My Friends & I Scored Free Or Nearly Free Cruises. Here’s How
My Friends & I Scored Free Or Nearly Free Cruises. Here’s How
I’m going to show you how seven of my friends paid nothing, or next to nothing, to go on cruise vacations in the last year. And how I’ve been offered 11 free, or almost free, cruises in that same period too.
Some may not work for you today, but may one day, some will once you know how, but I can guarantee the last one you can do for sure.
Many people assume I cruise for free all the time because of my channel. It is true that if you are a travel or cruise blogger/vlogger, someone with a big social media following or journalist, you could go sometimes go cruising for free in return for coverage of the line.
In the last year, because of the size of my channel, I’ve been offered many free cruises. However, I’ve turned them down as I prefer to be independent, deciding where and when I cruise, and on which line and cabin I go in. So, I pay for my cruises from the ad revenue from people like you watching my YouTube channel.
I want to stress though, not as many cruise bloggers or vloggers are invited, nor as often as people seem think. I’ve counted at least 120 YouTube cruise channels and a handful at best are getting asked on cruises.
You don’t always have to be a huge channel to be asked either, and if you are in a very specific niche like family, food, or lifestyle, that will appeal to cruise lines. Particularly because they are trying to attract people who have not been on a cruise before.
Cruising With Matthew
I want to give you an example of a smaller channel being invited. Recently, I’ve been following a channel run by someone I know called “Cruising with Matthew” on a Fred. Olsen Cruise. His channel has under 10,000 YouTube subscribers, but his audience is ideal for the line.
If you do ever go on a cruise for free like Matthew, do what he did. He followed guidelines from the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority in the UK requiring posts to be flagged with the word “AD” when being gifted as trip, so the audience knows.
But if this way of getting a free cruise does not apply to you, you will be delighted to hear that something else you’re doing could.
Your Job Is Your Passport
If you work in anything connected with the travel industry, you could unlock free or heavily discounted cruises.
First, I have seen my travel agent, Sarah Bolton, is asked to go on what’s known as FAMs or familiarisation trips. Where cruise lines invite travel agents to go and experience ships, especially new ones, and itineraries to sell them better.
She’s done quite a few. In fact, she is about to join one of the ultra-luxury lines to sail through the Panama Canal.
Last year on a Seabourn cruise I had booked around the Greek Islands, on boarding I found there were 100 travel agents invited on that cruise.
It was on that cruise that I discovered another trick, and that if you work in anything travel related, you could go cruising for significantly less than everybody else.
My friend Simon, ex British Airways cabin crew, was on the same trip but paid dramatically less than I had using what’s known as interline fares.
These are reduced rates that the cruise lines offer on many sailings. They used to only be available to airline industry employees but have now been expanded to almost anyone who works within travel.
There are agencies selling these “interline fares” and looking at some they are available to employees in of tourist boards, hotel companies, and car hire companies. And importantly, some allow their immediate family members access to them too.
If you, or members of your family work in anything travel related look at interline fare agencies to see if you qualify. For example, in the United States, there’s sites like interlinetravel.com, absea.com and myinterline.com and in the UK there’s touchdown.co.uk
But, if you or your family’s job can’t unlock free, or next to nothing, cruises, maybe one of your vices or guilty pleasures can.
Taking a Gamble
Jen, a follower of the channel, certainly has. She gets offered, and goes on, multiple cruises a year across several lines by gambling in the on-board casino.
She explained to me how this can be done without gambling anything close to the amounts I thought one would have to.
I’ve explained how in my blog about cruise ship casinos, and also have an article on my Tips For Travellers blog (written with the help of Jen) that explains in detail how to do it across all the major cruise lines.
Since doing that post, I’ve met many cruisers who do this. And even when checking in for my recent Norwegian Viva Mediterranean cruise there was a dedicated line for people with comped cruises from gambling!
I also found by joining MGM Rewards when last in Las Vegas that gambling there can also unlock free or discounted cruises. At some status levels of that program and the Caesars Rewards program qualify people to get them.
But as that will not apply to many of you, let me talk more practical and easier to achieve routes.
Some cruise loyalty programs will get you a free cruise. Though not all, so chose which line you decide to be loyal with well. I didn’t!
The highest loyalty I have on all cruise lines I’ve sailed on is Cunard. But they do not give a free cruise even at Diamond, the highest level that I managed to hit.
Which do? At time of making this, Royal Caribbean’s Crown and Anchor Society gives a seven-night cruise to the Caribbean in a balcony cabin for their top tier. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Latitudes Rewards highest tier also has a free seven-night cruise in a balcony cabin, and for any destination as long as it’s not at Christmas and New Year.
Celebrity Cruise’s top tier gets a seven-night Bermuda or Caribbean cruise in a balcony cabin. Though others like Holland America only gives their five-star Mariner level free cruise fare for kids or extra guests staying in the cabin on selected sailings.
Some of the ultra-luxury lines have free nights and cruises, but the key is to check the program and maybe chose a line that will eventually give you a freebie.
But if you don’t cruise a lot to build status fast enough there is another way.
Spend To Go Free
And that is to just spend on Cruise line linked credit cards. Though unfortunately these only seem available for United States based cruisers.
I have found at least seven different cruise line credit cards and by using it for your day-to-day spending you can build up points that get converted into credits for upgrades and free cruises.
Many give sign-on bonuses, so for example on that Norwegian cruise I mentioned earlier, they were promoting their Norwegian Cruise Line World Mastercard and giving 20,000 bonus points if you spent at least $1000 within the first 90 days. That equates to $200 off a cruise because it’s roughly 1 cent per point.
I also have found cards for Carnival, Holland America, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Disney, the latter a friend of mine John uses I have since discovered to help fund his Disney cruising.
But if you don’t like that idea, your hobby, talent, career or skill could find you a free or heavily discounted cruise.
Sharing Your Expertise
Three friends have done exactly this, all by being part of the cruise line daily program.
First, my friend Chris Frame has shown you can by being a guest speaker. He turned his knowledge of all things maritime into talks on cruise lines like Cunard and P&O Cruises. The lines fly him to the ship from his home in Australia and he gives a few talks, usually one per sea day, and most lines let him bring a plus one.
If you know anything about anything and can talk about it, this could be a route for you. I’ve met people talking about destinations, history, cases they investigated as a police officer, pilots, architects, and theatre producers talking on ships.
There are several agencies and online sites that specialise in matching cruise speakers with cruise lines like cruiseshipspeakers.com, which is part of Peel Talent who also provide entertainers, Compass Speakers and Sixth Star.
You won’t get paid as the payment is the cruise, and you will usually have to cover some costs like drinks, excursions, and the like.
Run Your Own Classes
The next route another friend of mine also called Chris (Chris T) uses to get free cruises is by running artwork and craft classes. Mostly on Cunard. He did most of a recent World Cruise doing this. I have also met people teaching and running bridge classes.
David, who I’ve been following for many years on Facebook, upon retiring developed a series of tech classes. He now runs these on ships on how to use FaceTime, edit photographs, and make short videos on your phone.
So, if you have any of the skills or knowledge like Chris Frame, Chris T or David and can teach or talk about it, you could be pitching to cruise lines.
One other, but fast diminishing free cruise opportunity, is if you love ballroom dancing is being a gentleman host to dance with solo lady travellers on lines like Cunard and Saga. I’ve interviewed a couple of gentlemen hosts across the years, and again, it’s a similar setup where they get free cruises in return for a few hours dancing each night.
But if all this still is not something that works for you, then the next one will.
Before I talk about that, I wanted a let you know I do offer Patrons or YouTube Channel members behind-the-scenes content from my trips, eBook downloads, and share bonus content if that is of interest. But now on to that next tip.
In It to Win It
When I started preparing this, I realised that my feed both on Instagram and Facebook had many posts with opportunities to win free cruises from five different travel agencies all in the same week.
These online travel agencies are all trying to get you and I to sign up to their mailing list. And there seem to be more and more of these giveaways appearing.
So, if you like and comment on cruising content on social media the algorithms will start showing you these ads for free cruise draws.
Onboard cruise ships there are opportunities too. As again in that same Norwegian Viva cruise their “Deal or No Deal” show had the top prize of a free cruise as did the Bingo.
But of course, once you get into competitions, the odds are not great. But worth a try as someone must win! And it costs nothing to enter.
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