Two Cruises are Just the Start of the Perks that Come from this $95 Annual Fee Credit Card: Our Story
By Angie & Jeff
May 23, 2023
A photo of a rainbow we saw off our balcony on a prior cruise.
NOTE: Throughout our casino matching posts, we want to be clear on the difference between free and free. For full disclosure, free listed in bold italics throughout this article really means very highly discounted from what is the typical cost of a cruise. There are some costs like port fees and gratuities which have to be paid for the cruises. However, there are a number of other perks that are truly free, zip, nada, -0- extra cost, like free hotel stays and smaller perks like free food and beverage credits and free play dollars in casinos. This is the difference between free and free for this post.
We followed the path laid out by Nick Reyes at Frequent Miler. It’s a LOT, so we will be writing about our experiences in parts. This part led to two booked cruises for a total of 19 days of cruising for just over $500 prior to upgrades and onboard expenses.
The Steps to Get Started
These are the steps to get started on the path to the free cruises and the other free items we will outline in future posts on this adventure, like hotel stays and free play.
2: Apply for the Wyndham Earner Business credit card. Note: You need a business as a requirement to get this card, but don’t let this discourage you. If you drive for Uber or Lyft, you have a business. If you sell items on eBay or Facebook, you have a business. If you mow lawns, you have a business. The list is nearly infinite. As long as you are trying to make money you have the start of a business. To learn more about this, we encourage you to read the blog post by Travel on Points about business card eligibility.
*And it should be noted, though it is not the focus of this post, that this card currently comes with a 50,000 Wyndham points bonus for a spend of $3,000 in the first 90 days which can be redeemed for free hotel stays or with Wyndham partners. We will share our experience once we have maximized our Wyndham points in the future, but for now we’re following the casino status matching adult scavenger hunt!
A photo of Angie’s $95 dollar annual fee Wyndham Business Earner credit card.
3: The Wyndham Earner Business credit card automatically gives you Wyndham Diamond status. Match your Wyndham Diamond Status to Caesars Diamond Status. Click the button under “I’m a Wyndham Rewards Member, match my status.” This will match you to Caesars Diamond Status. This process can take up to 15 days to be processed.
4: Sign up for Carnival Cruise Lines Fun Match and match your Caesars Diamond Status to Carnival. Submit your Caesars Diamond card from the Caesars app. This will start emails from Carnival Cruise Lines to you offering you discounted cruises, at first. Click through those emails to the website but wait for a free cruise offer to come to act. For us, this process took several weeks and we read online that ensuring your entire profile is complete on the Carnival website is important, including seemingly obscure fields like title (like Ms., Mr., etc.) and country, so we followed suit a few weeks after submitting the match.
Many people report first getting inside cabin offers for free, but our offer jumped right to Balcony cabins almost immediately after fully completing the profile. Again, we put free in bold italics because it would be better described as very heavily discounted. Once you have your free offer, take a look at Carnival.com and find a cruise you’d like to book. Some have found qualifying cruises up to 22 nights! Call the Carnival Casino phone line to book your cruise with the number listed in the email offer.
Note: if you aren’t able to book the Carnival cruise offer within the date range specified in the email, there are many stories online of people letting an offer expire and continuing to get free offers with new deadline dates from Carnival. We booked on the first offer because we were able to make one of the cruises work with our schedule so cannot substantiate the additional offers after the first deadline personally.
We ended up choosing an 8-Day Bahamas Cruise because it fit into our schedule best. Our up-front cost was $351.96 but ($200) of this comes back to us as on-board credit. The on-board credit can be used for lots of things. We put our credit toward the cost of some excursions to make the most of our time in the ports. So, our net cash outlay for just the cruise at this point is $151.96.
There are also daily gratuities for each guest which helps to provide a living wage for the crew members of the ship who work to make sure we can have a great time aboard the ship. These are daily fees and will change depending on how many days you are sailing and the room type you book. Our gratuities amount to $16 per day per person. This is $128 per person for the 8-Day cruise.
So, we’ll get a bill at the end of the cruise for another $256. In the end, the total cost for just the cruise portion for the two of us will then be: $151.96 + $256 = $407.96. This is just under $51 per night for lodging and unlimited food for two on Carnival.
This is a very good deal for a floating hotel that not only provides lodging, but also provides unlimited food and snacks and entertainment. And it’s sailing somewhere warm and beautiful in February and we have a balcony room for this price!
Again, we can’t really call it free. Instead it is free and still an excellent deal. Oh, free drinks are also included as long as we are playing in the casino, but you should plan to tip the bartender. We plan to play a low value machine very slowly just to get the drinks we might want throughout the cruise for a significant discount because while the cruise line might think we’re high rollers, we’re not even gamblers.
A screenshot from the Carnival Players Club website.
5: Match your new Carnival Status to Holland Cruise Line. Sign up for a match at Holland Cruise Line. You send in your Carnival free balcony cruise offer through this site. We had an email offer for a free inside cruise within just a couple of days. The free cruise offer with Holland is for an inside room up to a 12-Day sailing, not including an extended land tours.
We decided on an 11-Day Eastern Caribbean cruise. And again, free really means very heavily discounted because we are required to pay the Taxes, Fees, and Port Expenses on this cruise which are $190 per person or $380 total for the two of us.
Also, similar to the Carnival Cruise, we will have an additional bill for daily gratuities charges. For this cruise, our gratuities again amount to $16 per day per person. This is $176 per person for the 11-Day cruise.
So, we’ll get a bill at the end of the Holland cruise for another $352 for the two of us. In the end, for the Holland cruise the total cost for just the cruise portion is then: $380 + $352 = $732. This is just over $66 per day for lodging and unlimited food for two for the inside room on Holland America.
When we called to book, the agent we spoke with offered an upgrade to a balcony room for an additional cost. Given that we are sailing in a warm climate with wonderful ocean breezes we decided that the cost to upgrade to a balcony is worth it. The balcony upgrade cost us an additional $770 so our total cost is now $1502.
Is a Balcony Room Worth It ?
In the 15 cruises that we’ve taken prior to these sailings we’ve always seen a pretty hefty price difference between inside room prices and balcony prices; and in our experience the balcony rooms are a bit nicer, more spacious, have a separate sofa so you’re not stuck just sitting on the bed all the time, and of course have that sliding door out to the open air any time you want.
We find the balcony room can be worth it if you are sailing in a warm climate. For colder climate cruises, we often chose to skip the higher cost of a balcony room and opt for an inside cabin, especially if the price is wildly different, which it almost always is. Moving from the inside room to the balcony room takes the cost up $70 per day from about $66 per day up to about $136 per day.
Given that Holland is an upgraded line compared to Carnival, the cost of the balcony room still represents great value. Again, free drinks are also included as long as we are playing in the casino, but we plan to tip.
NOTE: While you match for the Carnival cruise before the Holland America cruise, you want to be sure you sail with Holland before sailing with Carnival. There have been some instances reported that if you do not gamble on the Carnival cruise, you may no longer be offered a Holland America cruise because they are the same parent company. This concern does not seem to play out in reverse order of sailing Holland America first, then Carnival.
There are stories online of people submitting their other cruise offers to Royal Caribbean for an additional free cruise offer. We did this on April 7, 2023 with no offer yet. The form said to expect an email within two weeks so we followed up and were told they are backed up right now. We have seen people saying they are still waiting for their offer from up to 6 months ago, so we’re not sure if this will result in a cruise offer or not. If it does, we will post here with all the details.
July 31, 2023 — Royal Caribbean Cruise Match UPDATE — We mentioned submitting a match to Royal Caribbean back in April 2023 when this article was originally posted. On 7/19/23, we received our offer for a free cruise from Royal Caribbean that had to be booked by 8/3/2023.
The list of cruises available ranged from 3 to 9 night options for interior up to balcony rooms with itineraries in Europe, Alaska, Caribbean, New England/Canada, Ensenada, and even one in Tasmania. The challenge for us, which would be the challenge for most, is fitting in the cruise between now and the end of October as that was the timeline offered for all options.
We booked an August 2023 4 night Ensenada and Catalina Cruise so we didn’t miss the opportunity altogether, but would have loved to fit in a longer option.
Also, recently Royal Caribbean removed their link to submit this matching request, so as we keep saying in these posts, as exciting as this path has been in yielding free and discounted travel, it is ever-changing and this part of our experience can no longer be replicated. We’ll still share a post of all things from our Royal Caribbean cruise experience to guide you through your possible future cruises on Royal Caribbean!
Everything that’s been done so far you can accomplish without even leaving your house. Stay tuned for additional pieces of this adult scavenger hunt we have been on, as these two cruises are only the start! Continue reading here to go to our post about our experience casino matching in Atlantic City to get even more benefits.