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United Airlines recently unveiled new cruise benefits for MileagePlus members, who can now book cruises using miles, as well as a combination of miles and cash. With a total of 22 different cruise lines participating in the new program, there are plenty of opportunities for taking to the seas.
Components of the United Cruises program include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Exclusive MileagePlus rates;
- Savings up to 75% off of the brochure price of certain cruises;
- 110% price match guarantee if you find a cheaper offer on an identical itinerary;
- Various other offerings, such as bonus miles, upgrades, all-inclusive packages and more.
The number of miles you’ll need to sail varies substantially depending on the cruise itinerary. To give you a rough idea of the requirements, I’ve priced out options for a few different cruises.
A typical 4-6 night Caribbean cruise will cost you roughly 42,000 miles per person, not including specific discounts that are currently being offered on select cruise lines. Certain cruises (such as the one pictured above) are offering heavily discounted promos, such as the Royal Caribbean Buy One Get One (BOGO) 50% off 2nd guest promo. With that promotion, this itinerary requires just 63,353 miles for a couple in an interior room.
This same itinerary is currently on sale for $359 per person on other websites, so you’d get a return of just over 1.1 cents apiece by using miles. I list United miles at 1.5 cents apiece in my latest monthly valuations, so this isn’t a great redemption. If you’re researching Royal Caribbean for your next cruise, take a look at this recent post on one of the company’s newest vessels, The Quantum of The Seas.
If your MileagePlus account is getting ready to burst, you’ll find plenty of luxury options to help you part ways with your miles. The cruise line Seabourn is offering certain cruises for a total of 352,824 miles per person. (If you haven’t heard of Seabourn, check out this post on small ship cruises.) These cruises start at around $3,000 per person, so the redemption value is even lower than in the previous example (about 0.85 cents per mile). This is a premium cruise experience, but that rate is abysmal.
Airlines and hotels love offering redemption options like this, because every mile you redeem is one you no longer have available for high-value selections like international flights in business and first class. Even with the BOGO promotions, I didn’t see any cruises that offered a decent return. If 1.1 cents apiece is the best you can get, you’re better off just paying for your cruise and redeeming miles from a card like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard or the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.
While I searched through a fair number of options, I couldn’t look at all of them. If you find a MileagePlus cruise redemption that offers good value, please share it in the comments below!
The standard sign-up offer for these co-branded cards is 30,000 miles after you spend $1,000 in the first three months, so the current bonus is a significant step up. TPG values United miles at 1.5 cents apiece, so this 50,000-mile sign-up bonus gets you $750 in value.
- Special offer: 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
- Check your first bag for free (a savings of up to $100 per roundtrip) when you use your Card to purchase your ticket
- Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United Club with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary
- No foreign transaction fees
- Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on tickets purchased from United, and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
- Your miles don't expire as long as your credit card account is open, with no limit to the number of miles you can earn
- Use your miles for any seat, any time, on any United-operated flight at the MileagePlus Standard Award level
- $95 annual fee