Thinking about taking a cruise? Next time, book it through…an airline?

Are you one of those people who likes to go on cruises? Many are – 14.3 million people cruised in 2010, up a million from the previous year. Personally, I’m not one of those people — but you may be. So when you decide to float on for a romantic vacation — or a week on a ship with your kids — did you know that you can earn airline miles for taking that cruise? Some airlines offer better deals than others, so if you’re in the market for an adventure on the oceans, it may behoove you to do some research.

Points earning potential

So, for taking a $500 cruise, for example, there are plenty of ways to earn airline miles or points. You’re not going to get points-rich off taking even a week-long cruise, but like pennies, every point adds up over time.

  • The $500 you earn from your points-earning credit card from booking the cruise
  • Depending on how the airline’s cruise people work, potentially bonuses from your credit card for “travel”-related expenses
  • Optionally, the points you earn from your credit card for any airline travel expenses
  • If you pay revenue for your flight, those airline points, plus any bonuses
  • Any bonuses that you earn from booking your cruise through an airline, by the airline

Each US airline has different schemes for awarding bonus points for booking a cruise through them. Some, like Delta, even award their frequent fliers with actual cash savings, in addition to bonus miles.

Delta

Medallion members will receive a savings per booking of:
For vacations of: Silver & Gold Platinum Diamond
$999 – $2,499 $50 $75 $100
$2,500 – $3,499 $100 $150 $200
$3,500 or more $200 $250 $300
Plus, extra

bonus miles

500 1,000 2,000
Use promo code: SM15204A SM15204B SM15204C

United

United Airlines Cruises seems to be offering a special on cruises. I have no idea how long this is valid, or how long it’s been valid — but it appears to be the most lucrative bonus program I can find for cruises. Combined with the idea that many (myself included) feel United MileagePlus miles are some of the most valuable points in the industry, this would likely be the first place I’d consider booking a cruise.

Stateroom Category

Total award miles Earned Per Dollar of Cruise Purchase

Book ANY stateroom category

2

Book a balcony or suite

4

US Airways

Earn one point per dollar when booked through US Airways Cruises.

Alaska Airlines

Cruises on Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America, Princess Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, The Yachts of Seabourn or Windstar Cruises.

Mileage Earned: 1,000 Bonus Miles for cruises priced between $0 and $2,999; 2,500 Bonus Miles for cruises priced $3,000 or more.

American Airlines

American is very specific about how to earn points off a cruise, though the rewards aren’t spectacular.

Sailings

AAdvantage® Miles Earned

3-5 Nights Balcony

700

3-5 Nights Suite

1,000

6-12 Nights Balcony

2,800

6-12 Nights Suite

4,000

13 Night or Longer Balcony

7,000

13 Nights or Longer Suite

10,000

There are a number of other cruise companies and lines that aren’t clearly shown as available, but your mileage may vary. If a travel agent can book it, then I don’t see why an airline can’t book it either — potentially earning you an extra few thousand miles for a specialty trans-Atlantic cruise or, for instance, on the popular all-gay Atlantis cruises.

In the end…

No matter who you tend to fly with, there are many ways to earn valuable points for sailing on the seas. Make sure you take advantage of these offers through an airline if a cruise is something you’ve got on the books.