Thursday, February 27, 2014

Free Cruise Challenge

Looking for the best deal on a cruise
We have been looking for a great deal on a cruise for some time.  I have not been on a cruise for over 10 years and my wife has never boarded a cruise ship.  We thought it would be great to go on our first cruise together. 

My friend pointed me to this website called Vacations To Go, which helped us find the best possible deal on our upcoming cruise. 

We booked a balcony room with the Norwegian Epic ship for a 7 day Caribbean cruise out of Miami to Ocho Rios, JamaicaCosta Maya, Mexico and Cozumel, Mexico.  The Epic is one of Norwegian’s largest ships, with a capacity of 4,100 people, a crew of 1,753 staff, and an overall length of 1,081 feet.  The total price paid for our cruise in a balcony room was $1147.02, or $573.51 per person, which also includes $100 onboard ship credit per person. 

This was an excellent deal on a balcony room.  I went to the Norwegian Cruise Line website at, and saw that the price for our exact same cruise comes out to an after taxes total of $1307.02, or $653.51 each person, and does not include any onboard cruise credit.  
By booking through Vacations To Go, we’ve saved $360 total ($160 for the tickets and $200 for the total onboard ship credit).

The Norwegian Epic
The Norwegian Epic was voted “Best Cruise Ship” by Travel Weekly in 2011 and 2012.  Our cruise tickets include 7 complimentary dining options from buffets to 3 course dining meals.   On board our ship, entertainment includes the Blue Man Group, Legends in Concert, live comedy, a jazz club, a dueling piano bar, and several clubs and lounges.  Other included entertainment includes a fitness center, sports court, wall climbing, aqua park, pools and hot tubs.

Here are some ship pictures:

Our Balcony room has space for up to 3 guests, and glass doors that open to a private balcony with view.  There are two beds that convert into a queen-size bed, a separate bathroom with shower, a sitting area, and is approximately 216 square feet in size.  Here are some room pictures:

Using Barclaycard Arrival miles to pay for our cruise
While we got an excellent deal on our cruise, we weren’t about to just stop there.  I made sure to book each ticket separately: one charge going to my new Barclaycard Arrival Plus(TM) World Elite Mastercard®, and one charge going to my wife’s Arrival credit card

Since the Arrival miles can be used towards cash back on travel purchases, I thought this would be a great opportunity to get a huge discount off of our cruise.  Some things to remember about redeeming Arrival miles for statement cash back credit:
  • The Barclaycard Arrival credit card earns 2 miles per dollar spent if redeeming miles for travel related purchases, which cruises are a part of.
  • Barclaycard posts your miles pretty quickly after your purchase charges clear; there’s no need to wait for your credit card statement to close to see your earned miles.
  • Arrival miles can be redeemed for partial credit back, one time.
  • There is a minimum redemption of 2,500 miles for $25 cash.
  • You have 90 days from your travel related purchase to redeem for cash back. 

Since each ticket cost us $573.51, we would be eligible to get a $550 statement credit by redeeming 55,000 miles.  Why not the total amount?  Remember, the statement credit must be redeemed in increments of $25, or 2,500 miles. 

Our free cruise challenge
I just logged into my account and see that I currently have 43,746 miles, 40,000 miles from the nice Barclaycard Arrival sign up bonus:  
In order to redeem the maximum 55,000 miles towards my cruise ticket, I need to earn 11,254 miles (55,000 - 43,746 = 11,254 miles).  Since I earn 2 miles per $1 spent with my Arrival card, it looks like I need to make $5,627 in purchases (11,254 miles / 2 miles per $1 = $5,627) in order to get $550 off my cruise ticket. 

My spending challenge: $5,627 in 83 days.  Should be no problem.

I just logged into my wife’s account and see that she currently has 21,078 miles:  

In order to redeem the maximum 55,000 miles towards her cruise ticket, she needs to earn 33,922 miles (55,000 - 21,078 = 33,922 miles).  She will need to make $16,961 in purchases (33,922 miles / 2 miles per $1 = $16,961) in order to get $550 off her cruise ticket.

My wife’s spending challenge: $16,961 in 83 days.  A bit more difficult.

We are authorized users on each other’s credit cards, so this will be a joint effort.  We will be shifting pretty much all of our regular purchases onto our Barclaycard Arrival credit cards for the next few months.  Also, there are plenty of manufactured spending techniques that we may try to help us reach this goal.  See this flyertalk forum for details.  

Realistically it should be easy to reach my spending goal and we will get an instant $550 off my cruise ticket, effectively bringing down the cost of my 7 day cruise ticket to only $23.51 ($573.51 - $550 = $23.51)!

Reaching my wife’s spending goal of $16,961 in 83 days is going to take some more creative ways of spending money (without really spending money).

No matter what, we will not allow either of us to carry a credit card balance.  This is the easiest way down a path of debilitating credit card debt.   We’re going to hold off redeeming any miles for as long as possible, because we can only redeem for a cash back statement credit ONE time per transaction within a 90 day period. 

Even if we don’t earn 55,000 miles in my wife’s Arrival account, her current 21,078 miles are already worth over $200.  These miles can be used to redeem a one time partial cash back credit towards the purchase of her cruise ticket.  Her ticket already effectively costs only $373.51 ($573.51 - $200 = $373.51).  If we can earn any extra miles on top of what she already has, it’ll be the cherry on top.

I’ll be sure to update the results of our free cruise spending challenge as we get closer to our redemption deadline.  In the meanwhile, you can apply for your own Barclaycard Arrival credit card here

For now, we are both looking forward to setting sail on our first cruise together!
My next post will detail how we are flying to and from our port of cruise departure… for free! 

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