Cruise ships are the pinnacle of luxury vacations. They’re all-inclusive party travel boats that take you to exotic locations.
And you’ve always wanted to take a cruise vacation.
But dropping more than what you got back from the government this tax season just isn’t feasible. So, how do you make your dreams come true? There has to be a way to get on board for free.
Become stowaways? Bribe an employee to let you aboard? Steal the captain’s baby for ransom? Probably not good ideas.
Instead, take our advice. It’s entirely possible to bag a free cruise. You just have to be crafty (and maybe a little evil sometimes).
1. Go to a Timeshare Presentation
Let’s just get right down to being evil. Timeshare companies aren’t ashamed of being evil, then why should we?
In fact, timeshare companies expect people to be a little selfish sometimes. That’s what they’re betting on.
Timeshare presentations have evolved over the years. As information spreads via the internet, vacation scams get harder to sell.
Thus, timeshare companies are sweetening their deals to get people caught in their scammy webs. If you have a will of steel, you too can bag some free or cheap vacations just by giving up two hours of your time.
How Do You Go About Getting Free Stuff From Timeshares?
Timeshare companies target specific people. If you don’t make more than a combined income of $70,000 a year or if you’re younger than 55, don’t bet on getting a phone call from a timeshare company.
If you do fall in this category, you’ll likely hear from a timeshare company within the next year. One of the biggest timeshare companies is Wyndham with 8,400 properties not including cruise lines.
When they call and offer to set you up for the weekend, ask if there are any cruise presentations available. It might be a long shot, but if you get the right agent, they might hook you up.
Timeshare and vacation conglomerates are getting desperate for new blood. If you’re a millennial, they might be willing to sweeten the deal a little more.
Less Than $70k
If you don’t make more than $70k, there are still ways to bag free stuff from timeshare companies. You may not get the free cruise, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask.
You’ll have to already be in a location where timeshare companies operate. This means traveling to a resort location. For some, this might mean a short two-hour drive to Palm Springs or Las Vegas, or if you live in the southeastern United States, going to Orlando for a weekend.
Vegas is the best example. Go to any of the major hotels on the strip and you’ll see little stands where well-dressed representatives lure people in with lush offerings.
Sometimes this only means a few tickets to Cirque De Soleil or another high-profile show. These offerings aren’t worth your two hours most of the time. But some companies are bold enough to offer entire weekend getaways for free or cheap.
Learn to haggle. And if they don’t give you a sweet deal, then just walk away. They’re playing the numbers game so don’t feel bad.
How to Keep From Falling Victim to Timeshares Tactics
You’ve got the cruise! But you’re not home free yet. Either they’re holding the cruise tickets until the end of the high-pressure presentation or they’re making you go through the presentation while on your cruise.
The trick is, even if you’re going through the presentation on the cruise, you must complete the entire presentation or they’ll charge you full price for the cruise.
A cruise is probably the most dangerous place to go through a timeshare presentation. If you drink, cruises sometimes give you access to unlimited booze. Alcohol and important decisions go together like pure magnesium and water.
We know it’s probably only a 3-4 day cruise, but take a day off from alcohol before heading into your timeshare presentation. This will at least increase your inhibitions and help you be more clear-headed when presented with tempting sales tactics.
Other than avoiding alcohol, there are other ways to get through a timeshare presentation with your bank account unscathed.
Bring a Partner in Crime
Traditionally, timeshare companies target couples. But lately, they’ve pivoted and sometimes they’ll let single people attend presentations if that person has a deep enough pocketbook. If you are single, don’t go to the presentation alone. This is especially true if you’re a follower and not a leader. A savvy partner can help you more clearly see what sort of conditions and commitments are glossed over just to get you to sign up.
Choose a Strategy and Stick to It
Timeshare salespeople are marketing and sales experts. They run on commission most of the time and they’re in it for the big money.
They also know all the excuses you could make to avoid signing up for your own timeshare. This means that arguing with them is a bunk strategy, since they can easily make your arguments seem incorrect or pointless. You might as well just bring a suitcase full of money if that’s going to be your strategy.
Instead of making excuses, try to make the entire conversation about them. Whenever they ask you a question, turn it back on them.
This is probably the most evil of all tactics, but it generally works. Remember, if you’re in sales, you have to own a thick skin or you’ll never survive. Don’t feel bad about turning timeshare reps down, especially if you start with a polite refusal but their tactics get pushier.
As soon as you get into your timeshare presentation, ignore every attempt to engage. Give them the cold shoulder. This gives off the impression you have zero interest in their sales pitch.
2. Enter a Cruise Sweepstakes
Sweepstakes are an incredible marketing opportunity for any business. Not only do people volunteer information about themselves for entry, but a business also implants their name in the minds of millions.
And some lucky person or persons get a free whatever. A book, movie tickets, clothing, concert tickets, and even vacations.
Cruise lines are no different. They compete with every other vacation industry on the planet. The biggest downside to this method for trying to get a free cruise is you’re rolling the dice.
Say you entered the Carnival Airship cruise sweepstakes. It flew over California and you entered by snapping a shot of the blimp and using the #choosefun to post your photo on social media. You’re competing against every person in California who saw that blimp and decided to enter.
It was an easy contest to enter as well. This means more people and a lower chance at entry.
But if you choose a little-known cruise sweepstakes with a long survey as barrier for entry, your chances of winning will go up, since many people won’t bother filling out the entire long form or may not be aware of the contest at all. Be wise when choosing your cruise contest and you could be sailing within the year.
3. Play the Points Game
The credit card points game used to be something only the rich could pull off. But now, all you really need is decent credit and some credit history to jump into the credit card points game.
Yes, it can be a dangerous game to play if you aren’t disciplined financially. But if you keep a tight reign on your finances, you can earn free travel pretty quickly.
Don’t Use Cruise-Related Credit Cards
Cruise-lines must not be competing for customers as ardently as airlines. Why do we say this? Cruise-related credit cards generally have low-value sign-on bonuses and points conversion rates.
The Royal Caribbean Visa Signature, for example, only gives you $100 in onboard credit after your first purchase. Even the lowest value airline card gives you $300 worth of points after signing on.
Airlines Are in the Cruise Business Too
Some airlines own or partner with cruise lines. For example, Delta will give you extra points for spending on a cruise with their card. This will vary according to what kind of cabin you book and how long you’re cruising for.
Other airlines run time-sensitive deals that earn you even more points just for booking with them. If you’re a frequent traveler, you probably have points saved up and can take advantage of even more opportunities. This means you earn future free travel while cruising for free.
Try a Fixed-Value Points Eraser Card
Every once in a while you can find a fixed value card with an incredible sign-on bonus. At the end of 2018, the Capital One Venture Rewards Card ran a promotion that gave new customers 75,000 points. That’s $750 worth of travel. These points were good for any kind of travel, which means those points could pay for a good portion of a cruise ticket.
Most fixed-value cards will give you at least double points per dollar spent. They might also have triple value purchase options to increase your value.
Stack Your Cards
If you have a really good handle on your finances, you can maximize your travel rewards points. Just stack your rewards credit cards.
This would mean having expenses you can place on those cards to make them worthwhile. Remember, many of these cards have annual fees. If you’re not getting more value than what you’re investing, you’re losing money.
Trip Protections are a Bonus
Not only can you earn free travel with your rewards cards, but you can gain trip protection as well. Even if you don’t spend a dime of “real money” on your cruise, you’ll want protection against a vacation ruined entirely by the norovirus.
Some of the most common points rewards cards offer free trip protection on travel you book through their card. Both the Capital One Venture card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve cards offer some sort of trip coverage.
Be sure to look into all the perks you could gain before choosing which cards to join.
4. Be a Group Leader
Are you outgoing? Do you have a little bit of sales acumen? Maybe you’re good at convincing your friends to go skydiving with you?
You might be able to snag at least a cheap cruise by being a group leader.
Cruise ship philosophy is basically “the more the merrier.” Furthermore, if you experience a cruise with a group of friends you love to hang with, you’re more likely to go again. This is why some cruise companies run a “group leader” promotion.
According to most cruise lines, a group is three or more people. If you can get at least three of your friends to go on a cruise, you might be able to take advantage of group leader discounts.
Some companies require a minimum number of sales. They’ll often require you pay for your room or berth up front. They’ll then reimburse you after your group books the requisite number of rooms or berths. Cabin types and cruise lengths may also impact what discounts you can expect, so check the terms carefully.
5. Become an Enrichment Speaker
Are you an expert in your field? Maybe you can lecture for hours on Central American marine biology or the unique coral reef formations in the Bahamas. You might be able to get on board a cruise for free.
Not everybody who gets on a cruise ship wants to drink booze and lay by the pool all day. Some people do value personal enrichment as well as entertainment.
Cruises try to appeal to all sorts. Most cruise lines will include a seminar or two for the intellectuals on board.
Lecturers often get major discounts on cruises. But beware, this means actual work on your part. You have to be an expert and you must have a presentation prepared. You will have to provide credentials to the cruise line, and may need to audition to prove you can be an entertaining speaker.
You can’t just get on a cruise ship and wing it. Most enrichment programs require at least five presentations per cruise before they’ll discount or compensate your fare.
6. Work on a Cruise Ship
Employees get perks. Of course, you’ll have to travel in the offseason. But you can cruise for free if you’re a valued employee of most any major cruise line.
What kinds of jobs are on cruise ships? Anything from cook to maid to entertainer to photographer, as well as hair stylists, childcare experts, and comedians. If you can handle months of getting on and off a boat, then you can get a cabin for free when you’re not on a work contract.
A Free Cruise is Within Reach
If you’re crafty and willing to jump through some hoops, you can bag that free cruise pretty easily. Just choose a route that’s comfortable for you and get to it.
Cruise Hive is all about helping you enjoy your cruise vacations. Getting the best deals takes a bit of research, so be sure to check out our consistently-updated cruise deals page.