Free cruises sound like a scam, but it is currently possible to turn elite status earned from a single $95 credit card into months worth of free cruises and free hotel nights if you play your cards right. The best part is that if you follow the steps, you don’t need previous experience with any of this (or any gambling) to make this all happen.
In fact, I wrote this post so that Stacey could cruise for free.
Let me tell you about Stacey: She doesn’t know this, but before we knew her name, my wife and I used to refer to the woman who works at our local post office as “Smiley”. “Smiley” Stacey is one of the nicest people you could meet — I don’t think I’ve ever seen her not smiling or heard her say anything negative. One day recently, when I was in the post office to buy stamps, Stacey asked about whether I knew anything about booking cruises. I had more to say that I could explain over postage, so I gave her my card and asked her to email me.
She did that and so I went to work writing this post determined to tell Stacey how to start at square one and end up floating for free in a tropical sea. I was confident that if I could explain it to a determined newcomer like her, it could also benefit many readers interested in dipping their toes in gaming status matching for free cruises.
A major hat tip to Dave Grossman of MilesTalk.com and his MilesTalk Facebook group because I learned a lot of the relevant Atlantic City and Philadelphia details through his posts and group and a big thank-you to members of our own Frequent Miler Insiders Facebook Group that were able to provide some additional insight on the latest additions.
This post is very long. It is not necessarily meant to be read in one sitting but rather to be a complete guide. If you are reading this in email form, you’re going to want to click through to the website for the full experience and easy table of contents navigation.
Starting Point 1: A Wyndham Rewards account and The Wyndham Earner Business Credit Card (currently get up to 3 free nights with the welcome offer)
There are two paths to the free nights and cruises in this post. The first path is through Wyndham Rewards. If you take this path, you’ll first sign up for a Wyndham Rewards account at this link (this is their hotel loyalty account; it’s free to join). You want this loyalty account number so that you can enter it on the credit card application for the Wyndham Earner Business card (there is a line for your Wyndham Rewards number).
The next step is applying for the Wyndham Earner Business Credit Card. This is a business credit card, so you’ll need to have a business, but that is a lot easier than it sounds. Almost any type of side hustle can be considered a business — writing a book, writing a blog that you hope to monetize with ads eventually, selling stuff on Facebook Marketplace or eBay, babysitting, etc. Even if you aren’t yet making money from said side hustle, you can potentially qualify for a business credit card.
When it’s something small like a blog that doesn’t yet have ads or selling stuff on eBay or Facebook where you’re making a very small amount of money, you would probably operate that as a sole proprietorship. In that case, you’d use your own personal name as the business name and your social security number as the tax ID. It’s all quite easy. You can find more information and a link to apply for the Wyndham Earner business card on our card page. Note that we do not earn any affiliate commission on this card, it’s just a great deal for a number of reasons (we talked extensively about it on last weekend’s podcast).
I note above that you can get up to 3 free nights with the current welcome offer. In reality, you could potentially get more at low-end properties, but I really mean that you could book a 1-bedroom vacation rental through Vacasa for 3 nights with the 45,000 point welcome bonus like this one I reviewed in the Pigeon Forge area. See: Vacasa: Great value is real! for more information about using Wyndham Rewards points for Vacasa vacation rentals. I want to point out that the current intro bonus offer on this card is relatively weak — it might make sense to wait for a better offer. On the other hand, the cruise and hotel stay opportunities outlined in this post are compelling enough that I think it might be worth getting the card even with the current subpar offer.
Once you have the Wyndham Earner Business Card, your Wyndham Rewards account status will update to Wyndham Diamond status (this won’t be instant upon approval, but it should update to Diamond within about a week). My sister-in-law recently did this and just made it a point to log in daily until she saw that her Wyndham account reflected Diamond status.
Once you have Wyndham Diamond status, you go to this link and click the button that says “I am a Wyndham Rewards member, match my status” to get matched to Caesars Diamond status.
It should take about a week for your Caesars Diamond status to update. Once again, my sister-in-law logged in to her Caesars account once or twice a day for about a week. When her status didn’t update after 7 days, she emailed Wyndham Rewards by using the email form found on this page explaining that she had submitted for the match and her Caesars status hadn’t yet updated. Two days later, her Caesars status was updated to Diamond. See this post for more detail about emailing Wyndham Rewards.
Once you have Caesars Diamond status, click here to jump to the next relevant section of this post.
I should note that Caesars Diamond members sometimes get offers for free rooms in Las Vegas for close-in stays. I’m currently seeing nights at some properties starting at $8 over the next couple of weeks (the cheapest nights here are at Rio and Harrahs, though I sometimes see others nearly as cheap). One of the benefits of Caesars Diamond status is no resort fees on stays and free valet or self parking — so $8 really means $8 plus tax per night.
Starting point 2: FoundersCard to Caesars Diamond
Another option for those looking to get Caesars Diamond status who do not want or can not get the Wyndham Earner Business Card is FoundersCard. This is the most expensive path in this post and is far more expensive than getting the Wyndham card noted in Starting Point 1, but when you consider all you can get, the high price tag may seem laughably low and it doesn’t require getting a new credit card.
FoundersCard is meant as a membership card for entrepreneurs, but I believe that in practice anyone can join. The cost depends on where you sign up, but I believe that the regular price is $495 + $95 initiation fee. You can sign up through some referrals for less (I think the current best deal is 3 free months and then $395, but you won’t get Caesars Diamond from the complimentary status and I’m not sure if there’s a way to trigger the $395 charge sooner?).
One of the benefits of a paid FoundersCard membership is complimentary Caesars Diamond status. Once you have Caesars Diamond status, click here to jump to the next relevant section of this post.
Starting point 3: MGM Gold (from Hyatt Explorist or Hyatt Globalist)
MGM Rewards is the loyalty program of MGM casinos / hotels & resorts. They have a partnership with Hyatt whereby members with World of Hyatt Explorist or Globalist status can match to MGM Gold.
If you have Hyatt Explorist or Globalist status, you can match status by clicking this link and logging in to your World of Hyatt account. This match is usually instant.
Once you have MGM Gold status, click here to skip ahead to the free nights section of this post.
Starting point 4: Hyatt status fast track to elite status (Explorist with 10 nights for 35K-50K points)
This technique rivals the FoundersCard technique for the most expensive one in this post, but what you stand to potentially get out of the deal might make it more attractive.
Hyatt sometimes offers some members a fast track opportunity to elite status that grants temporary Hyatt Explorist status that is good for 90 days with the opportunity to extend that status with 10 qualifying nights in those 90 days. In fact, this morning Bilt Rewards opened up such a fast track to all Bilt Rewards members. Since Bilt Rewards is free for anyone to join, this is an easy path for anyone to jump on the bandwagon — all you have to do is create a World of Hyatt account and a Bilt Rewards account and link your World of Hyatt account to Bilt Rewards and register for the promotion and then complete 10 nights during the promo window. See full details here.
With a fast track offer, you could get Hyatt Explorist status with just 10 elite qualifying nights completed in 90 days. Since Category 1 Hyatt properties cost 3,500 points per night off-peak or 5,000 points per night standard, you could complete the 10 required nights with a mixture of off-peak or standard nights for 35,000 to 50,000 World of Hyatt points (keep in mind that you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points (provided that you have the Chase Sapphirew Preferred or Sapphire Reserve or a qualifying business card) or Bilt Rewards points to Hyatt at a rate of 1:1).
Ten nights completed during the promo window would give you full-fledged Hyatt Explorist status. While Explorist benefits aren’t great (the most valuable benefit to me is guaranteed 2pm late checkout), you would be able to match to MGM Gold and you’d be halfway to your first milestone rewards (2 club access certificates at 20 nights). If you can actually make use of the hotel room for some of these nights, this can be an easy path into the casino status matching.
Note that the temporary Explorist status you get as part of the fast track does not match to MGM Gold. I checked last night in our Frequent Miler Insiders group for recent data points and multiple group members confirmed that they were not able to register for MGM Gold with the temporary Explorist status but only after completing 10 nights.
Once you have MGM Gold status, click here to skip ahead to the free nights section.
Use Caesars Diamond or MGM Gold status to get free cruises and hotel nights
Caesars Diamond or MGM Gold to a free 7-night Carnival cruise
Caesars Diamond status or MGM Gold status could easily get you 7 nights or more onboard with Carnival cruise lines. Here’s how it works.
Once you have Caesars Diamond status (or MGM Gold status), you can try the Carnival Fun Match at this link. In the past, readers and Facebook group members have reported getting offers for free cruises through this program. The form requires you to submit a picture of the front and back of your Caesars Rewards card, but if you only have the Digital card, we’ve had success with a screen shot of our online account like this:
My wife and I both initially received offers for free interior rooms, but after a couple of weeks we started receiving offers for free balcony staterooms. Some have waited months for the free cruise offers to show up and some haven’t received them at all, but be sure to log in to your Carnival account periodically to check your offers. These certainly can be a great deal.
The particularly notable thing about those offers is that they have been valid on sailings in the Caribbean, to Alaska, around Europe (I took a 10-night cruise to the Greek isles and Turkey with this offer), and even on some Transatlantic and Transpacific sailings. A member of our Frequent Miler Insiders Facebook group highlighted one that I seriously considered — a 22-night cruise from Brisbane, Australia to Seattle that I still see available in my account now.
It’s worth noting that these “free” cruise offers aren’t all created equally: they aren’t all exactly free.
I’ve covered the total costs of the Carnival deal before. The “free” cruise offer takes out the cruise fare, but you still pay costs like taxes and daily gratuities. In short, you’ll pay:
- $200 nonrefundable deposit that you get back as a $200 onboard credit
- Port taxes for each guest (which range based on ports — my 10-night European cruise came with about $90 per person in taxes, some itineraries can be $200-$300 per person in taxes depending on where you go)
- An extra person supplement for more than 2 passengers (typically $200-$300 each for the 3rd and 4th passengers, but YMMV)
- Daily gratuities. This ranges from $14.50 to $16 per person per day for standard cabins (it costs more for suites).
- Any costs incurred onboard like alcoholic drinks (except when playing in the casino) and any upgraded dining options you choose
It still works out to be a killer deal in many cases. For instance, my 10-night Carnival cruise to the Greek Islands, Turkey, Sicily, and Naples would have cost about $680 for two people and came with $200 in onboard credit and $200 given to us in cash as “free play” money in the casino. And we used a couple of credit cards with offers for $40 back on $100 or more with Carnival to pay the initial $680 (over separate payments), so in reality we paid less than $680 for the first two passengers. After the onboard credit and free play it was awfully close to nothing for the first two passengers (because we brought our kids, it ended up being a bit more).
Circling back to that specific Carnival Luminosa offer on the transpacific cruise pictured above, it would come to $588 for two people plus $638 in gratuities for a total of $1,126.40 for a 22-night cruise that comes with $500 in onboard credit.
That cruise is an outlier in terms of value — and as you can see, my current offer is only for an interior room. When I initially got the free balcony offer, I had the same pricing for a balcony cabin.
I won’t assume that you’ll snag a 22-night balcony room with this offer. Instead, I’m counting a 7-night cruise in my calculations for total free nights since it should be pretty easy to find a qualifying 7-night cruise offer, though note that availability ebbs and flows. I saw the same cruise offers come and go multiple times. See How to cruise for free (or close to it) with Royal Caribbean and Carnival for more detail.
Caesars Diamond to a 12-night Holland America free cruise
Holland America has been offering a match program whereby they have been offering many readers with Caesars Diamond status a complimentary interior cabin and $100 in freeplay with drinks for 2 while playing in the casino on eligible sailings to Alaska, Mexico, Caribbean, Coastal, and Canada/New England on 2023 sailings. We wrote about this match here. You can submit your request for this match here. The offer is valid for sailings up to 12 nights (though land & sea cruises are excluded).
Update 5/1/23: Processing time to receive an offer appears to get slowing down significantly. A family member received and booked their Holland America offer a few days ago (received after applying for the Wyndham Business card, matching to Caesars Diamond, and submitting Caesars Diamond to Holland America). It took about 9 days from submitting her Caesars Diamond status until Holland America sent the complimentary cabin offer.
My wife submitted a screen shot from her Caesars account that showed her name and Caesars Diamond status and number and she received the complimentary cruise offer within a few hours.
Unfortunately, Holland America seems to have gotten bogged down with match offers because my sister-in-law submitted a match request last week and hasn’t yet heard back. That said, many readers have had success with this one and it can be done online from home.
Note that those who have recently sailed with Carnival or Holland America and not gambled much may not qualify for the free cruise offer.
Caesars Diamond to free 4-night stay at Atlantis Bahamas
One of the benefits of Caesars Diamond status is a complimentary stay at Atlantis in the Bahamas. What you get depends on when you go.
First of all, if you go during March, April, or July, you only get a Buy 2 nights, Get 2 nights free deal in The Coral Tower.
If you go during February, June, August, November, or December, you get a complimentary 4-night stay in The Coral Tower and $100 in slot free play. If you go in January, May, September, or October, you get a complimentary 5-night stay in The Coral Tower and $150 in free slot play.
Note that you will still pay the resort fee, which I believe comes to $66 per night. Food on-property is said to be quite expensive, so think of this has a highly discounted stay rather than free, but also much less than the retail price. See this MilesTalk post for more detail.
Caesars Diamond $100 Celebration Dinner
One of the benefits of Caesars Diamond status is a Diamond “celebration dinner”, which is a $100 dining credit that can be used at select restaurants at Caesars properties.
I’ve both written about this benefit and used it in Las Vegas years ago (See: Caesars Diamond Celebration Dinner: Easy to use and worth the match) and I recently checked up on it in Atlantic City and found that there are quite a few options there for the dinner. My wife and I both have Caesars Diamond status and we were able to verify that we have the Diamond Celebration dinners loaded to our accounts, so at some point we’ll enjoy a nice $200 dinner thanks to Caesars Diamond status.
Note that this works at some Caesars properties outside of Atlantic City and Las Vegas also, so it’s worth looking around if you’ll be visiting another city with a Caesars property.
Carnival free cruise offer to Royal Caribbean free cruise offer (free 5-night cruise)
Royal Caribbean has been offering a match whereby you can submit a screen shot of a free cruise offer from a competing cruise line or other casino status / offer and you could get up to a free 5-night cruise. I did this offer last year and I wrote about it in the post How to cruise for free (or nearly free) with Royal Caribbean and Carnival.
In a nutshell, 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.
The nice thing about the Royal Caribbean match is that you only pay port taxes — and if you book during a “Kids Sail Free” promotion, that stacks and you’ll only pay port taxes for the kids. We were actually able to book two free cruises with one of these offers, including one during President’s Week, which surprised me since that is a major holiday week for New Yorkers to travel South. Getting a cruise that week in a balcony room for four people for $408 seemed like an incredible deal.
Unfortunately, recent data points suggest that Royal Caribbean has been only offering this deal on very close-in cruises. I’m not sure whether the cruises on offer will improve, so you may want to hold off on this until we get better positive data points again.
Caesars Diamond or MGM Gold to Hard Rock Rock Royalty / Unity Icon (2 free nights)
This match must be done in person at a Hard Rock casino. I recommend doing this in Atlantic City.
First, you go to Caesars Atlantic City to print your Caesars Diamond card. There is a self-service kiosk next to the Caesars Rewards desk where you pop in your driver’s license and it pops out your Caesars Rewards card. If you’ve driven to Caesars, you’ll get free parking on the way out by showing your Caesars Diamond card. If you instead have MGM Gold status, you can print out your MGM Gold card at Borgata Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City.
You next bring your Caesars Diamond card to the Hard Rock Atlantic City. Hard Rock charges for parking on the way in, so the smart play here is to valet park (thanks to a member of our Frequent Miler Insiders for this suggestion!) because you’d pay for valet on the way out — and by that time you’ll have Rock Royalty status and thus won’t pay for valet parking (or self-parking in the future).
Go to the players club desk at Hard Rock Atlantic City (it already has “Unity Rewards” signage, though they are still on the old loyalty program as of the time of writing). You explain that you’d like to sign up for a players club card (this is free) and that you have status with Caesars and you understand that they are matching and hand over your driver’s license and Caesars Diamond card.
Hard Rock will match you to Rock Royalty, which is their highest tier apart from the invite-only X tier.
Hard Rock Rock Royalty comes with a complimentary 2-night stay at Hard Rock Atlantic City. You’ll need to book that in advance. According to the website, it is available any night of the week, but Saturdays may be a challenge to find availability. Note that this benefit can be booked starting 72 hours after the match.
Hard Rock is also giving new members who match to Rock Royalty status a $50 slot machine free play credit. The way this works is they load $50 in monopoly money (“free play credit”) to your players club card. You pop the card in a machine and load the funny money to the machine. Then, you must complete $50 worth of spins and then you can cash out whatever is left (so if you play $1 per spin, you’ll need to complete 50 spins; if you play $0.25 per spin, you’ll need to complete 200 spins, etc). If you want the highest chance of walking out with as close to $50 as possible, I think your best bet is playing $0.25 video poker at the maximum of 5-credits (spinning $1.25 per hand, which would require 40 spins).
Believe it or not, it is very tough to keep track of 50 spins. But this past weekend, my wife walked out with $48 and my sister-in-law walked out with $35, so it’s possible to cash out most of the $50.
On the way out of the resort, show your Rock Royalty card at valet to get out for free (you should probably tip the valet person though with a couple bucks from your slot machine winnings).
Hard Rock Rock Royalty to Ocean Prime (2 nights in Atlantic City + 2 nights at Wynn in Las Vegas with a $50 dining credit + 7-night free cruise)
Next stop is Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City. Go to the Ocean Rewards desk there and run the same drill — you’d like to sign up for a players club card and you have Hard Rock Rock Royalty and understand that they match.
Ocean will match you to Ocean Prime status. This is awesome because Ocean Prime gets you:
- Free 2-night stay at Ocean Casino Resort (valid Sunday through Thursday). You can book this after 72 hours have passed since matching.
- Free 2-night stay at Wynn Las Vegas with a $50 dining credit. This can be booked starting on the 15th of the month following the month in which you match.
- Free pass to the Avila Lounge at Ocean Casino Resort (a buffet with carved prime rib, full bar, etc). This pass is valid for 2 guests and it is valid for 72 hours after matching.
- Free 7-night Caribbean cruise on MSC in an interior room for two people. You pay no port taxes, just a $400 deposit that you get back as a $400 onboard credit. You will pay gratuities of $16 per person per day. This can be booked starting on the 15th of the month following the month in which you match.
The complimentary nights at Wynn could be an awesome benefit if you’re going to Las Vegas since Wynn can be quite pricey. The star of the show though is the free 7-night cruise on MSC. It’s a great deal because you don’t even pay taxes, just the deposit that you get back as onboard credit and gratuities. You can probably upgrade to an ocean view or balcony room for a reasonable fee (YMMV depending on sailing).
Note that if you want to bring more than 2 people, additional guests cost around $350 each.
If you’re going to sail with MSC and you have Hyatt Globalist status (or I believe Hilton Diamond status also works), you can do a status match with MSC. This can be worth it because if you get matched to MSC Diamond status, you’ll get a complimentary specialty dinner for 2 for one night, a bottle of sparkling wine, a cocktail reception with crew, and some other goodies. Status match at this link.
It’s worth knowing that Ocean Prime status has a 6/30 expiration date, but on their website Ocean Casino Resort notes that those who match after March 1st will automatically have their status extended to June 30, 2024. That’s huge because my understanding of the MSC cruise benefit is that you get one free cruise per year, so I think it may be possible to repeat this benefit in early 2024.
Ocean charges for parking on the way out, but show your Ocean Prime card and you won’t pay for parking.
Bonus match: Ocean Prime to MGM Gold at Borgata Atlantic City
A bonus match that you could do but may not be necessary is to match Ocean Prime status to MGM Gold at Borgata in Atlantic City. MGM Gold doesn’t necessarily come with a concrete free night benefit, but it allows you to match to Hyatt Explorist status and it does sometimes come with good free room offers.
For instance, my wife matched to MGM Gold at Borgata last weekend and she had offers for up to 4 complimentary nights in Las Vegas with a $20 Resort Credit. With an offer like that, stays can be really cheap at some of the Vegas resorts.
Note that if you started with Hyatt Explorist or Hyatt Globalist status and matched to MGM Gold, this would be your starting point to print your MGM Gold card. You should then be able to match that to Rock Royalty at Hard Rock.
Borgata charges for parking on the way out, but show your MGM Gold card and you won’t pay for parking.
Caesars Diamond or MGM Gold to Rivers Platinum in Philadelphia (no longer offering a free cruise)
The night before we took off for Atlantic City this past weekend, I spent some time hunting for recent data points on tier matching at Philadelphia casinos (since they are about 50 minutes from Atlantic City)
and I found a very timely post from that very same day in the MilesTalk Facebook group. I want to be clear that the credit for this find goes entirely to a member of that group who did the legwork, though I’ll build on it with a couple of tips. The bottom line is that you can pick up a ten night MSC cruise — maybe even in a balcony room — with this next play.
Update 5/1/23: As indicated at the top of this post, Rivers Philadelphia is apparently no longer honoring this benefit as it was originally offered. Worse yet, MSC is cancelling cruises for some people who booked after matching from Rivers Philadelphia (we have a report in our Facebook group and I see one in the Miles Talk group from a different person) and MSC is trying to impose a cancellation penalty. This is awful service all around.
I am hopeful that Rivers and MSC will do the right thing here — neither the press release (which you can see here) nor the website reflected this when I matched and booked in early April. Here’s a screen shot of the way the site looked in early April:
The screen shot above is from April 7th, but my wife and I booked during the week following that and there was no mention of needing to have earned your tier status through play.
Here is what it looks like today, with the new section boxed in red:
As you can see, they have updated it to indicate that you must have earned your Rivers status through rated play in order to receive the cruise benefit. Apparently, they are retroactively applying this requirement.
The member of our group reporting receiving cancellation notice had already made flight and hotel reservations for the cruise (and I am sure they are not alone). If they aren’t going to honor the benefit, it certainly doesn’t make sense to me to impose a cancellation fee. Hopefully anyone who has made flight and hotel plans has used a card with trip cancellation coverage. I’m not sure that this is a situation the claims administrator will have encountered before, but if your cruise booking is cancelled by the cruise line, I would hope you could qualify for some coverage.
Overall, this is a really disappointing outcome for those receiving cancellations. I would obviously recommend avoiding this match altogether since there are still no details about the partnership with The Venetian and it seems they will not honor the cruise benefit for those matching status.
Match to Philadelphia Live! Black (3 free nights at Resorts World Las Vegas)
Philadelphia Live! is another Philadelphia casino that offers a tier match, albeit a bit different than all of the others mentioned so far.
Update 5/1/23: Recent reports indicate that Philadelphia Live is no longer matching Hard Rock status. The other Atlantic City statuses will only get you Philadelphia Live! Platinum status, which does not come with a free stay in Las Vegas. I am leaving the rest of this section in case someone finds another path to Philadelphia Live! Black (possibly through matching first at another Philadelphia-area casino).
Rather than an instant match, Philadelphia Live takes a picture of your competing status (you can submit more than one) and then someone in the marketing department processes the match in four or five days. That means the Philadelphia Live match is not guaranteed and you can’t make this happen without either spending 4 or 5 days in Philadelphia or returning to Philadelphia for a second trip.
While my wife and her sister matched to Rivers Platinum, I did not match at Rivers (opting to wait until a future trip). We stopped at Philadelphia Live and each of us signed up for a new players club card and provided our Caesars Diamond, MGM Gold, Hard Rock Rock Royalty, and Ocean Prime statuses. The agent took a picture of all four status cards and said that the marketing department would be in charge of any upgrade.
A member of our Facebook group reported going to Philadelphia Live later the same day and he was told that only Hard Rock Rock Royalty would match to Philadelphia Live Black, so he only submitted that card. Update: That member of our Facebook group successfully matched from just Hard Rock Rock Royalty to Philadelphia Live Black, so apparently that’s the only one you need for this match.
If you are somehow able to still match to Philadelphia Live! Black, that status comes with:
- A free 3-night stay at Resorts World in Las Vegas
- A Buy 2, Get 2 nights free for Baha Mar
- Possibly $200 in travel reimbursement in the form of free play at your “home casino” (which might be interesting)
- The chance to tier match for Rivers Rush Rewards Black (obviously not an official benefit, but one that was pertinent to this guide before — now it would only be pertinent if Rivers offers some other Black tier benefit that you want).
The free nights at Resorts World would be a nice benefit if you’re going to Las Vegas. I had the chance to spend a few nights at Resorts World and I have loved it despite its unideal location.
The buy 2, get 2 nights at Baha Mar certainly could be appealing for someone who was already considering going. I see nights starting in the low $400’s at some times of year. This offer would essentially drop that to the low $200’s per night, which is probably appealing. If the partner travel benefit can be triggered with this, all the better (but you have to submit for reimbursement and I wonder how easy it will be to get the reimbursement without prior play at Philadelphia Live….and there’s also the fact that you’d need to go back to Philadelphia Live for the free play, so this won’t be useful for everyone).
Philadelphia Live also provided the option of $10 in free play or $10 in match play on a table game. We each cashed out a few bucks of that.
It’s unfortunate that this match isn’t instant. You’ll need to wait 4 or 5 days.
Philadelphia Live Rewards Black to Rivers Rush Rewards Black
(same 10-night free cruise, but in a balcony room)
Update 5/1/23: While you can probably still do this match, it probably isn’t worth it since Rivers is no longer honoring the MSC cruise benefit.
Rivers Casino Philadelphia matches Philadelphia Live Rewards Black to Rivers Rush Rewards Black. That is useful because Black status upgrades your MSC cruise benefit to a complimentary balcony room on a cruise of up to 10 nights anywhere MSC sails. See the Caesars Diamond to Rivers Platinum section above for a full explanation of this benefit — getting Rivers Black status simply upgrades it to a balcony room. Again, I think there will also be some sort of complimentary stay at The Venetian offered as well, but we don’t yet have details on this.
Surely these can’t be the only matches currently on offer. There are a number of other Philadelphia-area casinos that may offer matches (perhaps these present faster paths to Rivers Black status, but we didn’t have time to drive around to more casinos). Furthermore, Rivers has locations in a number of places. The member of our Facebook group who previously matched to Rivers Black and booked the MSC cruise matched at Rivers Portsmouth by showing both a Caesars Diamond and MGM Gold card. It is possible that other Rivers casinos offer matches, though you’ll want to ask about what you’ll get before completing the match to be sure you’re getting what you want.
I imagine there are more opportunities out there. Atlantic City and Philadelphia offer a number of opportunities in close proximity.
57 total free nights in one-player mode
To recap my math for the 57 free nights:
- 3 free nights in a 1-bedroom Vacasa vacation rental with the Wyndham Business card offer
- 7 free nights with the Carnival cruise match (or longer depending on your choice)
- 4 free nights with the Atlantis Bahamas benefit (or maybe 5)
- 12 free nights with Holland America cruise match
- 5 free nights with Royal Caribbean cruise match
- 2 free nights at Hard Rock Atlantic City
- 2 free nights at Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City
- 2 free nights & $50 dining credit at Wynn Las Vegas
- 7 free nights on MSC Caribbean cruise from Ocean Prime
- 10 free nights on MSC cruise anywhere from Rivers Rush Rewards
- 3 free nights at Resorts World Las Vegas
As noted in the sections above, some of these offers may be repeatable, which could stretch your free nights even further.
Why do casinos offer matching programs and things like free cruises and stays at other casinos?
Casinos all want to draw in high roller gamblers, so they offer status matches to try to draw high rollers away from competitors in the same way that airlines compete for high-value customers with status matches.
Similarly, cruise lines are after high-rolling gamblers to gamble in their onboard casinos. Offering free cruise benefits to high-tier members of land-based casino loyalty programs increases their odds of drawing in more money in their casinos. Cross-marketing with casinos in other states offers a reason for gamblers to be loyal in their home markets since it will give them a benefit when they inevitably visit Las Vegas.
As is the case with many of the games we play, we can leverage credit cards and loyalty programs to get outsized value. In this case, thanks to the ability to match statuses between casinos, we can appear to be like a high-roller gambler that casinos and cruise lines covet.
This resource is obviously very long, but this illustrates why I love this game: if you learn how to play it, you can vacation like a high-roller for very low-roller stakes. The current matching opportunities make for a boatload (or several boatloads) of free nights in casino hotels and on cruise lines. The average person would be hard-pressed to find the vacation time to accommodate all of the free matching offers that can sprout from a single $95 credit card, though note that in some cases you may be able to book further out (the Carnival offer, for example, was good for cruises about a year out in my experience). If you are retired or work from home and you’re playing the game in 2-player mode, imagine doubling everything in this post. While I don’t know that I’ll love every free stay or cruise, that’s a double-down that I can get behind.
Saw a DP in the comments where you will be disqualified from Holland America if you match with Carnival. Can I send a screenshot of my Caesar’s Diamond to Holland America to get a free cruise offer and then send it to Carnival after?
Has anyone done the Hard Rock status match recently since Sean’s May 8th post? I am headed to Atlantic City the first weekend in June where my wife and mother in law are planning to status match their Caesar’s status to get the free cruises. I am a little worried though because when I called the hotel about my reservation they referred to me as an Icon member instead of Rock Royalty, and when I asked about the status match the CSR seemed to indicate that they werent doing it anymore. Wanted to confirm that they are still doing it before we head up there.
I’m not sure what May 8th post you’re referring to, but a friend of mine did the match just this past Thursday. Still Rock Royalty — though when I went to Mirage about a month after my own match, Mirage said I was already Icon (clearly they connected the account from Atlantic City).
(and yes, he also matched to Ocean Prime).
Is the Holland America offer still only valid thru the end of 2023? I haven’t done the match yet and am hoping at some point it switches to allow 2024 bookings. Thanks everyone for all the good insights.
Does anyone know how to book the Carnival offer with Kids ? When I try to add kids in the search, the options of free cruise disappear. Can I book for 2 adults and add kids later?
I was able to add kids directly as part of the online booking with Carnival. There are some rooms that are capacity limited to 2 it’s possible you are running into an issue with the ship only having those rooms available for the free offer. That was the case for the Holland America offer – all the free interior rooms available for our chosen itineraries could only sleep 2, so adding our daughter required upgrading to at least an Ocean View room. (In the case of HAL you have to book over the phone for the offer)
Are there any shortcuts for couples? Any way to spin one wyndham card into caesar’s diamond for both of us?
Nick (and others)!
We were under the impression that you wanted to match to MSC Voyagers Diamond (from Hilton Diamond for example) BEFORE you booked your free cruise. If that’s the case, we can’t seem to figure out how to do it.
We’ve signed up for the MSC accounts and within our profiles when we click on ‘MSC Voyagers Club > Become a Member’ we have two options ‘I have cruised with MSC in the Past’ or ‘ I have booked an upcoming cruise with MSC’.
If we click ‘I have cruised…’ we get ‘An error occurred checking member travel’ which makes sense since we haven’t cruised before. We obviously can’t click the second option as we haven’t yet booked.
Are we missing something, or is it indeed okay to match to Diamond after you book the free cruise? If we do match after we’ve booked the free cruise do we have to circle back and ‘attach’ our respective MSC Diamond number after the fact/make sure the perks are included as they should be for Diamond members?
Thank you for your help Nick (and others)!
I have a direct link to the status match in the post, but here it is again: https://www.msccruisesusa.com/manage-booking/msc-voyagers-club/status-match
I didn’t sign up for an MSC account before doing that match — they just assigned me a number. I guess if you use the same email and phone and stuff they’ll probably line it up with the account you’ve already created.
Thank you Nick! Yes, we had indeed seen the link within your initial post but it looks like we got caught up with trying to create the Voyager account before submitting the match form.
Fingers crossed that matching goes without a hitch and we’re upgraded to MSC Diamond.
Thank you again for all of your help!
We wanted to provide a bit more context on the nuts and bolts of booking the rooms for others considering doing the matches:
Ocean Casino AC
Hard Rock AC
were you able to get the hard rock free nights booked? seems like there are no “comp nights” available when i called, only discounted nights
Yes! Thankfully we were able to book the weekend after Memorial Day.
Not being able to simply go online and see a calendar of what nights qualify as comp nights is definitely not ideal, especially when playing in two or more player mode and trying to coordinate contiguous stays.
Hopefully you’re able to find something!
Received Balcony offer from Carnival through my Wyndham/Caesar Diamond match. I searched over 100 cruises from all departing ports and Balcony availability was slim pickin’s. Matter of fact I only found a single Balcony cruise departing from the US. Turns out it’s a nice cruise, 8 day Bahama out of Mobile AL, so I booked it. Demonstrating good ethics Carnival warned of view obstruction, but Nick did advise to look at reviews and YouTube videos as the obstruction from the life boats do not block your horizontal view as they are stationed below the deck. Truth be knows if things get ugly the location of the life boat could be a real benefit. :-).
I just tried the Caesars Diamond to Holland America match, I guess they know I’ve done the Carnival match last year. Terrible offer:
$200 Free Play per person (1st/2nd Guest Only) *valid on new bookings only
Thanks for this amazing detailed information and its exciting. Just booked almost free cruise in Europe/Iceland. Now that we are spoiled is there any credit card or other options to get almost free wifi in cruise and excusrions? Is it a good idea to book excursions through cruise or book independent?
I submitted my Carnival free cruise offer to the Royal Caribbean offer match in late March and I still haven’t gotten any emails from them. Does it normally take long to get an offer?
I submitted a Carnival offer too to Royal Caribbean in early April and still haven’t gotten word back. Does anyone know the time it takes to hear back from them? The auto message after submitting with Royal Caribbean said to wait 10 to 15 business days, which has already well passed.
When I tried to register for the match at Carnival through the link I got this message: “Sorry, this deal isn’t available to you. (You can totally grab one of our others, though!)”
Is this normal or does this mean I’m hosed?
I had the same message. I tried a different email and it worked.
I tried that and didn’t get that error message so I guess it worked, we’ll see if the offers come in.
Hey Saul – this actually happened to me too, I called Carnival and talked to the casino department it turned out there was an error in my personal data (the year was missing the last digit in their backend database for some reason!) and they were able to get it fixed and confirmed I was now registered for the Fun Match – so if you haven’t tried yet, calling is a good idea to see if there’s something they can do
Another way to get MGM gold is through Celebrity cruise line. I have Elite plus with Celebrity and they have a reciprocity agreement that gives you MGM gold. I did have to go to pick up my card at the casino but just had to show a snap shot of my Celebrity status. I got the balcony cruise in Europe with Carnival last summer that way.
1- How do you book the free nights with Hard Rock?
Lots of persistance……I got my status match first weekend in March and finally got the free nights booked middle of last month. As noted a couple comments below by Michael below it doesn’t show up online and the phone reps can’t see any availability. I called multiple times and they just kept saying “there is no availability” and to try again when the next month’s schedule opens up, but then there was no availability then either.
I ended up having to email the info desk at email@example.com to complain, and they finally were able to book my two free nights.
Should I match to Carnival and Holland America at the same time?
I did these approximately the same time (within 2 weeks of each other) and received free cruise offers from both. Holland America was a quick response within 2 days but back in February when they were processing faster, I didn’t get the free Carnival offers until two months later when I updated all of my VIFP information as Nick mentioned in a more recent post from FM Insiders data points.
Can you explain what is VIFP
Just Carnival’s name for your rewards and cruise account with them. Another article noted that some people weren’t getting the free cruise offers until all the fields were filled in, including ones you might typically leave blank in other accounts (middle name, title, etc.). That was the case for me as well.
UPDATED TO ADD: I’m sorry – I just saw your answer below. Thank you!! The only field I can’t complete is the Address 2 because I live in a house (so no apartment number). Do you think that’s fine?
I got an offer from Holland America right away too (and just booked a free Alaskan cruise for August), but I’m still waiting on Carnival. What exactly did you do when you say you “updated your VIFP info.” I can’t find the post where Nick mentioned it. I’m hoping to get things moving with Carnival. Thanks in advance!
I got the upgrade to Hyatt Explorist via the recent Bilt offer. Apparently, Hyatt Explorer status achieved this way does not work for matching MGM Gold Status.
When I tried to get the MGM Gold Status match on my Hyatt account, I get this message saying you are not good enough 😉
“We’re sorry! Your World of Hyatt Trial Tier status is not eligible to tier match into MGM Rewards. Once you meet the qualifying criteria for a World of Hyatt tier you can tier match into the appropriate tier in M life Rewards.”
You can match the trial explorist to MGM Gold but you have to do it in person at a casino
This things going the dodo way shortly now that we the frequentmiler hoarde have descended on the cruise lines lol
Hi Nick, has BetRivers Philly changed their website? They now state that the tier benefit must be earned to receive cruise benefits. And there doesn’t seem to be a chart telling you what matches to what any longer?
It seems “*Tier Status must be earned to receive cruise benefits. Cruise benefits based on rated play.” was added sometime after april 7.
Has one that matched recently received the cruise benefit?
[…] You can also start with the Founders Card to get Caesars Diamond status. I’m not familiar with that route, but Frequent Miler does include it in their post here. […]
If we match to Hard Rock in Vegas for the free $100, can we match again in Hard Rock Atlantic City for the two free nights or are we no longer considered new members? Thanks!
I just did this and got both matches. 1st did Vegas then Atlantic City. I did do it pretty close together though, about a week apart, so that could have something to do with it. Possibly the system hadn’t updated? As for the 2 free nights, I was offered this, but have not been able to book. My guess is there are going to be a lot of blackout or sold out comp nights on this benefit. I also got the $50 in freeplay in Atlantic city.
HR AC confirmed via email there is a problem booking these nights. The phone reps and the web do not see the offer. They are “working on getting this rectified.”
[…] Gold status is also one of the on-ramps to the casino and cruise match Ferris wheel. You can’t use the trial status to match MGM, but if you earn 10-night credits with the Bilt […]
Thank you for this epic write up. Never seen such an analysis on any other blog. Is it possible to go on 2 MSC cruises in the same calendar year from different casinos? The Ocean terms say once per calendar year, but I don’t know if that is enforced by Ocean or MSC (which is likely subsidizing the cruise) among all casino programs.
We have a reader who has booked both the Ocean and Rivers MSC cruise offers. That’s only one data point, but it tells me that it isn’t impossible.
Thank you SO much for this awesome write up Nick, you can the FM team consistently hit it out of the park!
A few questions:
To save time can we setup our online accounts in advance for each hotel/casino BEFORE we start matching, or is is best to let the customer service rep create the accounts (therefore creating the player number) and status match all in person?
When it comes to booking the free nights in AC we know you have to wait 72 hours. However, can you see availability of what nights/days of the week are eligible to be booked from each hotel’s website immediately after matching (in other words, before the 72hrs have passed)?
How do you know when you’ve been matched at Live! Philadelphia? Do they send you an email/text letting you know or do you just have to keep checking your online account?
Thank you again Nick!
Do not set up accounts with the casinos in advance. Some of them only match when you are a new player and frankly I don’t know which is which. I wouldn’t want to risk messing that up. Just build in the time for them to set up your player account and match you.
The free nights in AC have to be booked over the phone, so there is no way to see the free nights. You just have to call. I hear that weekends are really tough (Hard Rock theoretically allows weekends, but Ocean is Sunday-Thursday).
Live! doesn’t send anything. I downloaded the “MyLiveRewards” app as soon as I left the casino. I set up a login using the players card number on the card I was given (you get a red “classic” card to start). The app keeps you perpetually logged in to your account, but about 72 hours later I pulled up the app and it automatically updated my card to Black (I saw it switch from Red to Black when I opened it). If you don’t want the app, you can alternatively set up the login and login on the desktop site — same thing.
Thank you so much Nick for the detailed response, this will come in really handy!
Have a great weekend!
[…] is one EPIC Frequent Miler post: How to get 57 free nights of vacation from a single credit card. Maybe I’ll see you at a mostly free cruise soon? Just like the one Capital One paid for us […]
Again such fun…thank you Nick & FMer! So have Ocean Prime (confusing name for me, as its the name of a good chain seafood restaurants) and tried to book my 2-nt Wynn Vegas. They need several days to confirm status before booking.
The post notes that you have to wait until the 15th of the month following the month in which you match. So if you matched during April, you won’t be able to book that until May 15th.
“How get free cruises by gaming casino status matches…”
How TO get free cruises by gaming casino status matches…
Why is everybody on the internet dropping the “to” in infinitives lately? (Genuine question.)
Just to make ocd people angry. (I’m OCD )
Oh my, what fun this is! Thank you.
Spent most of my weekend schlepping around Atlantic City and Philadelphia racking-up VIP reward cards. Just an FYI. I have been trying to log into my new Hard Rock rock royalty account and been unable to do so. So I phoned and they informed me that they’re currently upgrading to the new unity program and some folks, consequently, cannot log in and asked me to be patient and with no date on when the change is going to occur
Nick/all, is there any way to know if for sure that Carnival accepted the screenshot from Caesars?
So MSC is the cheapest free cruise and can the auto gratutites be declined and is there a way to get free internet?
Yes, you can decline the automatic gratuities (though they aren’t expensive). No free Internet on any cruise line to my knowledge except for Virgin Voyages.
You are getting a free cruise and cannot even pay gratuities? Not cool.
Great and really thorough write up! Does anyone know if it’s possible to book any of these cruises for another person? My mother in law loves cruising and has a lot more time for it than I do. I guess I could sign her up through the steps in this article but she’s not into the points and miles game and it would be a lot easier just let her have my “free cruises”.
No, it’s not possible to give them away. You have to look at the goal here: The cruise lines aren’t trying to give away cruises, they are trying to attract high roller gamblers. Because of your Caesars Diamond / MGM Gold / Ocean Prime / Rivers Platinum or higher status, they assume you are the kind of high roller who will lose more in the casino than the cost of the cruise. If they let you give away the cruise to someone else, that would totally defeat their purpose (getting you to gamble and lose in their casino). The person who has the casino status has to sail.
Makes sense! Thanks so much!
thanks for the details. If I set my everything for mother (after applying CC for her to getting the statuses), can she book cruise fro her and my dad?
I’ve read a report that someone was told at Live casino that the marketing department can take up to two weeks! And another DP said they had submitted the match to love two weeks ago and still no update. This would be bad news for me as I’ll be coming from pretty far. Nick, how long ago did you do that match and do you know of any other casinos that Rivers would match with to get their black level?
Scroll down 8 or 9 comments to see my DP, but short story is matched on Sunday, had Black on Wednesday (72hrs later).
There are other Rivers Casino locations. Des Plaines IL, Portsmouth VA, Pittsburgh PA, and Schenectady NY. I wonder if all the locations match other casinos similarly?
Not similarly. We did have one reader who reported having matched (a couple of months ago I think) at Portsmouth, but they said that the person at the players club didn’t seem to know if they offered a match and took the cards to someone else who seemed to make an on-the-spot decision. The reader said that they showed Caesars Diamond and MGM Gold and got Rivers Black, while their buddy only had MGM Gold and only got Rivers Platinum. By contrast, Rivers Philadelphia has a matrix behind the counter that the employees check to see which card matches to which status.
I think it makes sense that Rivers Philadelphia matches since they have to directly compete with the other Philadelphia casinos *and* Atlantic City. That’s not going to be the case in some other markets.
Caesars has the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin and Harrah’s in Joliet, Penn Gaming has the Hollywood Casino in Aurora and also a Hollywood Casino in Joliet. Boyd has the Bluechip Casino just over the border in Indiana. There are 3 casinos in the Quad cities area, that are about 100 miles from the casinos I named before. I live across the street from a Boyd casino (it’s a river boat) in Peoria, IL. I have only visited a few of these casinos because I go to Vegas at least once a year. I have not tried to do all the kinds of matching that you outline in this post, but I know people who have had their status matched at IL casinos. I personally feel that you should keep your gambling in one organization so that you actually earn real status organically.
I would venture to say that most casinos match the status you have with another casino, within reason. From the Caesars or MGM status you can match just about all the casinos in Vegas. Wynn is not matching right now, but that will probably change. I don’t pay to stay in Vegas, not even resort fees. I don’t gamble a huge amount but just enough so they want me to come back. Which is the big deal with these cruise offers. If an individual wants to keep getting cruise offers they need to gamble. Probably a minimum of $200 per cruise day. Otherwise all this matching is a one-shot pony.
I finally got my free balcony offer after updating my profile, thanks for the info! When i click on the available sailings all the balconies are showing sold out for every cruise on every date. Anyone else having this problem?
Probably. Like I said, availability ebbs and flows. You’ve got to keep checking it every week (or maybe every few days even).
I matched and it shows the Blue category is that what it should show? Thanks and great post.
Color doesn’t mean anything (well, it does: Blue means you’ve never sailed with Carnival, Red means you’ve sailed at least once before, Gold means you’ve sailed a bunch of times). That status has nothing to do with the free cruise offer. I know they call it a “match”, but it is more like an “offer match” than a “status match”. Nothing actually changes with your Carnival status, they just offer a free cruise.
Great post. A small data point to add: I submitted for the Holland cruise offer after I’d booked Carnival balcony but before I’d sailed… got the 12-day HA inside cabin offer, then sailed Carnival (only gambled the $100 in free play, earning $130 back), then was still able to book the Holland offer. So as long as you get the offer before you sail Carnival you should be good to book it even after Carnival.
Also the site URcomped was matching Carnival offers for a while. Used that to sail the new Celebrity Beyond last month, which was head and shoulders above any cruise ship I’ve ever been on in terms of design. URcomped also partners with Virgin Voyages so it’s well worth trying unless they’ve stopped matching.
Just FYI, URComped stopped matching the Carnival Fun Match offer a few months ago. They do match other stuff.
Nick. I have a written message with my HA free inside room offer show urcomped.com. How do we show the MSC free cruise offers from Ocean and Rivers Philly that i think are only posted on their websites? thank you
I don’t know that you can.
For Urcomped do they call you after starting membership or is it all automated thru the system
Great post Nick! I have MGM Gold but can’t find the card. Can I post a screenshot of my account number and Gold status to the Carnival site like you did for the Caesar’s status? Crop out my 0 tier points? Matched from Hyatt Explorist.
Yes, that should work for Carnival. I don’t even know that it matters if you crop out the zero tier points.
Husband and I both tried the Holland America match with Caesars Diamond but received this response: Based on status with our sister brands, we can offer you the below offer. If you wish to accept, please confirm and we will provide you with a certificate to book the offer directly with a Holland America Line agent. Thank you!
$200 Free Play per person (1st/2nd Guest Only) *valid on new bookings only
No free cruises for us! We had already applied for the Carnival match, but have not sailed with them yet. I am assuming since we matched it first that it disqualified us from Holland America?
That’s a bummer. I only got that offer also. My wife got the free Holland America offer though.
I got the same exact response.
I made a couple of small updates to the post and wanted to comment here to make sure that those who previously commented are notified:
First, I added a screen shot of Caesars Diamond that shows how I’ve done that for the purposes of matching for the Carnival & Holland America offers.
Second, the member of our Facebook group who matched at Philadelphia Live the same day that I did also reports receiving Rivers Black today. That’s significant because he only submitted Hard Rock Rock Royalty because the agent at the desk told him that was the only one that would match to Black (others, including me, have been told by the desk agent that they don’t know what matches to what). That’s maybe good news if Hard Rock continues to match to Caesars Diamond and MGM Gold since you’ll have a couple of entry points even if other matches change.
Also relevant is that we matched on Sunday and status was updated Wednesday. No idea whether others will experience the same timeline, but ours was approximately 72hrs.
Posted in FB, but just Incase anybody sees it here first:
no Wyndham biz card (yet) but have MLife gold. Heading to AC tomorrow. Does Caesars still match Mlife gold or is that only for new CR members? If not, what would be the best way to get Caesars Diamond?
If I match Mlife to Hard Rock Royalty and/or Ocean with Caesars match either of those?
Lastly, is Hard Rock AC still on the old program or have they switched to Unity?
I don’t know if Caesar’s matching, but in your case that won’t matter because you can do all the matches you need to starting with MGM gold.
Hard Rock was still on the old program last Sunday. The major signage says unity, but the electronic boards at the players club desks still all have the old stuff.
Ah, so I can just go MLife gold to Hard Rock Royalty then? Sorry if I missed that, the posts I read had Caesars to Hard Rock.
Yes. Caesars or MGM Gold: https://frequentmiler.com/how-to-get-53-free-nights-of-vacation-from-a-single-credit-card/#Caesars_Diamond_or_MGM_Gold_to_Hard_Rock_Rock_Royalty_Icon_2_free_nights
Just got back from AC a few hours ago. Some data points:
– when I asked rewards desk at Harrah’s to match MLife Gold she asked “did you match last year”, I said no because I thought she was asking if I matched MLife. She took my ID and said that she could see that I matched from Wyndham last year. She said they are only allowing matches every other year. So no dice, but also not completely dead, just have to wait a year.
– Hard Rock AC is still not using Unity as of 3/31/23. Got matched to Rock Royalty.
– Philly Live told me they don’t know what matches to what because they don’t have a chart and that an off site company handles. When I presented her with Rock Royalty, MLife Gold and Ocean Prime she said she was told that Rock Royalty Carries the most weight but could not confirm a match to Black. So we’ll have to wait and see.
Ceasar’s ís currently matching but it’s different at every location: https://www.caesars.com/myrewards/promotions/diamond-tier-upgrade
Great writeup by the way! A bit to add to your Founder’s Card route: If you upgrade to their Elite membership (you get a second membership for your partner for free) it’s around $700 a year. But if you setup a Stripe for your account “business” to run credit card charges through, you get $50k in free processing fees a year. More than pays for itself. You also get IHG gold and Hilton Gold which can be parlayed into top tier status with all the rental car companies. It also comes with Avis Presidential. Not a bad score when you throw in that it’s a solid path to CRD.
Also, we did the Atlantis trip back in 2019 and what you don’t see in the fine print is that you have to have a minimum of something like 8 hours of gambling for the “free” stay. (i can’t remember exactly) Just thought I’d add that info
There were some minor grumblings about people maybe being threatened with being charged for the free Atlantis stay for not gambling several years back, but I’ve heard from plenty of people who have gone in the past few years and not gambled at all and not been hassled.
I appreciate post like these, but can we please, please, please stop calling any of this FREE? Most of the steps you have mentioned Cost some form of money to complete, so it isn’t free. Let’s call it subsidized vacations because that’s what it actually is. You don’t want people suing you for misdirecting them that all of this was free, whereas, the real cost of all of this could run well into thousands of dollars when you account for those flights, rental cars, meals, gasoline (all for the status matches), resort fees on hotel stays, etc.
Nick said the “vacation nights” are free. He didn’t say the vacation days or travel to them were free.
~ FM’s lawyer
(I’m pedantic but even this seems like picking nits to me.)
I am sorry but the nights aren’t free either. *Free Cruise* requires payment of $100 deposit per person that you only get in the form of on-board credit and payment of gratuities, whether you want to pay them or not; Free Atlantis nights come with $65 per night resort fees… I can go on and on but I am sure you get the point since you are a lawyer 🙂
Also, in most cases, one has to visit these casinos in person. That cost money as well.
I FulLy AgReE wItH tHiS OpInIoN.
Awesome post Nick. Two thoughts. 1) I may not have vacay days for this until next year, would you still sign up for the cruise programs now or wait? 2) you mention this is ideal for WFH or retired. Does that mean internet on the cruises is strong enough to do work?
1) Tough to say. The Carnival cruise offer can be booked into next year, but the Holland America one can only be booked for travel through 12/31. The MSC offer through Rivers can only be for sailings through 12/31. Your Ocean Prime status will get extended to 6/30/24, so sometime starting in July or August (I’d bet starting July 15th or August 15th) you’ll be able to book an MSC cruise that sails by 6/30/24. That’s actually been a calendar year benefit, so I think it’s actually possible to book one that sails this year and then in January I think you can book another one that sails by 6/30/24. The free nights at Wynn should work the same way I believe. I have no idea what the deal is with the free Resorts World nights yet (from Philly Live Black).
I guess that if you definitely can’t travel this year, it’s probably worth waiting — but know that these opportunities may not last into next year. Maybe they will, but I wouldn’t bank on them continuing to give away this many free cruises as I have gotten the impression that these types of offers were not common pre-pandemic, so whenever the cruise industry gets back to the status quo I expect these types of things to dry up to a large extent (and the matches can obviously change any time).
2) It depends on the cruise, but I’ve read that Carnival is now switching to or has now already switched to (can’t remember which) Starlink Internet on all of their ships (they own Holland America and Princess also, so this applies to all three). I sailed on Royal Caribbean this summer and they have Starlink and while it wasn’t fiber optic speed, I was able to Zoom on it from my room balcony, which was the place where I found the signal to be the weakest — it was plenty fast to stream, browse the Internet, upload pictures, etc. I don’t think Greg even knew I was on a cruise until the weekly meeting that week lol :-). I had a bit more trouble with the Internet speed on the Carnival ship I sailed in Europe last fall, but they weren’t yet using Starlink and my issue seemed to be difficulty in finding a places on the ship with the best WiFi signal. I haven’t yet sailed with MSC, but the bottom line is that sea-based Internet is improving.
I’m not the world’s most tech-savvy person, but my understanding of Starlink (which is SpaceX’s service) is that they are essentially covering the Earth with a ton of lower-orbit satellites (whereas in the past, satellite Internet services had just a couple of far-away satellites). The advantage is that there is much less distance for the signal to travel, which means lower latency / faster speeds. The disadvantage is that lower satellites can cover less area, so they need a lot more of them. I think they’ve deployed something like 5,000 satellites so far (I saw them launch a rocket loaded with them from Port Canaveral last month). So the story is that where they have coverage, speeds are very good, but they don’t yet have coverage everywhere. The good news is that much of North America and the Caribbean is pretty well covered. They obviously stand to make a lot of money covering cruise ship routes — I don’t know what they charge cruise ships, but as an individual you would pay “from $1,000 a month” or maritime service for your yacht, so I imagine they charge the cruise lines a healthy chunk of change and therefore have a lot of incentive to put up plenty of satellites where popular cruise routes operate.
So yes, the Internet is generally good enough to work I think — though you should probably Google the specific ship to find out more about the Internet they offer.
Appreciate the detailed thoughts! What is the typical rate you pay for internet onboard?
On a cruise ship, I think usually around $20-$25 a day for a single device. I think on this last cruise I may have gotten it on sale in advance and paid $18 for the first device and $13 for the second device. Got the second device mostly because I knew that I’d be up later working (and couldn’t do that from the room with the kids sleeping) and my wife would want to stream a movie or something on her phone in the room since she’d not want to go to sleep when the kids did. So it’s not cheap. At the same time, it wasn’t an amount I couldn’t live it considering the fact that the last cruise we were on only cost us about $400 in taxes. On these MSC cruises, given the fact that they really only cost the gratuities since it’s easy to get the onboard credit back, I’ll be totally fine with whatever they charge for Internet. I haven’t researched it with them, but Carnival and Royal Caribbean were about the same. Actually, Carnival may have been $15 a day now that I think about it or you could buy a 24-hour pass for maybe $20 or $25. On that cruise, we were in port almost every day and I was taking vacation time anyway, so I only paid for the Internet on one day at the end when I was back to work.
Thanks for the post Nick. I have read through and don’t seem to find a straight answer on any of these posts. When you say you use the Caesars Diamond card from the app, are you just taking a screen dump that shows your Diamond card in like the top third of the screen and the accumulated reward credits or is there something more advanced you can do? If so, people are getting the offers when they show zero reward credits? Appreciate if you can clarify this screen shot thing as I haven’t managed to see an example screen shot in any of your or other blogger posts. Thanks!
I had used the app in the past, but most recently I helped my sister-in-law take a screen shot of her digital Caesars info by logging in at Caesars Rewards so it shows her Diamond status and expiration date in the middle of the screen and then expanding the menu in the top right corner so it has her name and membership number. I’ve added a screen shot to the Carnival and Holland match sections of this post.
Does anyone have a sense what proportion of readers have been getting the free cruise offers from Carnival that underpin a lot of this value?
P1, P2, and P3 all submitted their Caesars Diamond status to Carnival 3 months ago. Since then, we’ve each gotten spam nearly every day with “exclusive offers,” none of which are exclusive at all and aren’t better than what you can get anywhere else ($100 onboard credit, etc.).
At what point should I cut bait and unsubscribe? I realize time can vary, but has anyone gotten a free cruise offer more than a month or two out from signing up?
I submitted MGM Gold and had the same experience- junk offers for a while and then the casino offers completely stopped. Several months later, I received the offer for the balcony room. I’m looking back in my emails and it might have been about a 6 month gap between submitting my info and receiving an offer worth taking.
Someone in our FB group posted a few days ago that they got nothing for a long time, then went into their Carnival account and made sure everything in their profile was filled out (like Mr/Ms. title, country, etc) and a few days later they got a free balcony offer. Another member reported following that advice and receiving a free balcony offer last night (a few days after doing it). You might try that.
Also, I wouldn’t say that the free Carnival cruise underpins a lot of the value here. Even if you can’t get that, you can probably get a 12-night cruise on Holland America, two 7-night cruises on MSC, a 10-night cruise on MSC, the 2-night stay at Wynn, the 3-night stay at Resorts World, etc. You’re only missing 7 nights of my calculations (or maybe 12 if you can’t get the Royal Caribbean match because of the lack of a Carnival offer).
Thanks for the detailed response. I probably didn’t word my comment to Tyler well, I did receive the Carnival balcony offer! It took about 6 months to receive after signing up so hopefully Tyler has the same luck I did. Love the podcast, thanks for all y’all do!
Sorry, I was responding to @Tyler here, just hit “reply” on your message under his. I appreciate your data point!
Adding a data point here Nick – that updating the profile did the track. I had matched at least 6 months ago with nothing – i updated my title to include “Mr” and boom – balcony offer. Thanks!
This is incredible content, this is why I use your links for applications!
Does anyone know if you can do the Hard Rock match in Biloxi, MS ? I was able to do the Caesars to MGM match there.
I don’t know, but I have heard from someone who successfully matched to Hard Rock Icon at the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, FL recently.
Just tried to status match at the Hard Rock in Biloxi. They stated they don’t match to anything as they are a standalone facility owned by Ballys. Guess I have to make a trip to AC…
Good to know. Thanks for letting me know!
Is there any downside to taking advantage of these free cruises/stays and not playing in the casino? Will they catch on and just not give any free/discounted stays?
I didn’t gamble at all on my free carnival cruise and when I tried the Holland America deal at all I got was 200 FreePlay. I guess Holland and Carnivalare owned by the same company so they knew I didn’t gamble.
You can do everything in this post without gambling a dime. They probably won’t invite you back for more free cruises or whatever if you don’t gamble at all, but it’s not like someone comes to your cabin on the cruise with a baseball bat and tells you that you need to spend some more time in the casino. The are obviously offering this stuff because they think you’re going to gamble, but they aren’t going to kick you out if you decide not to. You’re not under any obligation to gamble. Nobody has applied any pressure at all.
“it’s not like someone comes to your cabin on the cruise with a baseball bat and tells you that you need to spend some more time in the casino” – Don’t give them any ideas.
I had heard you won’t get the free Holland America cruise offer if you didn’t gamble on your free carnival cruise and that was my experience.
I submitted it again to Holland America and a different email address and I got : Offer Type HALMatch 1: Complimentary Interior Cabin + $100 Freeplay with Drinks for two (2) while playing in the casino
Offer Description: Valid on eligible sailings to Alaska, Mexico, Caribbean, Coastal, and Canada/New England on 2023 sailings (blackout dates may apply). Sweet!
Holly, I hope you see this. Are you saying you submitted a Carnival screenshot from one email address and didn’t get a “free” sailing, and then submitted the same Carnival screenshot from a different email address and were successful? Thanks!
You got it. That’s exactly what I’m saying.
Thanks! I will give it a try.
Holly, did I misspeak above? Was your successful submission for a Holland cruise a Carnival offer screenshot or a Caesars Diamond card screenshot as described in this post? Thanks!
Sorry I should have been more clear. I just looked through my emails and what I submitted was one screenshot that included my Caesars diamond and MGM gold cards.
I had a few questions related to the status matches. I did the initial matches all the way through Live! Philadelphia (so just not Rivers Casino) earlier this month. I am planning another trip for the beginning of June where I was thinking about matching to Rivers Casino.
1) Since I matched after March 1st, I know my Oceans status is good through 2024. My question though is does my 2023 cruise and Wynn stay still have to be booked and completed by 6/30/23, or will I still have until 12/31/23 to complete those?
2) When does the Rivers Casino status reset? It looks like they re-evaluate every 6 months. Does this mean if I match in June that my status will end 6/30 and I wont be able to book my cruise since 7/15 is after the tier reset date? Trying to decide if I should match in June or try for another date after 7/1.
Getting ready for the game and wondering if anyone knows if there is a benefit to matching Hard Rock in AC vs LV. Seems that the HR LV matches Caesars Diamond to Unity Icon which in theory would be similar to HR AC Royalty. I’m going to be in LV soon and am planning on making the trip to AC as well. I’m thinking if I can get the HR match done in LV that would save me some time in AC. My only worry is if the LV HR Unity Icon will match to Philadelphia Live Black? Read the post and have been reading data points but they all seem to point to AC HR Royalty being the match. Would really like to match to Philadelphia Live Black and then Philadelphia River Rush Black. Any thought’s??
I have seen some data points of matching both at Mirage and in Atlantic City (I think because the programs are still separate at this point). That might be desirable enough since I believe Mirage gives you a $100 dining credit. My instinct is that Philadelphia Live probably won’t match hard rock icon until Hard Rock Atlantic City starts using Unity Rewards, but I could be wrong about that. I really don’t know.
So seemingly no downside to matching at Mirage since if Hard Rock Atlantic city is still using the “old” system I’ll be able to match that as well(I could hold Unity Icon & Rock Royalty at the same time)? Or strangley enough I’ll be in Vegas again, after my AC run, and could then match at the Mirage.
Just hate to make a wrong step, but I suppose in the end I’m gonna end up with lots of freebies either way!!
I like these types of posts a lot, but since we don’t like cruises, the amount of work involved for little payoff doesn’t seem worth it (we’re about 2 hours from AC). Eventually it might be if we had plans for Atlantis or Vegas, but for now, nothing in here I really want.
I have no interest in gambling so I know nothing about casino statuses or even locations, but with the Bilt Rent Day announcement from this morning it looks like I might be hopping on some of this.
As I’m NorCal-based, if anyone happens to know the Reno/Tahoe version of the Philly/AC details, it would be appreciated. (Otherwise, I will be blocking off a chunk of time to sit down and figure it out myself.)
Wow! Been in the game for a while now, but not seen anything like this post. This and the wyndham vacasa are hands down the best from you guys.
Keep it going guys.
I find this fascinating. Basically, I am going to try to do as much as this as I can. I will report back with findings. Wish me luck!
Submitted my MGM Gold (matched from Hyatt Globalist) to Carnival three month ago, have yet to receive any free cruise offers, just basic offers. Does Carnival only offer free cruises to those who match with Caesar Diamond?
Try what someone suggested in the FM insiders group. Go in and fill out any missing fields in your profile — title, country, etc. I did this and 2 or 3 days later got my first balcony offer after 4 months.
craziest FM post ever! Already have a planned ATL City / Pennsylvania trip for later this year…flights and car done…have a non-status reason to go to Pennsylvania, but still on the fence. I think this Phl Live / Rivers Casino etc match will put it over the top.
What exactly should we submit for proof of MGM Gold Status. I don’t have a physical card, just the website and app. My husband tired to match with Carnival from MGM Gold and we’ve had no offers. I’m afraid the pictures of his account that we submitted did not qualify. Thanks!
Impressive amount of research! I was tempted to follow all of these steps until I realized that I don’t actually want to have any of these experiences. 🙂
just because something is free, doesn’t mean you should take it.
hahahaahha….not a cruising person….scuba liveaboard – check. short 1 or 2 night cruises on more transport type boats…big ferries….but never any of these newer mega liners.
but if I got a BALCONY room for very low cost…I think I could be game.
Interior – blah. Oceanview – blah.
Don’t forget the free Atlantis stay you get from Caesars Gold status as well
Ooh! I did forget about that. I’ll add that when I get a chance.
One thing you should mention Nick is: if you DO gamble and gamble big on one of these cruises….well then you won’t need to do any status matching!!! You’ll be comped all the way up to the presidential suite on the promenade deck. Now that’s a fast track!!! (to ruin….maybe…)
Okay, this is exactly the content I’ve come to love from FM. Many might never do anything close to this, but showing just how far you can run with a single sign up bonus is just fascinating. Much like the Aeroplan award maximization from the last challenge. Hats off to you Nick, don’t think anyone out there offers anything close to this level of forensic analysis! How fun.
Thanks! Glad to hear you enjoy it even if it’s not for you.
I love it. Great piece. Probably not a great idea for people who struggle to resist gambling though, then these cruises and free hotel nights could end being quite expensive. Much in the same way that the credit card sign up bonus game isn’t great for people who carry balances.
I have a couple of the status merry-go-round offers, have some questions:
these are once per lifetime, right? or do you get continued offers esp if you have (cough, churning-related) play?
Have these offers been around for a while and likely to remain for a while?
Can you book the cruise in someone else’s name?
I am asking bc it’s not likely P2 or I can do a cruise in the next couple years but if the offers are likely to disappear could at least try to get our parents or siblings on one.
There’s a lot of ambiguity.
Carnival says once, but I don’t think it’s really been around long enough to definitively know what “lifetime” means to Carnival. I did, (cough) “play” the machines some and actually play some blackjack and I continue to get free cruise offers from Carnival. I’m only getting them for free interior (upgrade to ocean view or balcony varies in cost by the cruise). But my free interior offer right now is good for up to 3 free cruises and there doesn’t appear to be a length restriction — that 22-nighter from Brisbane is an option.
People have reported being able to re-match to Hard Rock Rock Royalty a second time. And the word from MilesTalk.com is that if you don’t play at Ocean for 1 year (no gambling at Ocean for 365 days), you are eligible to match again (and get the free cruise offer again).
No idea on Philly Live or Rivers, but my instinct is that these free cruise offers probably won’t last forever. I don’t think these were common pre-pandemic and they are likely happening because the cruise industry has not recovered as quickly as other sectors of the travel industry.
In terms of gifting to someone else, that definitely won’t work. They’re not giving a cruise as a gift, they’re enticing a high roller (you) that usually “gambles” big money at Caesars/Ocean/etc to come and gamble on their ship by giving you a free cruise. You’re going to need to board the ship.
If you’re playing in two-player mode, you could each book a separate room and presumably name two other family members as your companions and switch up the rooms when you get on board. But yeah….can’t just give it away. Same with all of the casino hotel nights.
I appreciate the detailed response. Bummer as I’m in Philly almost every day, but live in S Jersey (AC not far either). I’ve only been on a cruise ship once…as crew, so sort of had my fill there. P2 is even less interested and is not really a P2 anyway (just married to me)
I am not eligible for a Wyndham card, but I am being offered Founders card membership at a prepaid rate of 295$. Seems like it is worthwhile to take this up. Thoughts?
Yes, if you’re going to do even just one or two of the free cruises, that seems very reasonable.
I started matching with Hyatt Explorist to MGM gold and submitting this on carnival months ago (whenever you first posted about it). Just checked… December 9, 2022 is when my match was approved. I have never received ANY free cruise offers. I continue to receive “fun match” not-worth-much offers. I am not so sure this is really a viable path forward with this. It would be good to gather more data points on whether this has actually continued to work for people.
Have you tried logging in to your account? A number of readers reported in the comments that they didn’t receive the free cruise offer via email but did see it in their online accounts.
Yes, several times, more often in the beginning. I never saw anything but the fun match. have the following right now under “VIFP Club Member Only Offers”:
Carnival Fun Match Australia
Carnival Fun Match
Book Early, Save Surely
Maybe it’s just me. I was more curious if it is. It’s just frustrating because I followed the steps from the beginning and have gotten nothing while hearing about all the great opportunities :).
Yes, Nick, I too seem to be getting offers only on the Carnival website, but not via email. DP
Bummer that you guys aren’t getting them. I’ll see what happens when my sister-in-law submits.
The good news is that you should still be able to easily get the MSC cruises and potentially the Holland America one.
So I saw a post a few days ago from someone who said they went into their profile and filled out missing titles and any other missing fields. I did this and what did I get today after I posted. A free balcony cruise offer! For the first time in months! So there may be something to this.
As you go about the business of collecting “free” cruises and all the other swag mentioned in this post, keep in mind that it’s easy to get a bit jaded as to the quality of each experience. It’s human nature to compare and contrast, but I find that becoming a cruise ship critic can quickly absorb your thoughts. I’ve been on over 25 cruises and one thing I always do it to find a time later at night to go as far forward on the highest viewing deck as possible and just lean out into the bracing wind while I cast my eyes on the star studded black horizon. Just me and the sea. It’s in those moments I’m so grateful to be on any ship in any ocean. It’s a feeling that transcends the mundane, pedestrian mindset of class distinction. Sure, I prefer a luxurious ocean view stateroom with a balcony, but for the chance to be at sea, I’d gladly scuttle down to an interior room near the boiler in steerage. I’ve done it many times.
Brant Leonardo DiCaprio…
“those who have recently sailed with Carnival or Holland America and not gambled much may not qualify for the free cruise offer.” I have not sailed with Carnival or Holland. If I were able to get a free cruise, do I need to gamble while onboard to receive future free offers? If yes, how much would be enough to continue to get offers?
There’s no requirement to gamble. If you gamble some, you will likely continue to get offers. I continue to get free cruise offers for interior rooms with carnival. I probably played a few hours of blackjack at $5-10 a hand and I continue to get offers from them. Aside from winning a poker tournament on one of the Royal Caribbean cruises, and not winning on the other cruise, I didn’t gamble much at all and I have not gotten any further offers from Royal Caribbean.
And to be clear, I mean a few hours of blackjack over the course of the 10-day cruise, not a few hours every day.
Great post! You can also get free / heavily discounted nights at Atlantis with Caesars Gold depending on time of year you go – https://www.caesars.com/myrewards/partners/atlantis-paradise-island