I love long cruises. In fact I can not even imagine taking anything shorter than a 5 day ever again. For me 10-15 days is just about perfect but happy to go longer if the deal is right. Let me get right out of the way that I have already posted on FrequentFloaters.com the review of the cabin as well as a video of what to expect when you book a suite on the FrequentFloaters Youtube page.
This post is all about how I booked this and what it cost me. I am all about using points all I can and simply love, as Chris posted about, using my Chase Ultimate Rewards® points to book and pay for my sailings getting great value. In fact I paid for 100% my upcoming first ever MSC cruise where I will test my newly minted Diamond status that I matched from my Hilton Diamond status all with Chase Ultimate Rewards® points!
Let’s start with some of the background, shall we?
The 21 day sailing was a 14 day transatlantic then matched with a 7 day along the coast of South America. I booked this way for two reasons. With NCL, when you book separate reservations for longer sailings, your elite perks reset for each cruise.
Thus over the 21 days I was able to get 4 free bags of laundry done (2x each wife and I) as well as many more free specialty dining nights than if I had only booked this as one long cruise.
Another one time perk we had that helped drive the price down was due to a cruise line COVID era canceled sailing that resulted in a 10% off coupon that was stackable with all the other promotions (this only worked for the first 14 day part of the trip). I then also used my 20% off Caesar’s Diamond status that I got from my Wyndham Diamond match (yes it is working again) to knock off another big chunk on both sailings. Then, since this booking was done way out I was also able to use both Cruise First as well as Cruise Next coupons on the 14 and 7 day cruises to save 50% on the MAX value each would allow in a suite.
All of these mega stacks, plus the current promotions they had at the time, drove the price down under $8000 for the two of us including mandatory tips, upcharges for specialty free nights, drink package and more. Now paying $380 per night ($190 per person) may still seem like a lot of money – and it is – but considering the cabin it was already at this point a great value to us. But now on to the next fun little trick.
As I posted about before, every now and then, Amex has some really sweet cash back offers if you first register and then use the cards paying for cruise line sailings. The ultra sweet part about NCL is they let you make payments online, for any amount, once you have the initial deposits in and my cruise next certs qualified for this.
The other sweet thing is you can use any credit card (and anyone’s credit card) to make payments on your booking. Maybe you can see where this is going. Not only were we targeted with HUGE cash back offers on a number of our Amex cards – but so were many friends and family. The result was we were able to make many small payments and DRAMATICALLY lower the net price for our booking.
And it gets even better.
NCL lets you pre-load refundable cash onto your onboard account (MAX $1000 per sailing). Since I had two sailings booked I was able to load $2,000 into my account. The Amex card promotion, back then, required $500 spend to trigger. So I loaded up and not only was able to take the cash home in pocket but do so at a big discount further lowering my final all-in cruise price.
Bottom line I was able to push my total price under $5000 or around $120 per person per night in the amazing forward suite for 21 nights.
In view of full disclosure I did have some additional costs associated with the cruise. I tip both my butler and concierge $10 each per day. I also tip my room steward $5 extra per day (they are part of the tips package but I like to add more) and we always bring some gifts for crew that cost a few bucks and the effort to transport. Plus some crew were simply amazing and we also tipped them a bit extra. We also had some shore excursion costs as well.
Thus almost $6000 all-in price tag would be a more reasonable end number to consider but one I can live with for this kind of amazing experience.
But when you consider the fact it cost me almost nothing to get to the airport in Chicago, used points to fly almost for free in business class to get to Lisbon and before boarding stayed 5 nights in Lisbon free on points, this real cash outlay was my first real expense for this vacation.
This really was one of my biggest stackable scores to date and I will be hard-pressed to match this kind of ultra deep discount offer again. That said many of the steps are repeatable and I have done so for my next NCL cruise on the way soon where I will cross lifetime Diamond status and did use a number of the same steps to make that cruise a much better value than simply paying for it with some travel card! – René
PS – Any questions on the steps and how I did this? Feel free to ask in the comments below and I am happy to share how you can do many of the same steps as well. Or, feel free to follow along at FrequentFloaters.com for more cruise tips and secrets!
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