse the various cruise options, but haven’t booked anything. I’m hoping my cruise curiosity will tip the scale in my favor to receive a balcony offer.
I believe that Nancy from milesforfamily waited 6 months before she saw her balcony offer.
Good to know. I keep getting the $5,000 casino match play offers, so I’ll keep waiting for the free interior / balcony room offer.
Nick–great write up as usual. P2 and I did the Carnival Cruise this year through the match last fall 2021. We both used up our offer and got connecting rooms for us and the kids (ended up being cheaper to do it this way than pay for the kids as additional guests and we weren’t planning on doing 2 cruises this year)
anyway, I want to take advantage of the Royal Carribean match offer, but don’t have plans to cruise in 2023, so want to try for the match in fall of 2023 for sailings in 2024. How would you recommend going about doing this? I have Caesars Diamond (From Wyndham) but it seems like based upon your post that will only get a discount. I don’t think I’ll get any more free cruise offers from Carnival since P2 and I both used them up. Can I submit a screenshot from my original carnival email to Royal Carribean?
This is such a great write up! Thank you for all the detail! I’ve had this “deal” in the back of my mind since your original write up and now I am going to go for it. I just matched MGM Gold via Hyatt Globalist, but the screenshot of my MGM card is only the front. The fun match pages asks for picture of front and back (and expiration date which doesn’t show on the app card). Has anyone had success just using this screenshot? Or do I need to wait for the actual card to come (I assume they’ll mail?).
I don’t think anybody sends plastic cards anymore. I mentioned in the post that I just submitted pictures of the front of the Caesars card for both front and back fields – I’d do the same with MGM. In the app, it doesn’t show an expiration date on our Caesars cards either. Hasn’t been a problem.
About 2 offers per week, but never Alaska or Europe. I get offers for the Caribbean, Mexico, and now, Australia (!).
Have you checked the “from” field when sorting cruises? Maybe they don’t have their European schedule finalized for next fall yet? I think they haven’t been in the European market for long.
Thanks for the tip! I did find options for Alaska and Europe. More $$ but good deals. I hadn’t noticed the sail to and from fields.
Nice write-up, as always, Nick. As a single, childless traveler who prioritizes time exploring cities and local food, I’ve been skeptical about the value cruising offers (I grimaced at the idea of “getting” an extra night at sea.) That said, “free” cruises seem like a good way to add multiple Caribbean destinations to one’s “been” list. For a solo traveler, are you able to break down which of the expenses are 2x (i.e. tied to the room’s double occupancy pricing framework) versus those that are truly “per person”?
I honestly don’t know. I assume you would only pay gratuities for one, but I don’t know how it works in terms of taxes or deposit or whatever. I assume there’s a single occupancy up-charge of some sort that is probably comparable to paying for two people. But I’m really out of my element and answering that. Hopefully someone else can.
I did the match to Carnival last fall following Nick’s instructions. I have gotten offers for “free” or super discounted rooms about 2x per week. Some balcony, some inside. I haven’t clicked on all the emails, but I don’t think I’ve ever received an offer that included a European itinerary, mainly Caribbean. I have now some offers out of LA going to Mexico. Just thought I would give that DP. I will do the match to Royal Caribbean. Matches beget more matches. lol.
Thanks for the writeup, Nick.
I took our free Carnival Glory balcony cruise in November, out of MSY. Quite good overall, and the huge bay window facing out the front of the boat was fantastic.
However, I haven’t bothered with any other matches. Have you or others seen any data points where you could submit a free balcony offer that you’ve already used to trigger RC’s match?
I’d try that if I were you.
Sorry Nick, I could have added that the email links all come up as “expired”, and have for months, as the offer was originally extended to me back in April.
I could try the confirmation email from that trip, perhaps…?
?. None of our email links say they are expired when we click through them….. They just have the offer information at the top when I click through.
Thanks for following up Nick.
Given your data point, I did find that while follow-up emails and other offers expired, the *original* offer link shows the offer at the top of the page, and only includes a “sorry, we can’t find this!” message down below, out of site.
I’ll give that a try.
Does anyone know if there is a way to do this on a cruise with Hurtigruten? We are scheduled to fly to Norway with miles and points and would be very interested in a free or almost free cruise up the coast, or, at some other time, one in Iceland, or the Galapagos, or Antarctica, etc.
I don’t think Hurtigruten has casinos on their ships, do they?
I have no idea–this would be the first cruise we would take, and are doing it based on Fodor’s Norway.
Hurtigruten is very high-end and very small ships — you’re talking about 500 or fewer passengers versus cruises with mainline companies like Royal Caribbean, Carnival Celebrity et al holding around 2,000 to 3,000 passengers or more. That’s a very different thing. The Internet tells me they have no casinos on their ships (which doesn’t surprise me given how few people are on the boat), so they would have no way to “make back” the money on giving you a free cruise — nor do they probably have trouble filling ships so small, so they wouldn’t probably have a reason to give them away. I could obviously be wrong since my experience in this realm is relatively new, but I wouldn’t imagine there would be a way to do that for “free”.
OK, thank you very much. You Frequent Miler people sometimes find amazing opportunities, so if you find a way to cruise on their trips for free I, for one, would be very interested.
I’ll share my experience matching American Airlines Gold to Hyatt Explorist to MGM Gold back in September. Matching AA to Hyatt was easy and instant, but MGM refused to give me status because I earned Explorist “Lite” via match meaning I needed to complete the 10 night challenge to keep Explorist for next year. Once I finished the challenge, I got the confirmation email for “full” Explorist, and I was able to match it to MGM Gold that day. So, MGM knows whether your Hyatt status was earned via match, which changes once you have full status.
I’ve had this same experience on that route. I haven’t met the status match requirements so apparently, I’m not really a real Explorist as MGM won’t do the match.
interesting…never heard there was a difference. My Explorist and MGM Gold are due to expire in Feb…of course..let’s see what that means.
Hopefully that was someone else’s video poker machine cuz playing 1 credit is terrible gambling strategy
Yup, it was mine. “Good gambling strategy” wasn’t my aim, but I get your point.
Yeah, gotta max bet for the RF bonus, giving up to much house edge otherwise. But loved the post in general.
Are you a poker player or was it beginners luck type of deal? I’m taking my second cruise (1st was disney so no casino) on Carnival and was hoping there would be decent poker games running.
There are a lot of fish in the Caribbean Sea :-).
I’ve played some cards before. I’m no pro, but I’ve won my share of tournaments before (chopped an online one three ways many years ago for enough to cash out and buy my dream car, which was a BMW Z3 – used of course, but got to live the dream for six months and then resold it for more than I paid for it). That said, don’t give me undue credit here: they only had one poker table, so despite having plenty of interest for multiple tables, it was a single table tournament (they ran another one after ours finished) and blinds went up every 10 minutes, so while I would argue that there was a lot of strategy in my patience with subpar hands until I knew it was time to push people around, there was also an element of luck in getting the right hands at the right time (and ultimately, on the last hand, I did get lucky…though I’d probably play it the same way again). Anyway, it only paid the top 2 spots and I tried to chop, but it was the other guy’s first ever poker tournament and at first he didn’t understand what I was proposing and then when he did, he had slightly more chips than me (a small enough margin that I only had to steal the blinds one time to have him beat by a similar margin, which is exactly what happened one hand later) so he didn’t want to chop even. I was confident I could beat him, but anything can happen heads up so I was willing to secure a decent payout for both sides, but I wasn’t going to take less than half. Everybody watching was telling him to chop and he didn’t want an even chop, so we played it out and four or five hands later I ended up with $840 and he got $360. Coulda been $600 each if he’d have chopped. Anyway, there was one woman at the table who hit me as a notably good player (I was glad to see her get short stacked and happier yet to get A-K when I knew she was going to have to shove with almost any two cards).
There was a nightly $2-$5 NL game all except the last night. I played some and the play was pretty wild. The first hand, I sat down to pocket aces and ended up getting all my chips in the pot with two callers between preflop and the flop (and I won). Saw a lot of people calling down second pair from the flop with hands like J-7 (whether it was the J or the 7 that paired). And some real characters, young and old. But it was mostly the same people each night, with one guy continually buying more chips to his onboard account (at a fee of 5% each time) who was willing to call down bottom pair all day long. Sure hope he was working on a sign up bonus lol.
Anyway, my Carnival cruise had no poker table, but the ship they ran in Europe is kind of a smaller older ship. A bigger ship might have one. Rake on my Royal Caribbean ship was 10% up to a max of $15 and no points for poker play fyi (rake on the tournament was 20% — buy-in was $100, but they offer an add-on for $50 that everyone did because it was ridiculous not to given the starting chips and blinds).
Was it the carnival pride? That’s what I’m on in 2023, obv show you how crappy I run there’s no poker table. The private games I play in locally is 10% uncapped rake. It’s pretty gross when you see $200 in rake coming out of a pot.
I listen to the pod and been reading articles for a few years. I just picture family nick, not degen on poker stars or full tilt nick lol. I’m the same way I used to stay up all night grinding online or playing local games. Now I hit the felt like quarterly but still feel I have an edge cuz live fish haha.
Any way to book these “free” cruises using Amex’s Cruise Privileges Program? This can add $200 in onboard credit for those booking a balcony cabin.
Maybe. My side gig is as a travel agent and the Amex program is basically an OTA but I believe the agent has to do some manual adjustments to get you the casino rate on these so it would be worth calling to book it with the OTA or a regular travel agent. Some TA’s can add on special perks as well and many can book the “free” casino rate.
Like you, I was someone who thought these kind of cruises wouldn’t appeal to me. Then I did a couple of cruises out of Florida.
And these kind of cruises don’t appeal to me.
That said, they’re great for young kids (because it’s like staying in a capsule hotel in a water park) and great for teenagers (because it’s like staying in a capsule hotel in a shopping mall). What does appeal to me is the trans-oceanic repositioning cruises which often go cheap even at retail (sometimes $35 pd pp). Those would definitely be for retirement when slow travel becomes an option again, but no airline product is going to beat eight days across the Atlantic with a real bed, three hots a day, free entertainment, and a few interesting stops for the cost of an economy airfare.
@Nick Reyes – have you ever explored URComped. They are offering basically any cruise under the sun in a balcony room. I sent them my Carnival free offering to match. Some 20-30 day voyages too. Most lines included (ie: Virgin
I just signed up with URComped last week and submitted my carnival free interior room offers. I haven’t received any free cruise offers yet, but I’m hoping some come in the coming weeks.
Please report when you hear from URComp!
The URComped offers look really, really good. That’s why I linked to a comment about them in the post. Probably no need to shout about it from the rooftops, but I was subtly suggesting that people check it out when I linked to a comment from a previous post about it.
Thanks for all of this. I did my Wyndham/Caeser match and cruised for free with Tim and Amy this summer on Pride. But we’ve since to get any new offers. I mean zilch. Any ideas on how to trigger some offers, and, any tips on using URComped? Why would we use it and when? If I don’t have an offer, is there still a way to use URComped? I’d love to see an article focusing on URComped, ihmo.
I sent urcomped a carnival fun match balcony offer a month ago. They came back and said they no longer accept fun match offers.
excellent write-up as usual.
May i ask how you have “a couple more cruises booked for next year” using these methods? From your post it seems as if you got 2 x carnival offers (1 used) and 2 x RC offers (1 used), so should only have 1 RC left as your other Carnival offer expired.
Wondering the same thing. Can these offers be repeated?
[…] to cruise for free: This is such a great recap on Frequent Miler on how to get a free Carnival Cruise (and maybe Royal Caribbean too). I followed these steps to get […]
great write up. Could you please explain how gratuities are calculated and if they are mandatory. thanks.
Gratuities are mandatory and can be paid in advance or on board. How much varies a bit by cruise line (and perhaps by ship?). On my Carnival cruise, I think it was $13.50 or $14.50 per passenger per day. On Royal Caribbean it was $16 per passenger per day. Royal Caribbean also put an envelope in the rooms the last day that said it was to specifically recognize anyone in particular that you wanted to. Carnival didn’t do that, but I know that people sometimes do provide an extra tip for their room steward.
Gratuities are customary but not mandatory on Royal Caribbean. If you do not prepay when you book, RCL will bill them to your room each day at their suggested rate. However, once on board you can go to the Guest Services desk and request that those charges be removed.
We prefer to tip in cash using the envelopes as was the standard years ago. We often tip more that way than we would have been billed by RCL but that way we are certain the tips are going to the people who provided us good service.
I didn’t know you could do that – I think Carnival distinctly said they were mandatory, but perhaps I’m wrong.
What you said about tipping in cash makes sense. I didn’t have any experiences on these two cruises that made me want to tip any specific person more than others and in that case I’d much rather earn points. I had earned a referral offer for +4 on travel and transit with the Blue Business Plus, so I was happy to earn 6x – but that’s not a significant amount on the couple hundred bucks in gratuities to change the way you do it if you have specific people you want to recognize.
From Carnival’s site:
Sail & Sign®
If a guest has not pre-paid the gratuities, the recommended per person amount will be posted to their Sail & Sign account on the second to last day of the cruise. Should a guest not be satisfied with the service they receive, they can contact the Guest Services desk while on board. This will allow us to address their concerns in a timely and appropriate fashion. At the discretion of the guest, gratuities may be adjusted after they have been posted on the guest’s account, while on board. Gratuities, as posted on a guest’s Sail and Sign account, will be considered final after a guest disembarks and no changes will be made after the cruise.
I cruised with Carnival and gratuities are not required though it’s definitely encouraged and auto applied to your account unless prepaid. If want it removed, it can be for xxx reason.
Tried it this morning and for some reason when I try to submit my MGM gold proof it says “sorry this deal is unavailable for you.”
Edit: Figured it out- I had to use a different email address (that Carnival had never seen) and did the submission in an incognito browser!
If I submit to match using an existing Carnival account, will I be declined?
Or if I match using a different email next year, will I receive another free offer?