Since we were going to be headed to Europe to attend the VIII International Parrot Convention, I wanted to maximize our time over there. One of the ways I chose was a Mediterranean cruise after the conference using Iberia Avios to fly from Tenerife to Venice. I did consider a shorter cruise and then spending more time in Italy and using trains to get around but decided it would be too much hassle to navigate train stations with large bags. Also since we would already have formal clothes for the conference evening program, we might as well take a cruise and double the use of our formal clothes.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH UNITED CRUISES
Since I am collecting United miles for an upcoming trip, I chose United’s cruise booking portal. Other airlines such as American and US Airways also have cruise portals. You should also check Cruise Compete to make sure you are getting the best price. You don’t want to pay more and negate the value of the bonus miles.
Here’s the deal if you don’t have a United Explorer credit card. Non-Americans should be able to get at least this deal since they can’t get the credit card from Chase.
If you do have the credit card, this is what you get.
For more T&C’s see their website.
SELECTING A CRUISE
I began the process last year of selecting a cruise. I usually prefer Princess Cruises so I was really hoping they would have a suitable itinerary that was compatible with the conference dates. Unfortunately they didn’t, their Regal Princess Grand Mediterranean turned around right in the middle of the conference and we would have had to wait 10 days after the conference to join the next cruise. I waited until October 2013 for all the cruise lines to post their Mediterranean itineraries. NCL had an itinerary which departed 27 Sept from Venice which worked with our dates as the conference ended 25 Sept and we had the 26th to travel from Tenerife to Venice. I wanted an itinerary that covered the highlights of Mediterranean Europe and came up with this one. As you can see, United Cruises does offer substantial discounts on cruises in addition to giving you miles. This is similar to what I found last year when I was researching the cruise I booked. I went with the cheapest indoor category as this is a port-intensive cruise and we would only be using the cabin to sleep. On a Panama Canal itinerary, I recommend a balcony as you have a lot more to look at! I also managed to get a $25 onboard credit, bottle of wine and free cover charge in the Italian restaurant onboard the ship so I got a killer deal!
PAYING FOR THE CRUISE
At the time of booking (Oct 2013), I had a United Explorer Visa so used it to pay the deposit. They had a special deal going where you only pay the $24.99 booking fee, then defer the $400 deposit until 3 months before the cruise.
In Jan 2014, the annual fee came due on the United Explorer and I tried several times with Chase retention to get the fee waived with no luck. When making the decision to cancel the card, I had to weigh up the difference between using the card to get an extra 2 miles per $ and paying $95 annual fee vs cancelling the card, saving the $95 and using a Chase Sapphire Preferred to pay for the cruise which gets 2 miles per $ on all travel purchases which includes cruises. I chose to cancel the Explorer and use the CSP to pay for the cruise.
MILES POSTED PROMPTLY
The cruise ended on 9 Oct. Just today, I saw the miles post to my United Mileage Plus account so I’d say it was excellent service from United Cruises and I would certainly use them again to book another cruise, the only exception being the Parrot Lover’s cruise when you need to book with the sponsoring agency. I was pleased to note that the miles i got included the full price of the cruise including port taxes and $24.99 booking fee.
Coming in 2015 – a new series on how to use cruises to get you to birding hotspots!