Here is where the rubber meets the road. Finding freebies to a cruise that leaves on a given day at a given time without the benefit of flexibility. It is pretty much the same circumstance of having a set vacation week off work. You either find seats on Friday night after work, Saturday, or at the latest Sunday and have to get back the following Monday. I’m paying for two couples to Seattle in June. Jeff and Carol are flying from Traverse City and want to stopover in San Francisco for a few days prior to visit family. Katy and I are leaving Savannah and have a more flexible schedule. We can go a couple days early and stay a couple days longer without time deadlines to find cheaper flights or award tickets.For Jeff and Carol’s tickets I used Chase Ultimate Rewards points and multi-city ticketing. I got them into San Francisco three days before the cruise, they bought a Southwest ticket from Oakland up to Seattle the day before the cruise and their return was the second half of the Chase ticket that left on the red eye the night the ship returned to port. They get a day in Seattle to explore at the end of the cruise. I got 1.33 cents in value per Ultimate Rewards points, not great, but very little out of pocket. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Not paying for four airline tickets is beautiful to me.Katy and I are using Citi Thank You points and flying into Seattle four days early. I could have paid the equivalent of $400 plus each way using TY points but decided to extend the vacation to take advantage of ticket prices $150 less each way by going early and staying an extra day. We’ll rent a car and drive up to Whistler in British Columbia for a few days as we have always wanted to see those sights since Andrew sent us photos years ago. We also get to fly American and the miles flown count towards elite status which is important for me, not so much for Katy.
Am I thrilled about the value I got for my Ultimate Rewards and Thank You points? No. But I got four tickets with very little out of pocket. To me, it made more sense than paying for award tickets at anytime prices (double the miles) as there was no saver award availability. In that regard, I got value for my points by saving my miles and no money out of pocket. When the ship leaves you just can’t count on saver tickets, and now the deal is done.
One other point about cruise travel: fly in a day early. When Katy worked for Holland America they always flew crew members in a day early and bought them overnight accommodations. Regardless whether passenger or crew, weather, mechanicals and who knows what else can delay your arrival. The ship will depart as scheduled and they will not wait for you.
We have never done this Alaska cruise as passengers, just as crew members which is somewhat more restrictive with time requirements and back on board requirements. I can’t wait to find that magic spot on the back of the ship as we leave Juneau where we see the city behind us in the distance and the float planes coming back home after a day in the bush. Ah Alaska.