Status cruising: Saving $2K+ on a cruise to Europe, Alaska, etc with a match

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Update 2/14/22: Just a quick note to update any readers who might have booked and missed the announcement: Carnival cruises departing April 2022 and onward can be cancelled for a full refund if you contact Carnival by February 15, 2022. I called today and found that the cancellation can be done entirely online. While Carnival’s email of 1/21/22 suggests that you can cancel for a full refund if you are unable to meet vaccination requirements, the online cancellation form makes no mention of that being a requirement to cancel for a full refund. Be sure to read any terms and conditions carefully after entering your cruise information. Note that he email says you need to contact Carnival “by February 15, 2022” and then goes on to say “after this date, all existing bookings will be subject to our normal fare cancellation policies”. It isn’t entirely clear to me whether 2/14 is the last day to cancel (“by” meaning “before” 2/15) or whether 2/15 is the last day to cancel (since “after this date” bookings are subject to the normal policy), but I figured I would share for any who booked through the deal in this post and might need to cancel.

Update 11/25/21: As several readers advised, my wife received a free balcony offer about a week after receiving the initial free interior room offer. If you complete the match with just Carnival status and get an interior room offer, it may be worth waiting for a better offer.

Unfortunately, at least on the cruise we booked, the only “free” balcony room types where you could choose your own room without additional charge were obstructed view balcony rooms (viewing the lifeboats), so we had to roll the dice on booking a balcony room to be assigned later (we could have picked the exact room for another ~$2200 on top, which we declined to do). Here’s hoping we’re comfortable getting back to traveling when these cruises come around.

The original post follows.

Does the idea of a “free” 10 or 12 day Mediterranean cruise appeal to you? How about one to Alaska? Or Canada? Or Hawaii? Or the Norwegian Fjords? Or the Caribbean? Or a transatlantic one? How about not quite free but still a stellar deal? If any of that sounds appealing, you’re going to want to read on.

Just after completing my status matching shenanigans in Fort Lauderdale last month, Stephen Pepper alerted me to a status match opportunity with Carnival cruises. Even if you’re not a fan of Carnival, hang with me for a bit. I’m not really interested in cruises, so this deal initially went in one ear (eyeball?) and out the other. Then a reader in Frequent Miler Insiders commented about it on an unrelated post. I saw the comment, but still didn’t pay much attention. Then another reader reported this cruise match and I finally woke up: if you have Caesars Diamond status (which you can get via match from Wyndham Diamond, which you can get from a credit card), you can get what they advertise as a “free” cruise. It isn’t quite free, but it turned out to be a good enough deal that I booked the second cruise of my life, which is one more cruise than I ever thought I’d book. I just couldn’t turn it down. Again, the “free” cruise isn’t quite free — but at about $2200 off of the sticker price, I was enticed.

Carnival Glory Cruise Ship

Carnival Players Club Fun Match Program

Carnival cruises is offering what they call “Carnival Players Club Fun Match Program” for those who have elite status with casinos. They say:

You may be eligible for great deals, including FREE or discounted cruises, FREE drinks and other benefits – when you complete your profile.

If you hold elite status with more than one casino, you can submit multiple cards. Based on my experience, I think you should submit multiple cards if you can.

Direct link to Carnival Players Club Fun Match Program

In my case, I have Caesars Diamond, MGM Mlife Gold, and Gulfstream Park Casino’s top-tier Triple Crown (thanks to a match from Caesars Diamond that had to be done in-person in Miami).

My Caesars status comes courtesy of having Wyndham Diamond status (which matches over to Caesars Diamond due to their reciprocal partnership – match status here). Anyone can get Wyndham Diamond status with the Wyndham Rewards Earner Business credit card. My MGM Mlife Gold is via match from Hyatt (Explorist and higher get MGM Gold).

A couple of years ago, back when Wyndham Rewards used to offer an easy status match (they no longer do apart from the link with Caesars), I wrote a post about how valuable this can be when leveraged on a trip to Las Vegas for a nice free meal, show tickets, and more. See: From zero to hero on the status match-go-round. While the initial ways to hop on board have changed, you can once again hop on board with a credit card (this time the Wyndham Earner card) and this time you can leverage it to even more value with Carnival.

The original data point I had seen on this Carnival match was from a commenter in Frequent Miler Insiders who said that they had done a number of matches in Atlantic City (we had written about that general idea a couple of years ago) and submitted several of those matched statuses and she got an offer for a free balcony room on an 8-night cruise from New York. The fact that she got a balcony and on such a long cruise made shrug and tilt my head in respect to having snagged a very good deal — but that was about the extent of my reaction at that point because I am not generally drawn by the idea of cruises (and we aren’t far removed from my all-time low interest level in cruises due to the pandemic).

Then another member of Frequent Miler Insiders reported a slightly different data point: Reader #2 submitted Caesars Diamond and MGM Gold and got an offer for a free ocean view room (a step up from an interior room that has no windows, but a step below the balcony room that Reader #1 was offered). I wondered why the different offer: was MGM Gold being viewed as a mid-tier status that caused the second reader to get a lesser offer or had the “free” cruise offer itself just changed or was it the sheer number of casino loyalty cards submitted by Reader #1 that led to a better offer?

Since I had no interest in taking a cruise, I figured it was my job to do the scientific experiment to find out. My interest in this was initially academic: I was interested in knowing how it worked to be able to share it with readers. Never would I have imagined my disappointment when one of the cruises I decided to book via this deal appeared to sell out my desired date while I was dragging my heels on booking.

The experiment: Who gets offered what?

I had three casino statuses that I could potentially submit:

  • Caesars Diamond (Formerly top-tier, but really mid-tier-ish these days, though with great benefits)
  • Gulfstream Park Triple Crown (Top tier for this Miami-area casino. I got this just by matching from Caesars. I wrote about it here.)
  • MGM Mlife Gold (Mid-tier status. Matched from Hyatt Explorist years ago and then matched back and forth perpetually)

Carnival gives you the option to submit multiple casino loyalty cards and encourages you to do so:

The form asks you to submit the front and back of your loyalty cards. Yes, it can be done with just a digital card — but more on that to come.

The pre-existing data points I had were:

  1. Reader #1: Submitted top-tier status from 3 casinos after matching in Atlantic City. Got an offer for a free balcony
  2. Reader #2: Submitted Caesars Diamond, Wynn Platinum (Mid-tier, matched from Caesars), and Mlife Gold (mid-tier). Got an offer for a free ocean view.

My working theory was that the difference was Reader #1 had submitted top tier statuses and Reader #2 had submitted mid-tier, which I figured was probably the difference in offers.

The other day I saw a quote shared by Las Vegas expert Travel Fanboy on Twitter and attributed to TheBettorLife :

My interpretation is that TheBetterLife is talking about gambling in a way that says “I’m a high roller, so you should give me all the loyalty perks like the captain’s quarters on your ship”. TheBettorLife wasn’t talking about cruises, I’m just interpreting here.

Since casinos in the Miami area clearly consider Caesars Diamond to be a high enough tier to give Caesars Diamond players $200 to come to their casinos, I figured that was worth submitting. Gulfstream Park Triple Crown is the top tier status offered at that casino, which would typically require quite a bit of gambling, so that made sense also.

I decided to omit my MGM Gold card to avoid being typecast as a mid-tier gambler. I submitted my Caesars and Gulfstream Park cards last week. I wanted to sell the story that I’m top tier.

I knew that many readers would want to know whether this can be done with only a digital Caesars Diamond card (since many people have the Wyndham Earner Business credit card for 8x at gas stations and they can match to Caesars Diamond but may not have an updated physical Caesars card). I therefore had my wife submit her digital Caesars Diamond card. On the desktop version of the Caesars Rewards site, the card does not include your full name, so I had my wife download the Caesars Rewards app. When you log in there, you can get a digital version of the card that looks identical to the front of the physical card. Carnival asks for the front and back, so she submitted the same picture of the front of the digital card for both front and back.

Nick’s results

Within a few days of submitting pictures of the front and back of my physical Caesars and Gulfstream Park cards, I received an email with the subject line, “Nicholas, you’ve got a FREE Ocean View Room + $100 in FunPlay + Free Drinks with Fun Match🚢”. Here’s what it said:

Here’s the basic gist of the deal:

  • You pay a nonrefundable deposit of $100 per person for up to 2 people (yes, you can have more people, but more on that below) and you “get the deposit back” as an onboard credit (i.e. $200 in onboard credit for two people).
  • You still pay the taxes on the cruise. The fine print notes that taxes, fees, and port expenses vary from $63.14 to $427.64 per passenger depending on itinerary. I have found a lot of cruises with reasonable taxes of $90-$180 per person.
  • This only works on select sailings, but it works with a wide range of ports and itineraries.
  • Additional passengers (3rd, 4th, and 5th) are responsible for prevailing cruise rates, though additional passengers in your room are subject to a highly discounted rate – more on that below.

Note that I did not see any gambling requirement in the terms. This ended up being a much better deal than I expected.

Nick’s wife’s results

My wife’s offer took a bit longer to come through. Whereas my offer came about 3 days after submitting the match, hers took about 5 days to come through. Unfortunately, her offer was only for an interior room. That was unfortunate not just because it means that readers unable to match to other casinos can probably only count on an interior room but also because by the time her offer came in we had gone from “probably never going on a cruise again in our lives” to “oh my goodness we’re going to book two cruises as soon as her match comes through”. The deals are that good.

I doubt we’ll take an interior room. The casino rate does include discounted rates on ocean view and balcony rooms, but the upgrade still isn’t cheap. More on prices and value in a minute.

Update: As noted at the top of this post, about a week later (after not booking an interior room), my wife received a new offer for a free balcony room that appeared to be valid on all of the same cruises. We were able to book a balcony room on a cruise through the fjords of Norway for the same price they offered for an interior room a week ago. Thanks to the readers who advised this would likely happen!

Apart from the interior-vs-ocean view portion of the offer, the other details of the offer were identical. For some reason, the Lisbon sailings (which were only transatlantic) were not available to her.

I think the available cruises were otherwise the same. There were so many cruises available that it would have taken forever to try to match them up one by one (and then to further go into dates), but I think it was the same available stuff.

Based on our experience, my best guess is that the more the merrier in terms of the casino statuses you submit and the higher the status the better the offer. If you can submit multiple high-tier statuses, I think you stand a better chance of a better offer. That probably seems intuitive, but I think that those who can match around in Atlantic City probably stand the best chance at scoring a free balcony deal.

And like I said, the deal here is indeed a deal.

The great deals I booked and at which I looked

When I saw this offer, I expected it to only work on 4 or 5-night Caribbean cruises and that just doesn’t interest me much. I love tropical beaches, but I don’t love boats. I’d rather just get on a plane for 3 or 4 hours and go to one beautiful Caribbean beach than sit on a boat for days. I picture a short Caribbean cruise as being mostly about the booze and that’s not my scene.

But I was pleasantly surprised that in addition to those shorter Caribbean cruises, Carnival is including tons of other options. Here are eligible starting ports (the ones greyed out were not eligible for this offer for me):

Here is the cruise that I booked yesterday:

I am more excited than I’d ever expect to be about getting on a boat.

Rome, Mykonos, Turkey, Santorini, Athens, Sicily, and Naples on one trip? Yes, please!

I’ll be happy to return to Santorini and Athens, excited to get some pizza again in Naples, and stoked to see Mykonos, Izmir, and Sicily in particular.

I’m further excited about how cheap it will be. Prices did show $100 per person for Oceanview rooms. That’s not quite the whole story of course, but it was a good start.

On this particular European cruise, taxes are $90 per person (see the fine print at the bottom of the above screen shot). That seemed incredibly reasonable to me for a 10-day European cruise.

Sure enough, the total before gratuities comes to $380 for two people — the $100 nonrefundable deposit per passenger and $90 each in taxes. Prepaid gratuities add $279.80, which seems like a lot until you consider that it comes to $28 a day and gratuities are apparently part of cruising. Still, that comes to a grand total of $659.80 for a ten day European cruise to with stops in Greece, Turkey, and Italy.

Keep in mind that comes with a $200 onboard credit (you “get the deposit back” as an onboard credit). Before you say that you only value that credit at 50% because prices on the ship are inflated, remember that you’ll be on the ship for ten days. You’re going to spend two hundred bucks in that time. I don’t know for sure how the onboard credit works, so I won’t even bother trying to value it except to say “Wow, that seems like a great deal!”.

Your next question is likely “How much does that regularly cost?”. The undiscounted price for that cruise is $2,817.80 with prepaid gratuities included. And no onboard credit.

You can surely find some discounts or packages that include onboard credits. I am an inexperienced cruise booker, but I hunted around a bit. I didn’t find anything that made $659.80 with a $200 credit seem anything but phenomenal.

And this wasn’t the only interesting cruise option. Cruise through the fjords of Norway, anyone?

Or Alaska from San Francisco or Seattle?

Taxes were higher on the Alaska cruises, costing about $250 per passenger whether from Alaska or San Francisco.

Some cruises were one-way, like this one from Barcelona to London.

In addition to the stuff you would expect in the Caribbean, there were destinations like the Canada & New England from New York and Hawaii from Los Angeles.

In all cases I tested, prices were far less via this deal than what I saw elsewhere.

Like I said, the 4 or 5-day booze cruise to the Bahamas has never really appealed to me since I’m not much of a drinker and now it is even less appealing with young kids. I was willing to take a swing on this deal though because I am imagining that the atmosphere on a ~$3K European cruise, whether to the Norwegian Fjords or Greek Isles, is probably different than the cruise I picture my friends taking in their 20’s. I’m not expecting Viking Cruises, but now that I have to buy tickets for a family of four, getting to quite a number of European destinations for what works out to be an incredibly reasonable cost per person makes me think that we’ll have fun whether or not we love the boat (as long as the Dramamine can keep me from getting seasick).

What does it cost for more than two people?

My wife and I have two kids, so I knew from the get-go that this deal would cost us more. However, the third and fourth passengers are pretty reasonable. For example, for our 10-day European cruise, each kid added $219 + $90 in taxes + gratuities. That’s not cheap and maybe not even fair compared to what they’ll eat while on board, but that price stacked perfectly with an Amex Offer.

My total for 4 passengers for 10 days with prepaid gratuities and a $200 onboard credit was $1,557.60.

I couldn’t have planned that to stack much more perfectly with this Amex Offer:

Good news for people with different Amex Offers: Carnival does allow splitting tender over multiple cards. I’m not sure how many they allow.

The thing about the deal here is that this cruise only required a deposit of $400 with the remainder not due until summer 2022. I imagine that a lot of people don’t pay the full cruise up front in order to not have to deal with the money as future cruise credit in a cancellation situation. In my case, I figured it was worth the gamble of prepaying the whole thing in order to trigger the Amex Offer. It is indeed a gamble though. The way I read the cancellation policy, I think that our deposit is nonrefundable (definitely at least $200 of it but probably all $400) and if we canceled we would only get the rest back as a future cruise credit.

That is unideal. I booked it with an Amex Platinum card for trip cancellation protection. Here’s hoping that if we have to cancel we’ll come out OK.

After the Amex Offer, I expect my net cost to be just $1157.60 for four passengers to take a 10-day European cruise with a $200 onboard credit. That’s a sizable discount over the sticker price.

I say I “expect” it to be $1157 because we didn’t get the “You’ve used your Amex Offer” email after booking despite the pending charge for $1557. I’m not entirely concerned about that as we used a couple other Amex Offers yesterday that didn’t trigger the email for 8 or 10 hours. Hopefully it posts automatically. If it doesn’t, I’ll follow up with Amex as I booked this directly through Carnival as per offer terms. Update: The $400 Amex Offer rebated posted about a week later!

It has always been my understanding that cruise agents have access to better deals than booking directly, so I expect that one can do better than $3700 through an agent. I did check around with some different websites and saw deals that included free prepaid gratuities if you booked a balcony room or higher and some with onboard credits or reduced deposits, but nothing that even came close to rivaling $1157 for four passengers with a $200 onboard credit. During the booking process, Carnival alerted me to other deals:

I fully recognize that this may be a huge mistake. Maybe I’ll hate it. If I make it at least 5 days without hating it enough to get off the boat and fly somewhere else or back home, I’ll consider it a win. I’m sure I’ll Instagram my progress on that on the Frequent Miler Insta next fall.

But it was a good enough deal that I was ready to also book one of the fjords cruises figuring that I am unlikely to totally hate it and even more unlikely to ever pay three or four or ten grand to do something like that someday down the road.

Unfortunately, my wife’s offer was only for an interior room and that doesn’t appeal to her claustrophobia (nor does it make sense to me on a cruise through fjords). I’m sure some who would never consider anything lower than a balcony will shudder at the thought of my ocean view room. Carnival sold me on the idea of it being not that bad though.

And really, those who are ordinarily willing to pay for this sort of thing likely won’t balk at the upgrade costs for balcony rooms. The date pictured below was far from the cheapest balcony upgrade (I saw balconies on some of these European cruises for about $650 per passenger for the first two).

In hindsight, I wish I could have taken a run to Atlantic City before submitting the match. Little did I know that I’d want to book one and that in addition to the Caribbean options I expected, it would potentially be possible to get a balcony on a cruise around Norway or Iceland or the Greek Isles.

I don’t know whether it is possible to submit a match a second time. I may yet have my wife try if we get a chance to do some matching for her. I’m not sure if or when we will and am equally unsure whether it will be possible to try a match for a second time, but there is probably not much to lose by trying.

Still, if I only get the 10-day cruise from Rome, nobody will want to hear me complain.

Bottom line

Carnival is offering a match opportunity for people with casino elite status that purports to offer a free cruise (here is the link to the match again). The “free” cruise isn’t really free, but it turns out to be deeply discounted and the options weren’t nearly as limited as I expected. With some really intriguing European cruise options, I ended up excitedly booking a 10-day cruise to ports in Italy, Greece, and Turkey. Maybe I’ll confirm that cruising definitely isn’t for me, but at the very least I can’t wait to go exploring all of the ports of call with my family. Finding that out for an incredibly reasonable price just reinforces my love for the status match-go-round. Will this offer last long enough for someone who wants to get the Wyndham Business card today to match to Caesars and get a free room offer? I don’t know, but the fact that it is even possible is just another way this game never ceases to amaze.

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[…] year, after reading a post on Frequent Miler, I decided to match my MGM Gold status to Carnival Cruise Line through Carnival’s Fun Match […]

Adam

Does anyone know if this offer is still available? Also, if it is…I have had a Caesars Diamond for a while but am currently waiting (as are so many others) for the current Wyndham/Caesars Diamond status rematching to go through. I do, however, currently hold MGM Gold and Wyndham Platinum cards. I’m wondering if either/both of those are good enough to trigger the best cruise offer or whether I should wait for the Caesars to come in.

Brian

Offering an up to date data point. Started with Wyndham Business Card, matched to Caesars Diamond online. Took a 4 hr road trip to Atlantic City and matched to MGM Gold and Hard Rock Rock Royalty. Submitted it 5 days ago, within a couple days got a $100 per person for Oceanview, next day got $100 for Balcony offer. Ended up using it on a 12 day Baltic cruise July 2023 since I already booked travel for summer and fall 2022. While I was comparing cruise options, they sent a 2ND $100 Oceanview offer that is still in my account after making the Balcony booking. Taxes and port fees are high on a cruise that is almost 2 weeks long and gets taxed by making stops in like 5 EU countries, but for a family of 4 its $2300 all-in for a balcony that I’d never pay the going rate of $5800 for. So, its still alive and a good deal

QueenBee

Yes, just uploaded my Caesars Diamond card and within a few days I had multiple offers with the latest being a balcony stateroom. I just booked the May 28, 2023 sailing from Barcelona to London (12 nights). Total cost before gratuities for 2 people is $746 (373 pp including all taxes and fees) with $200 ship credit and $100 casino credit. Side note, it appears that I can also book the other offers in addition to the one already reserved (two others including one for a free interior room for two).

paul5795

As an avid reader of the Frequent Miler, and also an avid cruiser (28 past cruises, 15 of which have been on Carnival), I thought it important to clarify something that Nick wrote above about obstructed balcony cabins:

“Unfortunately, at least on the cruise we booked, the only ‘free’ balcony room types where you could choose your own room without additional charge were obstructed view balcony rooms (viewing the lifeboats), so we had to roll the dice on booking a balcony room to be assigned later . . . . ”

I assume that Nick’s cruise is on the Carnival Pride, which is the only Carnival ship in the Mediterranean next fall.  All the “obstructed balcony cabins” on the Pride are on deck 5, while all the lifeboats actually sit on deck 4.   And that means that the only “obstruction” from the “obstructed balcony” occurs when you look down from the balcony at the tops of the lifeboats! That is, the lifeboats block the view of the near ocean from your balcony …. but you can still see plenty of ocean a bit further out.  And you can see the horizon and the entire sky without obstruction.  For my wife and I, we have no problem booking “obstructed balcony” cabins on ships like the Pride because you are not forced to “view the lifeboats” unless you intentionally look down on them and so we view the obstruction as truly minor.  And my advice to Nick — it is not worth it to jump through a lot of hoops to avoid having an obstructed balcony cabin!  Oh, and you can google “Carnival Pride obstructed balcony” to pull up multiple youtube videos that show you exactly what I mean.

Kayexalate

Well Amex clawback those carnival credits?

Travis S.

Will you still be doing the cruise or are you canceling it? We are still planing on our Norwegian one leaving out of London Dover.

Travis

Thanks for the info and sorry it didn’t work out. Our kids are 11 and 9, so they are both vaccinated and my wife got in on the deal so we got them their own room. We’d probably do the same and cancel if our kids were younger with the uncertainties of the vaccine with that age group. In any case, thanks again for the info as this will be our first real cruise.

Slaven

As this deal seems ongoing, I figured to give it a chance despite only having Wyndham business card.

what this post is missing is how does one actually match to Caesar diamond status if have Wyndham cc?

Slaven

Just to clarify. I signed up for account but am unable to add home address without actually visiting a casino.

John

How far in advance could you book? Are summer 2023 options available for booking now using this offer?

ncsam

When I booked back in December, I didn’t see 2023 as an option for the discounted offer.

John

Thank you.

[…] check out this post on Miles to Memories and this post on Frequent Miler about getting a discount or even free cruise from status matching casino status. I am not a […]

Jimm

I was so excited about this after Nick’s and other’s experiences. I also have a digital version of Caesar’s Diamond card, which I uploaded, but it’s been 3 weeks and haven’t received any free offers (bummed!). Here is the original and only offer they sent:

CARNIVAL FUN MATCH: UP TO $500 OFF + FREE DRINKS + MORE
Get up to $500 off with Casino Rates
Plus, $50 in FunPlay® Credits
And Free Drinks On Us! for you while playing in the casino.

Dude123

Please update on Amex $400 off $1500 if paid in full on whether it triggered. Thanks.

Brian

,

Thank you very much for this writeup. I ended up using my wife’s and my Caesars Diamond status to match and then book connecting balcony staterooms for us and our four kids on a 6-day cruise.

The two-room total cruise rate plus taxes and fees would have been $4,141.

Our total was $1,565. I paid with an AMEX card that had the $400 off $1,500 offer and immediately received email confirmation that I earned $400 back. When you take the $200 per room stateroom credits into account, my total could be thought of as just $765 ($1565-400-200-200).

You helped me book a $4,141 cruise for $765, a savings of $3,376 (82.5%)! My family wouldn’t have done a cruise without a deal like this. And now we’re really looking forward to it. Thank you!

[P.S. I’m posting this comment here so that those wondering about the AMEX credit perhaps receive a notification of this comment.]

Travis

Hi Brian, thanks for the info! This is the info we’ve been looking for. We did exactly the same thing with our two kids. Will be nice to have that separate room. Just to confirm, with that final price of 1565, did you prepay the gratuities for the 6 of you? Thanks!

Brian

You’re welcome! The $1,565 that I prepaid was just the cruise rate with taxes and fees (for 6 people for 6 nights). I did not prepay the gratuities.

I feel very confident, however, that prepaying the gratuities to get you over the $1,500 mark will work as I saw confirmation elsewhere from Nick that it worked for him. He said that despite his not immediately having received the AMEX “congrats, you’ve used your offer” email, the credit showed up about a week later.

Travis

Thanks Brian and Nick! Thanks for the info. Great news! Although I’m sure I would’ve pulled the trigger anyways, it’s great to get that additional $400 off. We are booking the 9 night Norway cruise. First real cruise, hard to beat two balcony rooms, $400 onboard credit, taxes and gratuities Inc for 1591-400=1191. Thanks again for all of the info! Surprised I haven’t seen this deal on other blogs.

Miles

Matched w/ Caesar’s Rewards Diamond card, and the next day got offer for Interior room on 9-day European cruise with option to put it on Hold. I did.

Two days later got offer for Ocean View on same cruise, with no option to Hold. This was much better, b/c with a window I expect to be able to use voice, text and internet on my Google Fi phone when the ship is within sight of the coast. So I selected a cabin on the lowest deck and paid the $200 deposit.

I wondered if I might have “obstructed view”, then realized that my deck is so low that can’t happen (except in port). If my view is ever obstructed by a lifeboat it means the order has been given to abandon ship and I shouldn’t be sitting in the cabin gazing out the window 🙂

I am wondering, like a previous commenter, if it will be possible to cashout my $200 of free gambling money. And a big thank-you to Thegoose for her/his very informative comments!

Kayexelate

Nick: I wanted to say a big Thank You for this post. Was thinking about a cruise anyway for the family for next year Thanksgiving and when I saw this post, I’m glad I waited before purchasing. I matched myself and my wife from our Caesars Diamond status (thanks to your other post) and on Day 5 after submitting our request to carnival, we got the $100 interior room offers for both of us. Per the comments, we waited, and 2 days later got the $100 balcony offer for both of us. Unfortunately for the dates/cruise we wanted in Nov 2022, Balcony was sold out but we both snagged a Deluxe oceanview (connecting rooms) for us and our 2 kids. ironically, since my wife and I both got the offer, it was actually cheaper to book 2 rooms (since each person was $100 and each person got the $100 credit) than book one room and add 2 other passengers. So total all in for 4 people in 2 deluxe rooms was $880 + gratuities (which will be negated by the $100 onboard credit). Ironically the original link for the $100 interior room still works, so I wonder if I can book another cruise for an interior room and still only pay $100 pp?

I’m tempted, but it may be too many cruises in too short a period of time. Thank you again!

PSL

Just to clarify – when you book is everything refundable except or the $100 per person deposit?

PSL

Yes, but do you also have to prepay the taxes and the gratuities? Now that we have a new South African Covid variant to worry about I may change my mind once I book and I’m not really a gambler, although I do have status!

PSL

Thanks for all your fantastic work!

kayexelate

according to carnival’s website, if you cancel before your final payment is due, then it is refundable back to you, not as future credit on carnival. only your deposit is forfeited if you cancel. it’s gone, and not usable as future credit. so you’d be out $100 pp if you cancel.

Last edited 6 months ago by kayexelate
Billy Bob

Just you, the ocean, and COVID fear and restrictions at every port.
No thanks.
Give it 5-6 years.

Cavedweller

Billy Bob

I would say ur right not worth the HASSLE, but what if ur don’t have time to wait ? A lot of people are in that deal today. I talked to 2 in Vegas like that 2 weeks ago. Merry Xmas

T G

In my search results I’m seeing availability for balcony but upon clicking on the some of the cruises I then get an error saying it’s sold out. I was able to bypass by clicking the $100 balcony option from search results (within search dates) and when the next page loads, immediately clicking next before it errors out. I got it to go through successfully and received confirmation, so hopefully helps if anyone runs into website issues.

Ben

Obstructed view rooms are often a great deal. Sites like Ship Cabins have photos of the actual view from each stateroom. In many cases the obstruction blocks just a fraction of the view. Every individual ship is different, however, so make sure you’re looking at exactly the right ship and room.

Also, in my experience even in the most picturesque locations you don’t want to stay in your room for the views – you go to the top deck or a lounge where you have a wider field of view. So a good cabin view is nice but really not required.

Jay

New to Carnival. Matched Caesars Diamond only — nothing.

Cavedweller

Ur cabin TBD u should make out fine like I did 10x.Cruise lines Love Flexible people and u may get a bottle of wine,Food tray ect.I didn’t think of that on my Mexico cruise (OOP’s) or I would’ve done that. I booked the balcony for Fresh Air not a money thing . Perfect time to go they Can the lifeguards 10/1 .Show all costs.

Karl

Completed this a week ago, still nothing for either my wife and me. We are already Gold with Carnival, so perhaps this is only for newbies?

T G

I also matched Caesars Diamond and MGM Gold and just got interior room. Is anyone else getting 0 results when loading your search results?

Wen

I uploaded both physical Ceasars Diamond and MGM gold both from matching, got offer 2 days later with Interior Plus and only on certain dates.

Debbie

Great job, thanks Nick!

Alex

there are a few minuses for the cruise.

  1. Carnival
  2. ocean view cabin – usually the most noisy cabin depending on a ship
  3. balcony is x8 times more expensive probably because nobody wants to be quarantined in inside or ocean view just in case
  4. European cruises are not that expensive but the excursions are very very expensive, will probably cost more then the cruise itself. And if not taking excursions what is the point in a European cruise.

The great price though.

Brian

Are you sure there is no expectation or commitment to spend in the casino? Of course, they could not offer the deal again in the future if they see you didn’t play much on the first free cruise but is there any fine print? Thanks and great work!

Thegoose

Nice article. Just some info for you. I go on 2-3 Carnival cruises per year. When in the casino you can usually put up to $1500 per day on your card day on the slots with no questions asked on Carnival . This is a great ms opportunity. You can set up a card for you and a separate card for your wife’s charges. Been doing this for years. Went on one in September and going on another on in 3 weeks.
But a far better thing to do is buy Carnival gift cards at Kroger. I have Harris Teeter here. 14% off with the fuel points right now and 6% for my Blue Cash Preferred. 20% total savings.
I typically buy $5,000 to $7,000 of carnival gift cards to take on the cruise to “CASH OUT” I will add a thousand to fifteen hundred each morning to my account at customer service. Then during the day I will charge $500 on a slot machine play a hand or two then cash out. And repeat 2 to 3 times a day as needed. Never any questions.
Another way I do it is AAA sells Carnival gift cards for 10% off if you take some quizzes and build up points. You can purchase up to 5 cards per month. So I will buy 5 $500 cards for $450 each. Another great ms opportunity.
This will usually cover at least half of my cruise cost but some cruises I profit enough just on the card discounts to cover the whole cost.

Cavedweller

Goose
Great job 25 years ago Carnival had a CC and 4% cash credit off any cruise so no BS. The first 4 I got a deal on only the other 12 like 50% off by paying the rents..
Thank You for ur update..

paul5795

Interesting you say “never any questions.” I got caught on a Princess cruise doing the same ms thing (fyi, Princess and Carnival owned by same corporation). I had to take the casino cash and apply it to my room bill.

Also, I understand that post-COVID Carnival corporation ships are watching this thing more closely.

Andrew

I also do this and it’s a piece of cake opportunity for free money via AARP discount. I buy the AARP GCs thru PayPal which is currently and often subject to some bonuses.

thegoose

I forgot to mention the Paypal angle. For the cruise I have in 3 weeks, I was able to buy the AAA cards for $1,500 & pay thru Paypal on the three different Freedom cards we have in the family to max all three offers out.
Saved 10% from AAA received 5% for the freedom Paypal spend bonus & can use those points with my reserve card for better return.

thegoose

Just did Alaska in September on Carnival & did $4,800 this way with no problem. Princess is owned by Carnival, but I am pretty sure there casino is ran by a different company, might have been your problem.
I have been doing this for about 6 years & never an issue. Originally I waited to cash in at the end of the cruise for about $8,000 & they weren’t sure what to do, but manager said everything was ok & that was it. I now cash in several times a day & no issues.

Cavedweller

What do u ware when they want Causal Resort at Dinner. Polo Shirt and dress pants and Shoes.?? I have 3 nites @ sea out of 7.
Thank You

Debbie

I wonder though are you traveling home with thousands in cash on you?

Thegoose

Yes. Usually between $5,000 & $7,000.

Steve

so $1500 per day is put on your room card or reload by CC directly(will that be charged for cash advance)? And Carnival gift cards can use to reload at Casino?Thanks!

Thegoose

There is no cash advance. It just shows as travel. Carnival includes it in your charges just like they do for buying a drink or eating at a specialty restaurant.
You load the gift cards to your sign and sail account. If you “ gamble” more than the gift cards you load for the week, then they will charge the cc you have on file. For me that is Sapphire Reserve, for the travel insurance & 3% points for travel.
But I also pay for the entire cruise with the gift cards. So I save between 15% & 20% on the cruise.

Elizabeth Church

May I please ask. What does MS mean?

Kyle

I wouldn’t rule out booking an interior cabin on an Alaska or Norway cruise. During the hight of summer, the sun barely sets, and having an interior cabin can really help getting sleep (especially for the kids). There are plenty of great places outside of the room to look at the views.

dizzy

This is a fantastic deal and *almost* makes me consider doing a cruise. I worked one contract on a cruise ship and I swore, never again. Do you know if we can gift the free cruise to someone?

kayexelate

Hi Nick, I did this for me and P2 (both using just the digital Caesers Diamond Card). Immediately we got a bunch of offers (on the website as soon as I clicked submit). It’s so confusing b/c there’s so much garbage and hidden fees. My status is currently “Blue” because I presume someone has to physically look at my card I submitted and then match. Also, do I have to opt in to both email lists, to know if I got matched?
Lastly, any way I can get the AMEX offer If I don’t see it under my offers?

Jimm

Nick, did your wife’s digital card have the expiration date? I haven’t verified in person and my digital card through the app does not have the expiration date.

Jimm

Great, thanks 🙂

Kayexelate

Thanks nick. How long did carnival take to update your VIFP tier status ? And did they match you to Diamond or platinum? I’m still showing as blue.

kayexelate

P2 and myself got the offer today for the interior room. Any idea on how long this offer is good for? Couldn’t find anything in the terms that I must book by a certain date or the offer expires.

I’ll wait for a few days since hopefully the balcony offer will come through as you indicated happend for your wife. Also with Black Friday coming up there may be some good deals as well (although not likely to be as good as this). Even if I just use the interior room and then do an upgrade to the family room with oceanview , for 4 of us doing a Mexico Cruise for 7 days it’s $2425 All in which is far less than what I can find anywhere else.

Also any thoughts on using yours and P2’s VIFP offers to book 2 rooms on the same itinerary (both getting the discounts) instead of one large room? (1 parent + 1 kid in each room if kids are really young, or 2 parents in 1 room and 2 kids in the other room if kids can sleep by themselves)?

it seems like you can get the discount 2x if you both have the offer.

Bunda

Hi Nick! That’s a phenomenal deal for 4. I love cruising so will definitely try to get the status match and hope for a great offer. Charge everything to your cabin and the $200 onboard credit will erase $200 from your charges..ie.. shore excursions, bar tabs, photos, upgraded dining, etc.
Thanks for the leg work. Enjoy the upcoming holidays.

Itsme

LOL, you would have to pay me to go on Carnival. It is great for families and kids love it. I was on twice over 20 years ago but now do only luxury lines. Sort of like flying Emirates Suites and Etihad apartments, you don’t want to go back to coach. Its a good place to start your cruise journey though. To those that get this deal, enjoy.

Jim

We are in early 40s. I’ve been on 30 cruises, all main line. Carnival isn’t our favorite mainly because the low prices attract big partiers and we find the food and service to be lower quality than say Celebrity or Royal.

I’ve been on the Pride and it was just ok. We don’t mind inside cabins if the ship is new to us and we’ll spend time exploring it and using its many attractions. Or if it’s a port intensive itinerary and we will just be using the room for sleep.

We cruised the Med on Carnival and had most meals ashore for superior food. For your rock bottom rates I think it’s a good deal and will try to convince my wife to try Carnival again.

Cinda Lee

In my limited experience, the longer and more expensive the cruise, the less of a party atmosphere on Carnival. This is likely even more true due to the necessity of flights and not just driving to the cruise port.

Itsme

I have been on nearly 100 cruises and was industry adjacent. The worst thing to me about mass market cruises (CCL, NCL, RCCL) is the size of them. Thousands and thousands of people, fighting to find a place by the pool, lines everywhere, taking forever to get on and off the ship unless you are in the top suites, Just consider the level of food that’s produced when the galley needs to make 4,000 meals per service. I hate having barmen circling the pool, yelling “Drinks, drinks, drinks”. I hate being nickle and dimed. When you consider that some ports they visit may have less population than the amount of ship passengers, it definitely skews the port experience, There are plenty of people who don’t mind this and that is why mass market behemoths are full. A huge amount of cruise line profit (on non all inclusive lines) is based on onboard spending and gambling. That CCL is doing this means they need to get bodies in beds and hope that they will spend enough, or lose enough onboard to make up for the “free” offer. I was at a pier and a CCL ship was doing stores. I laughed when I saw Costco croissants being loaded on. You don’t know if you don’t try. Bon voyage. BTW, go to cruisecritic.com and to the Carnival Board for more info.

Mary Jane

Congratulations Nick, You’ll have a fantastic time. We are not cruisers either but this is a great, too good to pass up, opportunity. ENJOY!

Cavedweller

Cruises are so Cheap as unreal a 7 day cruise LA to Mexico (Suite) in Jan $800 !! But most meals so called upgraded but not all $$ so look at total cost.
Been on 16..

Last edited 7 months ago by Cavedweller
Cavedweller

I Booked it Dano, a SW $11 LAX air (Free A-1-15).A Balcony cabin solo $915 and Transfers..1/8 on a Princess ship and a PCR Test by CVC for Free 2 days before.Just looked at my past $1900 cruise in Hawaii, which is now $8k + or really like $10K no deals now.

Have Fun but I know I will as Always..

Last edited 7 months ago by Cavedweller
Henry E Vafides

go to casino, put you cruise card in any slot machine, load $300 into machine , (that
gets charged to you room charges). spin once, cash out, put money in safe to pay bill prior to getting off, or anytime you want.!
fyi depending on card used to pay cruise charges, you also just earned multiple points on that $300.If your earning 3X points or more, repeat daily! $300/day X 10 days =$3000 bill but 15,000 points. just make sure you bank your withdrawal
.
your $200 on board credit will be deducted from your casino bill.

Jim

I’ve done this before. From my experience many cruise line casinos have caught on and now charge a fee to charge chips to your room which would largely eat into any points earnings.

Beth B

Is this a limited time offer? I’m planning on getting the Wyndham Reward Earner Business Card in December after I apply for the Southwest Card, so I can get my Companion Pass in early 2022.

Beechy

Great write-up Nick. I downloaded the Caesars app but do not see where to get the digital version of the card. The only one I see doesn’t include an expiration date. Any help is appreciated. Thanks.

buhse

Booked a 10 day cruise to Alaska using status match. 1st Cruise. “Saved” $2300 each. Used matching from Caesars Diamond. Booked back in June 2021.

Larry K

If you don’t prepay gratuities some lines will apply your onboard credits toward them at the end of the cruise.

Larry K

You’ll spend the money. We’ve done a bunch of cruises. We are hardcore travel hackers and joy of free people and we always spend money on cruises. You’ll blow through those onboard credits before day 5. In fact, when there have been Amex offers in the past, I have prepaid for onboard credits just to use the Amex offer because I knew we’d spend the money. But I only do that once we’re inside the window to cancel.

Jim

There are 2 types of onboard credits. OBC and OBR are the codes for Celebrity and Royal. OBC isn’t refundable but OBR is. Usually those are the ones gifted by travel agents. A form of rebate.

Ben

Thanks, Nick. Good post and I like to see you guys getting out of your comfort zone while exploring topics you don’t typically investigate. I’ve been on many cruises and for the vast majority, I don’t purchase ANYTHING onboard. I’m a cheapskate and everything is ridiculously overpriced. I don’t need a $9 drink with a colorful umbrella. If you were able to decline the pre-paid gratuities, you could have used that towards paying gratuities when you settle your account at the end of the cruise if you hadn’t used it for anything else. That would pull your total cost down even more.

Jim

I sneak in tons of booze at embarkation using plastic bladders sold on amazon. Then mix with free iced tea and lemonade from the buffet.

Also I buy duty free at some ports and don’t turn the bottles in when getting back aboard. Or turn in 1 bottle as a decoy and bring the others to cabin.

Cavedweller

1) Do they x ray ur luggage that they bring to ur Room at the start???
2) The local port store’s know the deal I bring in clear Rum in water bottles.
1/8 cruise anymore CHEAP ideas it really helps in Cost .
THANKs

Last edited 7 months ago by Cavedweller
Brian P

The VIFP club typically sends out the interior/ocean view offers first then within a few weeks will send out a free balcony offer. My experience matching with 3 Caesars diamond accounts

Jimm

Great post by Nick, and very helpful comment Brian – thanks!

jeph36

I am also a cruise-noob and probably will not do attempt this for me, at least not any time soon. Is there any play to use my status to book something for my recently-retired parents who have talked about an Alaskan cruise but are unlikely to consider opening another credit card or following any sort of strategy to getting a great deal on this?

Brian

My wife and I both got the Balcony offer, it didn’t show up immediately but a few days later. We’ve been considering booking two connecting balcony rooms for our family of five.

Jade

What casino status did you use for the match? debating which cards of mine to use