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Cruises are back and better than ever following a pandemic-fueled rough patch that dropped an anchor on the industry for more than a year. The pause has led to pent-up demand, as travelers are ready to explore the epic new ships, glamorous itineraries, and never-before-seen dining experiences that are waiting for them at sea.
But, how you pay for a cruise can make a big difference, thanks to bonus points and added perks along the way. While some cruise lines have their own co-branded cruise credit cards, those may only interest travelers who stay loyal to one company. Instead, check out these five travel credit cards, which deliver solid value when booking some of the newest ships of the year, no matter what line you’re cruising on.
In addition to earning Membership Rewards points, American Express offers the Cruise Privileges program, which tacks on benefits for many sailings. When you book a cruise of at least five nights through Platinum Concierge, you’re eligible for $100 to $300 in shipboard credit and two Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on the cruise fare.
Travel protections for the card also include trip delay or cancellation coverage, and if your luggage goes missing, you’ll get help from American Express to cover missing necessities. Onboard, the perks await with amenities that vary by cruise line, including welcome bottles of Champagne or behind-the-scenes tours of the ship.
Try this out on… Celebrity Beyond, the newest ship from the Readers’ Choice Award-winning cruise line, which is sailing around the Mediterranean this summer. It features the cruise line’s first Michelin-starred restaurant at sea, where you can take advantage of your onboard credit while tucking into a menu from Chef Daniel Boulud.
United has a dedicated booking site for cruises; if you have the United Explorer Card, you can earn some major bonus miles when you book a sailing, too. Depending on the type of cruise and cabin category you choose, you can earn as many as seven miles per dollar spent when paying with this card.
If you have United MileagePlus Premier status, then you’re eligible for bonus offers like food, beverage, or spa credits on your sailing, too. While American and Delta have similar cruise bonus offers with bonuses for using their credit card, United’s offer is the most generous.
Try this out on… Azamara Onward, the fourth ship for the newly independent cruise line. This summer, it is sailing to the Mediterranean before heading to the Caribbean later this year. If you like the small-ship sailing experience, Azamara offers great value. Its ships typically spend more time in ports—including overnight stays—giving travelers more time to explore the destination.
The Capital One Venture Rewards credit card is a favorite for its low annual fee ($95) and the opportunity to earn two miles per dollar spent on all eligible purchases. The miles you earn can be redeemed like cash when paying for airfare, which means you might be able to cover the cost of your flights to the cruise. Alternatively, you can use miles to “erase” travel-related charges to your credit card. Cardholders can redeem miles in the form of statement credits, which is another incredibly useful perk if you want to temper that extra spending in port.