The Cheapest Way to Book a Disney Cruise with Points

It’s been a while since I’ve watched the Travel Channel, but a few years ago they were running a constant stream of shows about cruising. One focused on Disney Cruises, which looked really fun – even to someone like me who doesn’t have kids and would normally hyperventilate at the thought of being confined to a cruise ship filled with kids for an extended period of time.

Disney Cruise Line

My nieces are at that age where they’re obsessed with everything Disney (i.e. age 1 – 65) and after a disastrous weekend trip to Disneyland, my sister is thinking of opting for a Disney Cruise next time. She asked me what her options were for booking a Disney Cruise with points and miles. I figured this information might be relevant to some of you parents reading this blog, so an extensive post was in order. 

American Express Membership Rewards

American Express Membership Rewards points are worth 1 cent each towards cruise bookings made through Pay with Points. However, the American Express travel website doesn’t list Disney Cruises in their search results, so another option is to use your Membership Rewards points for statement credits at a rate of 0.6 cents each. With Disney Cruises starting at $465 per person, this would require over 77,500 Membership Rewards points per person after taxes are factored in. Obviously, this isn’t the best use of Membership Rewards points. It’s much better to book a non-Disney Cruise through Pay with Points and get 1 cent per point, along with a 20% point discount if you’re an American Express Platinum Business cardholder.

Barclay Arrival Miles

One of my favorite rewards currencies (which I’m sure you’re all either sick of reading about or have turned into a drinking game by now), Barclay Arrival Miles are worth 1.1 cents each towards travel. Depending on when you applied for the Arrival Plus card,  the redemption value will drop down to 1.05 cents per mile by November 1, 2015 or August 1, 2016.

The 46,000 miles earned from the Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard (after spending requirements are met), is worth $483 – $506 towards a cruise, depending on when you redeem them. Since the Barclay Arrival Plus card earns 2 miles per $1 spent, it’s worth channeling your household spending or churning some gift cards to increase your Arrival miles balance and off-set some more of your travel expenses.

Chase Ultimate Rewards

It’s pretty baffling that Chase allows you to book everything from airfare to walking tours through the Ultimate Rewards website, yet you have to call to redeem points for a cruise. Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1 cent each toward cruise bookings, plus a 20% discount for Sapphire Preferred cardholders. My brother-in-law has been talking about picking up a Chase Ink Plus card, through which he would currently earn a minimum of 65,000 Ultimate Rewards points after the $5,000 spending requirement is met. This would be enough for $650 towards a Disney Cruise. 

Citi ThankYou Points

Citi ThankYou points are worth 1 cent each towards cruise bookings, though Citi ThankYou Premier cardholders get 1.25 cents per point. This makes the 53,000 point sign-up bonus of the Citi ThankYou Premier card the best option, since it can be redeemed for $662 towards a Disney Cruise. 

Disney Credit Cards

Cruise credit cards are the worst when it comes to sign-up bonuses and the Disney cards from Chase are no exception. The Disney Rewards Visa offers a measly $50 statement credit after first purchase. Really, they might as well offer an inflatable Spiderman toy at that rate. Besides, booking a Disney Cruise with the Disney Debit Card from Chase gets you the same $50 statement credit, without the 5 point hit on your credit.

The Disney Premier Visa offers a $100 statement credit after $500 spent within 3 months, however the Disney website lists an offer for a $200 statement credit. In case you’re considering getting this card, don’t. Just…don’t. 

Disney Gift Cards

Disney Gift Cards can be used for both onboard charges as well as cruise bookings. I’ve seen these gift cards at my local Safeway store Purchasing them with a category bonus-earning credit card won’t cover the cost of the cruise, but it will earn you extra points or cash back that you can redeem for future travel.

United MileagePlus Miles

Airline frequent flyer programs offer some generous bonuses on cruise bookings, but did you know you can also redeem airline miles for a cruise? United Cruises allows you to do just that. Similar to an airline award ticket, cruises booked with miles come with taxes and fees. A 3 night Bahamas cruise cost $465 per person or 54,706 miles for an Interior cabin.

United redemption rates for a Disney Cruise

United redemption rates for a Disney Cruise

Paid rates for a Disney Cruise

Paid rates for a Disney Cruise

Taxes and fees for two people are an additional $135.02, plus a $24.99 processing fee. At less than 0.85 cents per mile, this isn’t the best use of United miles. However, to some it’s worth it for a 3-night vacation that includes transportation (except for airfare), lodging, and meals. I’d recommend using the sign-up bonus from the Barclay Arrival Plus card to cover the cost of the cruise and saving your United miles for a hassle-free award ticket to Europe.

Those are your options for covering the cost of a Disney Cruise with rewards points and miles. Barclay Arrival Miles offer the best value, since they are accrued at a rate of 2.1 miles per $1 spent and the Arrival Plus card offers a decent sign-up bonus. I would steer clear of using United miles or the Disney credit cards, since you’ll get very little in the way of value and points from these currencies.  

If you decide to book a Disney Cruise with a rewards card that allows you to redeem points for travel purchases, like the Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard, then don’t forget to shop through a cash back or rewards portal for extra savings and points.

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Ariana Arghandewal

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