Since I’m not travelling for a bit, we’ll be looking at some of the other benefits of this travel hacking business. As I started to outline last week with rental cars, the MasterCard World Elite program offers benefits for travelers at no additional cost to the cardholder. World Elite cards have annual fees, but you do get something for that money.
Still interested in the unsung benefits of your World Elite MasterCard? Good!
Next up: benefits for cruises. I know some of you out there are pirates born a few hundred years too late, so what’s better than the open sea? You won’t be doing any pillaging or plundering while on board, but these benefits could keep a few more dubloons in your pocket.
All of these cruise benefits come with restrictions. At best, be sure to do your research, and find a deal that truly works for you. If you do find that the World Elite benefits are helpful, let’s look at some of the fine print.
These offers are intended for folks in the US. The specifics vary, but this means anything from “only US residents are eligible,” to charging a foreign card in USD (luckily, World Elite cards don’t have foreign transaction fees). Travelers must call the United States based call center, at (855) 802-1387 in order to take advantage of the World Elite MasterCard cruise benefits. None of these offers apply to group bookings, and all seem to be based on double occupancy, at or above a specific room level.
At the time of writing, these offers are good until the end of March 2017. I think it’s safe to assume that these offers are renewed each year without much change. MasterCard wants to ensure cardholders see the World Elite program as something useful, and worth their time and money.
The World Elite program breaks its cruise operators into three categories: River Cruises, Premium Cruises, and Luxury Cruises.
For river cruises, cardholders have a further three options: AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, and the Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection.
When booking with AmaWaterways, guests are entitled to a $75 shipboard credit. As with the other cruise lines in this analysis, the benefit is per person, not per booking, which is great if you have a few people with you. AmaWaterways specializes in European river cruises, and also features routes in Asia and Africa, under the guise of their Exotics Collection. As with all these offers, certain terms and conditions apply. The benefit is available only on select Europe and Asia cruises with a minimum of 7 nights.
Avalon Waterways offers guests a slightly different benefit: a $75 savings per person, as opposed to a shipboard credit. Avalon’s benefit applies to all cruises. Personally, I’d take this over shipboard credit, because you realize the benefit immediately upon booking, and you’re that much closer to more money in your pocket. With a shipboard credit, you actually have to ‘spend’ it on board. Don’t worry though, it’s not hard to spend money once on your ship. There are also fewer conditions on a savings than a credit. Credits can often only be used for specific experiences, don’t include tax and gratuity, or have other terms that make it difficult to redeem at full value. Avalon Waterways boasts a larger route network, offering cruises in Europe, Asia, Africa, and in South America.
The Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection ups the ante with a $100 shipboard credit per person. The $100 MasterCard World Elite benefit can be stacked with other types of discount promotions, increasing its utility. Uniworld offers routes throughout Europe and Asia, and in Egypt. The cruise line includes the boiler plate “restrictions may apply” language, just like most of the other operators here.
The premium and luxury categories both refer to ocean liners. For premium, sailors can book with Costa Cruises or Royal Caribbean.
Costa has a few more rules than the river cruise operators. In order to get a $75 shipboard credit, you must meet minimum as well as maximum night qualifications, the benefit is not available with other savings or discounts, and does not apply to cruises in certain locations. Carrying passengers on open ocean allows these cruise operators to reach further destinations, and Costa sails from South America, to the Indian Ocean, to Norway, and stops everywhere in between too.
Royal Caribbean offers a similar $75 credit per person, plus an additional specialty dining credit (valued at $60). The shipboard credit is only eligible for 7-night minimum bookings in Alaska, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, for balcony and above bookings. I find it interesting that Royal Caribbean excludes cruises throughout its very namesake, but maybe that’s just me. The restaurant credit is restricted to certain establishments on board, is only available to junior suite bookings and above, and also reserves itself for guests staying at least 7-nights.
First up: Azamara Club Cruises. Azamara offers a $150 shipboard credit per person for World Elite cardholders. Offering round the world routes, and ships in the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Central and South America, Europe, and Asia; there’s plenty to look forward to. There’s the typical catch applied to this offer: The credit is only available for Ocean View and Veranda staterooms, based on double occupancy.
Oceania Cruises falls in line with a similar $150 per person in shipboard credit. With routes all over the world, you have plenty of places to see. They also offer a 180 day round the world cruise, Miami to Miami. For only $39,999, it can be yours! You can’t use the credit in conjunction with a whole host of other promotions offered by Oceania, so be sure to do your research.
Not to be outdone, Regent Seven Seas Cruises allows World Elite passengers a $250 shipboard credit per person. The exceptions here are similar to Oceania. The credits are not accessible with certain additional promotions, based on double occupancy, and only eligible on new bookings. Regent offers routes throughout the world, as well as a few round the world trips of its own.
But we can do better, right?
So, here’s what you’ll get on a variety of cruises:
- AmaWaterways: $75 shipboard credit per person
- Avalon Waterways: $75 savings per person on all cruises
- Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection: $100 shipboard credit per peron
- Costa Cruiselines: $75 shipboard credit per person
- Royal Caribbean International: $75 shipboard credit and a specialty dining credit (valued at $60) per person
- Azamara Club Cruises: $150 shipboard credit per person
- Oceania Cruises: $150 shipboard credit per person
- Regent Seven Seas Cruises: $250 shipboard credit per person
In some quick searching, there are definitely opportunities to save more money, or get a better deal on these cruises. Especially in the luxury category, travelers will come out on top by simply booking with one of the cruise operator’s promotions. The cruise lines often run sales throughout the year, and taking advantage of a sale offers a much better return. Don’t forget to check online travel agents (OTAs) for options as well. If you’re not interested loyalty, there’s no reason not to save some money through a third party like Orbitz.
If you plan on using a fixed-value card, you’ve probably got the right idea. Unless you have a cobranded cruise line card, book cruises frequently, and are fiercely loyal to one of the cruise operators outlined above, you’ll do better redeeming against the charge than earning points with a cruise line. In this way, you can use the points you earn from the cruise booking, and further reduce the ultimate cost of the trip.
I’m sorry to bear bad news, but this benefit just isn’t as useful as the car rentals. Keep an eye out for the next post in the World Elite Benefits series!