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Crack the code on free cruises

Updated: Mar 21

Have you ever wondered how people get complimentary cruises through the casino?  Would you like to crack the code through loyalty programs?

I started cruising on Carnival and did some gambling on a pretty low budget.  They would send me offers for mainly 3-5 nights, interior cabins, in the Caribbean.  I was excited to receive them and figured, free is free.  The more I cruised the more cruises I received.

I didn’t really know what it took to get a free cruise offer, but they just came.  Carnival doesn’t publish how their casino program works but it’s mainly based on your prior cruise history. Carnival’s sister companies, Princess and Holland America are similar.

In May of 2016, I went on my first Royal Caribbean, 14-day transatlantic cruise. By June I was receiving my first cruise offers. Their casino program is written down so you know exactly what it takes to earn a free cruise. They work on a year long program. There are two ways to earn cruises.

1st- You can accumulate points on each cruise.  Their year runs April 1-March 31.  CHOICE is the first level, but it does not give you much as a reward. As soon as you have 2500 points for the year (however long that takes) you are PRIME level. PRIME drink free in the casino and earn a complimentary 7-day annual cruise for two anywhere Royal sails to. You remain PRIME for the rest of the year and the following year. You need to requalify during that year. SIGNATURE is $25,000 points (balconies) MASTER is $100,000 points (suites). There are other benefits, but these are the main ones. You can go online to find a complete list.

2nd- Every cruise you are on gives you the opportunity to earn a cruise certificate.  For as little as 400 points you will start to receive money off on a cruise.  At 1200 points you can earn a free interior room. It goes up from there, earning higher levels of cabins and additional Free Play for the casino. 

** NOTE Free cruises will still have to pay for port charges, taxes, and gratuities. You also have to factor in the cost of your gambling


What is a point? For every $5 that goes through the slot machine, you earn 1 point.

This does not mean you have to lose $5. You just have to play it, win or lose.  For video poker machines, $10 is played to earn 1 point. Table games are more difficult because it is at the discretion of the pit boss to determine your points based on level of bet and time at the tables. Typically, they say for every $80 is 1 point.


Celebrity Cruises is transitioning to a program similar to Royal Caribbean. They have different levels but they now award certificates onboard based on your play levels.  Their program runs for 1½ years instead of 1 year. 


The most important thing I have learned, was to find out how the cruise casino programs work before I go on the cruise.  It is easy to miss your goal by just a little… Get to know the casino hosts onboard. They can help you learn the program and monitor your points.  My theory is that the less I spend on the cruise, drink packages, internet, etc., the more I can spend in the casino. Set a budget and stick to it. Know how much you are willing to lose and how much of your winnings you want to take home with you.  It is easy to put your winnings back into the machines. Save some for the next cruise!  More tips to follow…….

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