Many timeshare owners are unaware that they may be able to use their timeshare to exchange for a cruise vacation, or that their vacation ownership may entitle them to a discounted rate for cruises. In order to compete with many of the discount vacation websites that are popping up, timeshare exchange companies and vacation club memberships such as RCI, Hilton Grand Vacation Club and Interval International have started offering cruise vacations as perks for membership.
If you are interested in exchanging your timeshare (week or points) for a cruise there are two ways to approach it.
1) BOOK EARLY! The all capital letters here is no exaggeration. As with any timeshare exchange, the earlier you book, the more likely you are to be able to reserve the location you want. If you think you can call a month or less before you plan to depart and book a spot on a specific cruise, you’re going to be disappointed (or broke).
2) Be EXTREMELY flexible. If you are able to travel on a whim you can often get deeply discounted prices on cruises by booking less than 14 days prior to departure. No cruise line wants to send out a ship that’s half full, so many cruises will allow you to book a vacation for a fraction of the cost.
How Do I Book a Cruise Through My Timeshare Exchange Company (RCI, II, Hilton, etc.)?
First, you have to be a member of a timeshare exchange company offering timeshares. Each exchange company/vacation club program has different rules and regulations determining what owners may exchange, and if they need to do an exchange to take a cruise. RCI gives their members the option to book cruises without having to do an exchange – meaning that you could book a discounted cruise through them in addition to using your timeshare week/points as you normally would.
Do I Have to Deposit a Week or Points to Take a Cruise?
Not necessarily. Again, it depends on your exchange company, but some timeshare exchange companies do not require you to bank your timeshare week or use points in order to book a cruise through them. Timeshare exchange club membership will give you a discount toward a cruise even if you aren’t using a week/points toward the vacation. If you are trading your week or banking your points for a cruise be aware that you will stay have to pay an exchange fee.
How Much Are Timeshare Cruises?
The all inclusive option (which in my opinion is the only way to go if you’re doing a cruise) varies depending on season, length of cruise, destination, age of travelers, etc. If you book last minute, you can get a cruise as low as $500 with a timeshare trade (plus any applicable exchange fees, taxes, port fees, etc.) . If you have a particular destination in mind and book ahead, you might be able to get it for that low, but most likely not. Booking ahead for a specific place will most likely run you $700+(plus any exchange fees, taxes, port fees, etc.) per person with a trade, and more if you do not use your timeshare week or points to decrease the cost.
Don’t Pre-Pay for a Timeshare Cruise!
Some visitors to this site have commented that they’ve been given offers to pre-pay for a cruise voucher good for the next 3 years. The cost for this discounted cruise voucher ranges from $1900 for two people to $2500 for two people. This may sound like a good deal, but I’d stay away from any deals that do not guarantee you a particular room on a particular ship for a specific time. The reason I say this is because we’ve all experienced much difficulty trading locations/rooms for our standard timeshares, so why would the cruise be different? As I’m typing this I can almost hear the timeshare exchange employee on the phone explaining the reasons why the voucher can’t be used any other time of the year than hurricane season… Exercise your due diligence and make the decision that makes the most sense for your situation – but always remember what they say about something that sounds too good to be true.
What Is Cruiseshare?
Cruiseshare is a fairly new term, referring to the ability to purchase a segment of time on a cruise line, similar to the way a timeshare works. Each person purchasing a cruiseshare would have access to a particular unit, on a particular ship, during a set time of year with various perks including all inclusive options, gambling tokens, etc. Thus far there are no major companies offering cruiseshares, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some did not pop up soon!
First, due to changes in the law, you have to book at least 7 days before cruising because cruise lines are now required to provide their passenger manifest, I believe 6 days in advance. You used to be able to actually show up at the dock a couple hours before they set sail, to snag an empty cabin at super discounts.
At least right now, having to exchange a timeshare plus $500 seems rather high to me, while $1,900+ is outrageous (except for Disney, which rarely discounts by much). Especially if you’re talking about a 7 day cruise. We cruise all the time, and without any timeshare to exchange, we’ve usually pay around $499/week — and that’s also for a balcony cabin, because we won’t cruise in anything less. This past year we did pay $619, but that was for nicely appointed junior suite (with balcony, of course) which aside from being significantly more spacious, included certain additional “perks.” If we were willing to take an inside cabin, I’ve seen full week cruises offered for as low as $299. Of course, those prices are “per person”, not per cabin.
I never really know my work schedule that far in advance, so we don’t have much of a choice to book anything other than “last minute” (meaning within 90 days of departure). To find the best deals, I check vacationstogo, along with the cruisehotsheets site, and then after checking the prices offered there, there’s a cruisecompete site, where you place a request, and travel agents will compete for your business. They usually can’t go below the current price offered by the cruise line, and instead, will add “perks” to sweeten the pot, such as prepaid tips, $100+ onship credit, and/or free upgrades to better cabins, discounted airfare, and even shore excursions.
Of course, we also don’t normally care where we cruise to, and repositioning cruises often offer your best deal. Right now, there’s several last minute, Royal Carribean cruise leaving out of New Orleans for only $499 – and that’s for 16 days! They’re also offering a 3 day Panama Canal cruise–for only $99.
Every so often, you can get and absolutely incredible deal, by buying on ebay, from someone who had to cancel their prepaid cruise and weren’t able to get a refund. Never hurts to check.