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

My wife received a free balcony offer about a week after she received 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, so we had to roll the dice on booking a balcony room to be assigned later. When these cruises come around, we hope to get back to traveling.

The original post is followed by another.

Does the idea of a Mediterranean cruise for free appeal to you? Is it possible to go to Alaska? Or Canada? Or Hawaii? Or the Norwegianfjords? Or the Caribbean? Is that a one from the west or the east? Not quite free but still a great deal? You will want to read on if that sounds appealing.

After completing my status matching shenanigans in Fort Lauderdale last month, Stephen Pepper told me about a status match opportunity with Carnival cruises. If you don't like Carnival, hang with me for a while. I am not interested in cruises so this deal went in one ear and out the other. A reader commented on an unrelated post. I didn't pay much attention to the comment I saw. I woke up after another reader reported that if you have Caesars Diamond status, you can get a free cruise if you use a credit card. I booked the second cruise of my life, which is one more cruise than I ever thought I would, because it was a good enough deal. I couldn't turn it down. The cruise is not free but it is about $2200 less than the sticker price.

The carnival players club has a fun match program.

The Carnival Players Club Fun Match Program is for people who have elite status in casinos. They say that.

When you complete your profile, you may be eligible for great deals, including free cruises, drinks and other benefits.

You can submit multiple cards if you hold elite status at more than one casino. If you can, I think you should submit multiple cards.

Direct link to carnival players club fun match program

In my case, I have three of them, thanks to a match from Caesars Diamond that had to be done in-person in Miami.

My Caesars status is due to the fact that I have Wyndham Diamond status, which matches over to Caesars Diamond. Anyone can get the Diamond status with the credit card. My MGM Mlife Gold is through a match from Hyatt.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about how valuable a status match can be when used on a trip to Las Vegas for a nice meal, show tickets, and more. From zero to hero on the match-go-round. You can hop on board with a credit card again, and you can use it to get even more value with Carnival.

The data point I saw on this Carnival match was from a person who said that they had done a number of matches in Atlantic City and submitted several of those matched statuses. The fact that she got a balcony and on such a long cruise made shrug and tilt my head in respect to having gotten 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.

A member of the Frequent Miler Insiders reported that Reader #2 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 if MGM Gold being viewed as a mid-tier status caused the second reader to get a lesser offer or if the sheer number of casino loyalty cards submitted by Reader #1 led to a better offer.

Since I didn't want to go on a cruise, I thought it was my job to do a scientific experiment to find out. I was interested in learning how it worked to be able to share it with others. When I decided to book via this deal, one of the cruises appeared to sell out my desired date while I was dragging my heels on booking.

Who gets offered what?

I could potentially submit three casino statuses.

These days, Caesars Diamond is a mid-tier, though with great benefits.
The top tier of this casino is called the Triple Crown. I got this by matching. I wrote about it.
MGM Mlife Gold is a mid-tier status. It was matched from Hyatt Explorist years ago.

You can submit multiple casino loyalty cards with Carnival.

The form requires you to submit the loyalty cards. It can be done with a digital card, but more is to come.

I had pre-existing data points.

Reader #1 submitted top-tier status from 3 casinos. There is an offer for a free balcony.
Reader #2 submitted Caesars Diamond, Wynn Platinum, and Mlife Gold. There is an offer for a free ocean view.

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

I saw a quote attributed to TheBettorLife on the day I saw it.

I put the quote in front of the paywall because it is worthy of a broader audience. On using a card.
Be careful with the story you tell the casino because it's your rated play.
Adam Bauer is a Travel Fanboy.

I think that The Better Life 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.

Since casinos in the Miami area consider Caesars Diamond to be a high enough tier to give players $200 to come to their casinos, I figured that was worth submitting. It made sense to offer the top tier status at the casino, which would typically require a lot of gambling, and that's why the Triple Crown is offered.

I decided not to have my MGM Gold card because I wanted to avoid being typecast as a mid-tier gambler. I submitted my cards last week. I wanted to sell the story that I am the top tier.

I knew that many readers would want to know if this could be done with a digital Caesars Diamond card, since many people have a credit card that can be used at gas stations and they can match it with a physical Caesars card. My wife had to submit her card. I had my wife download the app for the desktop version of the site because the card does not include your full name. You can get a digital version of the card when you log in. She submitted the same picture of the front and back of the digital card as she did the front.

Within a few days of submitting pictures of the front and back of my 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 is what it said.

Here is the basic synopsis of the deal.

You pay a nonrefundable deposit of $100 per person for up to 2 people and you get the deposit back as an onboard credit.
The taxes are still paid on the cruise. Taxes, fees, and port expenses can vary from $63.14 to $428.64 per passenger depending on itinerary. There are a lot of cruises with reasonable taxes.
This only works on select sailings, but it works with a wide range of ports and itineraries.
Additional passengers in your room are subject to a highly discounted rate, though they are responsible for prevailing cruise rates.

I didn't see a requirement for gambling in the terms. This was a better deal than I anticipated.

Nick's wife has results.

It took my wife a bit longer to make her offer. My offer came about 3 days after I submitted the match, whereas hers took about 5 days. Her offer was only for an interior room. It was unfortunate because it means that readers can only count on an interior room at other casinos, and 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." The deals are very good.

I don't think we'll take an interior room. The upgrade to ocean view and balcony rooms is still not cheap. In a minute, more on prices and value.

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 as we were able to book an interior room a week ago. Thanks to the readers who said it would happen.

The other details of the offer were the same. The Lisbon sailings were not available to her.

The available cruises were the same. It would have taken a long time to match them up one by one, but I think it was the same available stuff.

My best guess is that if you submit more casino statuses you will get a better offer. I think you stand a better chance of getting a better offer if you submit multiple high-tier statuses. I think that those who can match around in Atlantic City are the best chance of getting a free balcony deal.

The deal is indeed a deal.

I looked at the deals I booked.

When I saw this offer, I expected it to only work on Caribbean cruises, and that doesn't interest me at all. I like tropical beaches, but I don't like boats. I would rather just get on a plane for 3 or 4 hours and go to a beautiful Caribbean beach than sit on a boat for days. I think a short Caribbean cruise is mostly about the booze.

I was pleasantly surprised that Carnival has a lot of other options. The greyed out ports are not eligible for this offer.

I booked a cruise yesterday.

I am more excited than I have ever been about getting on a boat.

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

I am excited to return to Santorini and Athens, get some pizza in Naples, and see Mykonos, Izmir, and Sicily.

I am excited about how cheap it will be. $100 per person was shown for Oceanview rooms. It was a good start, but not the whole story.

The fine print at the bottom of the screen shot shows that taxes are $90 per person on this European cruise. That seemed reasonable to me for a 10-day European cruise.

The total before taxes is $380 for two people, with a non-refundable deposit of $100 per passenger. It seems like a lot until you consider that it adds up to $28 a day and that gratuities are part of cruising. A ten day European cruise with stops in Greece, Turkey, and Italy will cost $659.80, but that's still a lot.

$200 is an onboard credit that you can get back as a deposit. Remember that you will be on the ship for ten days and you will only value that credit at 50%. You are going to spend two hundred bucks in that time. I don't know how the onboard credit works, so I won't bother trying to value it, even if it seems like a great deal.

How much does that cost on a regular basis? The undiscounted price for that cruise is $2,817.80. There was no onboard credit.

You can find discounts and packages with onboard credits. I am not an experienced cruise booker. I did not find anything that made $659.80 with a $200 credit.

There were other interesting cruise options. Are you going to cruise through the fjords of Norway?

Is it from San Francisco or Seattle?

Taxes on the Alaska cruises were higher than in San Francisco.

This one from Barcelona to London was one-way.

Canada, New England, New York and Hawaii were also included in the Caribbean.

In all of the cases I tested, prices were less than what I saw elsewhere.

The 4 or 5-day booze cruise to the Bahamas has never really appealed to me since I am 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 because I think 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 don't think I'll like Viking Cruises, but I think we'll have a good time, even if we don't like the boat, because we'll be able to get to a lot of European destinations for an incredibly reasonable cost per person.

I knew from the beginning that this deal would cost us more. The third and fourth passengers are reasonable. Each kid added $219 to the cost of the 10-day European cruise. That is not cheap and maybe not even fair compared to what they will eat on board, but that price is stacked perfectly with an Amex Offer.

The total for 4 passengers for 10 days was more than 1,500 dollars.

I couldn't have planned for that to stack so nicely with the Amex Offer.

People with different Amex offers can split tender over multiple cards. I don't know how many they allow.

This cruise only required a deposit of $400 and the rest not due until summer 2022. 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 I figured it was worth the gamble of prepaying the whole thing in order to get the Amex Offer. It is a big gamble. If we canceled, we would only get the rest back as a future cruise credit, and the deposit is non-refundable, I think.

That is not ideal. I used the Amex Platinum card to book it. If we have to cancel we will come out okay.

The net cost for four passengers to take a 10-day European cruise with a $200 onboard credit is expected to be just $1177.60 after the Amex Offer. That is a big discount over the sticker price.

We didn't get the "You've used your Amex Offer" email after booking, so I expect it to be $1177. We used a couple other Amex offers yesterday that did not prompt the email for 8 or 10 hours. Hopefully it will post. I booked this directly through Carnival as per offer terms, if it doesn't, I'll follow up with Amex.

It has always been my belief that cruise agents have access to better deals than booking directly, so I expect that one can do better than $3700 through an agent. There were some deals that included free pre-paid gratuities if you booked a balcony room or higher and some with onboard credits or reduced deposits, but nothing compared to the cost of four passengers with a $200 onboard credit. Carnival gave me other deals during the booking process.

I am aware that this may be a huge mistake. Maybe I won't like it. I will consider it a win if I make it for at least 5 days without being bothered by it. I will post my progress on that on the Frequentmiler.

It was a good deal that I was willing to book one of the fjords cruises, even though I am not likely to ever pay that much for a trip like that.

My wife only offered an interior room, which doesn't appeal to her claustrophobia, and that's why she didn't take it. I am certain that some people will shudder at the thought of my ocean view room. I was sold on the idea that it was not that bad.

Those who are normally willing to pay for things like this will probably not object to the upgrade costs for balcony rooms. The date pictured below is not the cheapest balcony upgrade, as I saw on some of the European cruises for about $650 per passenger for the first two.

I wish I had gone to Atlantic City before I submitted the match. I didn't know that I could get a balcony on a cruise around Norway or the Greek Isles, and that I would want to book one.

I don't know if it is possible to submit a second match. If we get a chance to do some matching, I might have my wife try. I am unsure if it will be possible to try a match for a second time, but there is probably not much to lose.

Nobody will want to hear me complain if I only get a 10-day cruise from Rome.

The bottom line.

There is a match for people with casino elite status who want to win a free cruise from Carnival. The options weren't nearly as limited as I expected and the "free" cruise isn't really free, but it turns out to be deeply discounted. I booked a 10-day cruise to ports in Italy, Greece, and Turkey. Maybe I will say that cruising isn't for me, but I can't wait to explore all of the ports of call with my family. I love the status match-go-round, and finding that out for an incredibly reasonable price just reinforces that. Will this offer last long enough for someone who wants to get the Wyndham Business card today to get a free room offer? I don't know, but the fact that it is possible is just another way that this game never ceases to impress me.


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