How to triple stack deals to get the ultimate savings on your next cruise

Nov 28, 2020

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This is the perfect time of year to think about booking your next cruise. With a few vacation days here and there to enjoy, you can peruse your favorite cruise lines’ websites and see what itineraries are ideal for a future vacation.

And while ships aren’t sailing right now due to a pause necessitated by the coronavirus crisis, news about several viable vaccines gives us confidence that we’ll be back on the deck of a cruise ship once it’s safe for passengers and crew.

Many cruise lines have announced their 2021 deployments as well as itineraries for at least the first half of 2022, so you can book something in the future with confidence. You can even book a Carnival cruise for any month of 2022 and even January through April of 2023.

Realistically, most cruise lines likely won’t resume sailing until around April 2021. That accounts for the restart plans they are making and the requirements they are following from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As long as your time horizon is a bit longer, you’ll find plenty of cruises to book further out and into 2021, 2022 and 2023.

If you plan to book anything, be sure to think through your plan to net the most savings. Here’s TPG’s triple stack booking method that ensures you’ll snag plenty of savings and additional amenities as well.

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cruise ship lido deck - pool deck
With promising news about several COVID-19 vaccines, we’ll be back to safe cruising soon. (Photo by Vintagepix/

How to triple stack cruise savings

Start your triple stack deal by looking for the best cruise line offer. You’ll find plenty of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals to consider and don’t forget that the entire industry launches a bevy of discounts from January through March during its annual “wave season.”

Let’s look at a real-world example of how to jump-start your triple stack deal.

Stack No. 1: Book a cruise during Norwegian Cruise Line’s Cyber Monday Sale

Cruise sales are awesome because, in addition to a concrete discount on the cruise fare, most deals also package in a few “extras.”

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Cyber Monday Sale is a fantastic example of what you can expect. It offers 30% off all ships and destinations plus you get five bonuses that are worth $2,900. The “5 Free at Sea” offers include complimentary open bar, specialty dining, excursions ($50 credit per port), onboard Wi-Fi and kids sail free on select sailings. (You often only get to pick two of those five perks when booking with some NCL promotions.)

While only certain sailings get the kids sail free deal, other itineraries cost just $99 each for the third and fourth passenger in a cabin.

Screenshot courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line


Stack No. 2: Book with a travel agent for additional perks

Once you have an idea of the sailing and cruise line deal you want to take advantage of, contact your travel agent. He or she will see if they can do better on the fare (sometimes they can, sometimes they can’t) and will let you know about any additional bonuses the agency can provide.

When I called a travel agent about an NCL Caribbean cruise, the agent offered $170 onboard credit for a balcony cabin or higher-category stateroom. Remember, that’s on top of the other perks already mentioned.

Other perks might be prepaid gratuities, in-cabin treats or a rebate sent to you after the cruise. Costco Travel, for example, sends a Costco Shop Card as a thank-you for booking a cruise. The dollar value depends on the cruise. A seven-night Seattle round-trip cruise to Alaska on Celebrity Solstice in August 2021 with per person cruise fares starting at $1,034 nets a $140 Costco Shop Card.

Before you book a cruise with a travel agent or online agency, check to see what bonuses are on offer and pick the one that is most valuable to you.

And, remember, there are a lot of benefits to booking with a travel agent.

Celebrity Solstice Reflection Suite butler
A family enjoying the Reflection Suite aboard Celebrity Solstice. (Photo by Quentin Bacon/Celebrity Cruises)

Stack No. 3: Pay for the cruise with your Amex Platinum card

Finally, tell your travel agent you wish to pay for the cruise with The Platinum Card® from American Express in order to receive Amex’s Cruise Privileges benefit. Check in advance to make sure your travel agent participates in this program and point them to this URL if they haven’t processed a cruise payment like this before.

By using your Platinum card, you’ll receive onboard credit and a second amenity. (Participating cruise lines offer different amenities.) In the case of our Norwegian cruise example, you’d receive:

  • $100 onboard credit for inside and outside cabins, $200 for a balcony, veranda or mini-suite stateroom; $300 for a suite
  • Complimentary dinner for two at Le Bistro Restaurant

If you normally sail the luxury lines, the perks are even better. Expect a $300 onboard credit for all stateroom categories aboard Ama Waterways, Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Azamara, Seabourn, Crystal, Silversea, Windstar and Uniworld. If you hold the Centurion card, you’ll get an extra $200 in onboard credit when sailing Crystal, Regent, Seabourn and Silversea. We’ll take $500 in shipboard credits any day!

Bottom line

You can see how deal-stacking works in your favor. Start with a solid offer from the cruise line and then pair it with additional savings and perks offered by your travel agent. Finally, pay with a credit card that will also provide value. That may mean booking with the Platinum Card from American Express, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® to earn 3x points per dollar on any cruise booking that codes as travel or any card for which you are working on the spending threshold for a bonus.

Featured image courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

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