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Which Program for Alaska + Way to Use Points on Cruise?

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Old May 14, 12, 8:49 pm
  #1
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Join Date: Jul 2011
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Which Program for Alaska + Way to Use Points on Cruise?

My in-laws are wanting to take a dream trip to Alaska for their 40th anniversary and I'm trying to help them make it a possibility using miles and points where possible. They have no reward cards and no loyalty memberships right now, but they're willing to get them. We also have some time - they are looking to go between June and August 2013. They will be traveling from Des Moines (DSM).

I'm thinking AA miles to get them from DSM-ANC, but please tell me if there's a better way. They want to do a short land tour first, either on their own or possibly a guided thing. They want to take a train up to Denali Nat'l Park and hang out there for 2-3 days and then take the cruise. So a RT cruise from SEA or YVR doesn't work so well. It needs to be a OW south-bound itinerary; they can fly home to DSM from wherever.

Any ideas on how to leverage miles/points to help them out beyond just getting free flights?
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Old May 14, 12, 9:01 pm
  #2
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
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Can't use points for a cruise like using it for premium travel, but can use for example Chase UR points, Capital One points etc. for the regular value as cash back 1¢ pp
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Old May 14, 12, 9:14 pm
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Join Date: Apr 2012
Programs: DL, UA, AA, WN, Club Carlson, Marriott, IHG
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Buying the cruise: Shop Discover has 5% cashback on various cruise lines (all the bookings are done through the Cruise & Vacation Desk travel agency, at no markup). From experience, the 5% is only good on the fare, not the tax/port fees, so realistically it's more like 2.5% cashback.

If they are ready to book now, consider this.
I got a flyer from Chase:

Call 1-866-951-6592 to book a cruise from April 2-June 30, 2012, and earn 5% cash back.

When I called, they confirmed that any Chase UR card I use will earn an additional 4% in URs. So I used a Sapphire Preferred for a total of 6% URs.
I don't think there's any deals for redeeming miles and points on the cruise.

See picture:


One caveat. It might actually cost more to book the cruise now than to wait. Cruise prices often dip when there's a lot of excess capacity within 60 days of the sail date.

Buying the flight:
I'm flying from RIC to YVR for 12.5k United MP. I'm flying from ANC back to RIC for 12.5k United MP. Revenue flights would be ~$330 one way. I checked AA, but they did not have Mileage SAAver flights. United seems to have the most availability of 12.5k one way's. So I'm getting about 2.6cpm of redemption value on a set of North America economy plane tickets... not too shabby methinks

Last edited by centrifuge41; May 14, 12 at 9:18 pm Reason: Picture
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Old May 14, 12, 9:19 pm
  #4
 
Join Date: Aug 2011
Programs: AA, DL
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One strategy we used recently was to go for the Marriott card at 70k points on first purchase. Get two of those (husband and wife can each get) and purchase 5k points to bring the total up to 145k and you can get a $1000 cruise discount. Combine that with air miles to get to the point of departure and it reduces the cost considerably. Using this method we were able to get 4 people on a spring break cruise for under $1200 all-in. The total cost would have been less had we more flexibility with the dates. The problem was that we are stuck on the school schedule still, so the cabin prices for when we needed to go were higher than I liked. The final cost was one I was comfortable with, however. Good luck.
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Old May 14, 12, 9:24 pm
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vacations to go has a cruise finder which will show whats available during any time period from any port...
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Old May 15, 12, 1:11 am
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Thanks all! I didn't know about the Marriott tip for getting $1000 off.

Here's what I'm thinking so far: Use the 2 browser trick to get them 2 Citi ThankYou Premiers each for a total of 105,000 points (incl spend) per person x 2 = 210,000 or $2100 in travel credit for a cruise booked through Citi's affiliated travel center. That $2100 should pretty much cover the cruise, or darn close.

Then get them to sign up for United cards to cover the flights. They can either pay for hotels out of pocket, or maybe I can work on getting them some hotel points too.
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Old May 15, 12, 11:53 am
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Can anyone comment on the Marriott $1000 off ? how is the price by booking through Cruise only?
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Old May 15, 12, 8:52 pm
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Join Date: Aug 2011
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Originally Posted by kvchang View Post
Can anyone comment on the Marriott $1000 off ? how is the price by booking through Cruise only?
In our case, the price was the same that I could find elsewhere.
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Old May 15, 12, 9:26 pm
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Originally Posted by centrifuge41 View Post
One caveat. It might actually cost more to book the cruise now than to wait. Cruise prices often dip when there's a lot of excess capacity within 60 days of the sail date.
Or it could cost more or be unavailable. They'd have to be very flexible to be willing to wait until close to travel date. There is definitely a risk there.
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Old May 15, 12, 9:27 pm
  #10
 
Join Date: May 2009
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Originally Posted by League View Post
Here's what I'm thinking so far: Use the 2 browser trick to get them 2 Citi ThankYou Premiers each for a total of 105,000 points (incl spend) per person x 2 = 210,000 or $2100 in travel credit for a cruise booked through Citi's affiliated travel center. That $2100 should pretty much cover the cruise, or darn close.
.

Depends on the ship & class of travel. $2100 for 2 for a nice cabin to Alaska with balcony could easily exceed $2100.
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Old May 15, 12, 10:16 pm
  #11
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Nah, they are happy with the bare-bones cheapest cabin. I asked my FIL and he said as long as he doesn't have to work in the boiler room, he's good

I priced out some Holland America land-cruise options and came up with plenty of options for $2500-$2700, so with the Thank You points and the United miles, they're out of pocket could be as little as $400-700. So this is looking pretty good.
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Old May 15, 12, 11:10 pm
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Fwiw, the Southwest card 50k points promo = $500 Carnival GC. So, if you did a plus & premier for both it'd = $2000 as well. Much will depend on the carrier you choose and your limitations for booking portal.
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Old May 22, 12, 1:58 am
  #13
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Originally Posted by League View Post
My in-laws are wanting to take a dream trip to Alaska for their 40th anniversary and I'm trying to help them make it a possibility using miles and points where possible. They have no reward cards and no loyalty memberships right now, but they're willing to get them. We also have some time - they are looking to go between June and August 2013. They will be traveling from Des Moines (DSM).

I'm thinking AA miles to get them from DSM-ANC, but please tell me if there's a better way. They want to do a short land tour first, either on their own or possibly a guided thing. They want to take a train up to Denali Nat'l Park and hang out there for 2-3 days and then take the cruise. So a RT cruise from SEA or YVR doesn't work so well. It needs to be a OW south-bound itinerary; they can fly home to DSM from wherever.

Any ideas on how to leverage miles/points to help them out beyond just getting free flights?
AA or UA miles will both potentially get you the airline tickets; however you'll have to plan well in advance, and/or be very flexible on dates - capacity into and out of AK in the summer is pretty tight...prices are high...saver awards are scarce. Another thought would be the AS credit card to use the companion certificate; however, that won't get you very close to Des Moines....

Hotel points will not do you a lot of good in Alaska. You will find all of the major chains in Anchorage, a Holiday Inn in Seward, a Best Western in Homer, and no chain hotels at all in Denali.

If a land tour to Denali is in your plans, remember that Fairbanks is also an option - 2 hours from Denali vs. Anchorage which is 4. Rail tours are often sold for Fairbanks - Denali - Anchorage.

Rail tours to Denali are not cheap no matter how you do it, but going independent might be cheaper than adding it to the cruise package. Princess Rail Tours (which can be booked without a Princess Cruise) are often the cheapest option. They run summer promos for Denali tours often 2 for 1 or 50% off. Last year, I went with my family 2 nights r/t from ANC for about $200 per person (triple) - it's tough to drive and find a room for that price... Princess and Holland America run a joint venture on the rail tours, with their own cars pulled by the Alaska Railroad trains (which also sells their own tours, in their own cars) - you'll all end up in the same place, at the same time...just in different cars, staying in different proprietary lodges. Details on Princess rail tours here. Unfortunately, the summer sales are to sell excess capacity, and don't run until closer to summer...

So...as someone else pointed out, you could wait, and then look for a cheap cruise that lined up with a discounted rail tour and save a bundle...of course, then you'd probably have a hard time finding saver award space on the flights.

Don't discount the possibility of a one way Northbound itinerary...I'm doing my 2nd AK cruise this summer, and both times, the Northbound itineraries have been cheaper than South...probably just a coincidence.

The cruise will depart/arrive in either Seward or Whittier, most likely. Consider this bus line as a MUCH cheaper alternative to the cruise booked transfer (though the train up from Seward would be fantastic...)

Your cheapest cruises are going to be shoulder season - May and September. May is actually the LEAST rainy month in South East Alaska (where you'll be cruising), so actually an ideal time for the cruise. Prices for your land portion will be much lower as well...however, everything will not be up and running yet. However, be warned that the bus to Wonder Lake in Denali National Park does not start until early/mid June. Also, bus service in the park stops completely by mid-September.

Consider a flight seeing tour of Denali. It is....amazing.

Watch Anchorage groupon for sightseeing options such as flightseeing tours, discounted fishing charters, whale watching tours, etc.

Last edited by ANC RED-EYE; May 22, 12 at 2:04 am
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