If you hold an American Express Platinum or Centurion card, you are eligible for shipboard credit on your cruise if you book it with the American Express travel office (see updated info below.) The name of the program is American Express Cruise Privileges.
You Need to Use the American Express Platinum or Centurion Card
This perk is available with two cards issues by American Express, the Platinum Card, and the Centurion Card. Many of us have gotten the Platinum card when large sign-up bonuses were offered. I got mine last fall when a 100,000 bonus point offer was briefly available. This card has great travel benefits that I like, including lounge access. The only downside of this card is that the annual fee is $450, therefore I will probably cancel the card when the annual fee is due. The points that you get are Membership Rewards points that can be transferred to Delta, British Airways, and others. I usually transfer mine to Delta because I am an Atlanta hub captive!
I don’t know who has the Centurion Card. It is AMEX’s secret “black” card for high spenders. I guess if you haven’t been approached by AMEX for the card, you shouldn’t even be asking about it! If you do have the AMEX Platinum card however, here is a cruise perk that you might use.
You Get Shipboard Credit and Extra Membership Rewards Points
You will get $100-300 shipboard credit and other on board amenities on cruises of five-nights or longer if you book your cruise with American Express Travel, and you use your AMEX Platinum or Centurion Card to book the cruise. There is a HUGE caveat on the on board credit that deserves to be in bold–You cannot use the on board credit for gratuities. This is an important distinction for frugal cruisers like ourselves. Our on board account is almost all gratuities, because as frugal cruisers we don’t spend much money on board. If you do buy a lot of drinks and go on the ship’s excursions the AMEX on board credit might work for you. (Update 4/25/2016–I have been told by several people that they were able to use the credit even when they booked the cruise with their travel agents, NOT with AMEX Travel. I’m leaving the original wording of my post as is because it reflects what AMEX has on their website. If you do use this offer with non-AMEX agent, make sure they know how to get the credit applied.)
You also get double Membership Rewards points when booking through AMEX. You normally get one point per dollar spent on the Platinum card. If you book a $3000 cruise using AMEX, you’ll get 6000 MR points.
You Need to Book Through American Express Travel
You can book online at americanexpress.com/cruises or call 800-297-5627 and talk to an agent. You’ll have to pay for the cruise with your Platinum or Centurion card.
Cruise Lines that Give $300 OBC and Other Amenities for All Staterooms
The cruise lines that offer a flat $300 OBC are those that can be considered luxury lines. The following cruise lines offer $300 on board credit and various other amenities.
Cruise Lines That Base OBC Amount on Type of Stateroom
The more mainstream cruises vary the amount of on board credit based on the type of stateroom you have booked. They offer $100 OBC for inside and outside staterooms, $200 for balcony cabins and mini-suites, and $300 for suite cabins.
Why I Haven’t Used This Credit
I’ve already discussed the problem that the onboard credit does not cancel out gratuities. There have been other important considerations that have kept me from using this benefit. I have booked four cruises since I got the AMEX Platinum. Here are the cruises and the reasons why I haven’t used it to book my cruises.
Royal Caribbean 7-night Med Cruise
We booked the interline rate (for airline and travel employees), so we had to go through a travel agency that has access to these rates. We booked the cruise over the phone with Vacations to Go, who are always a pleasure to work with.
Carnival 3-night Bahamas Cruise
This was Boppo’s first cruise, and we wanted to take a short one to see how he liked it. It wasn’t a five-night so didn’t qualify for the benefit. This also was booked over the phone with VTG.
Norwegian 7-night Mexican Rivera
This was a comped cruise which we required us to book through Norwegian’s Casinos at Sea Program. We couldn’t use AMEX’s travel agency.
Carnival 5-night Caribbean
I have been paying for this with discounted Carnival gift cards, so couldn’t use the AMEX Platinum. I booked online with American Discount Cruises because I wanted to test their booking engine.
As always, when you are thinking about booking a cruise, you have to juggle all possible discounts and decide which credit cards to use. The American Express Cruise Privileges discount is just one option in your bag of tricks.