There’s a way that you can purchase gift cards for Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess, and other cruise lines… all for a sharp 10% discount off their face value. This deal means you can save potentially hundreds of dollars off your next cruise.
That may sound too good to be true, but the offer is available through AARP, the popular senior interest group. There’s no catch or hoops to jump through, apart from being a member.
Even better, before you think you have to be an older American to join up and get these savings on cruise gift cards, membership is open to anyone. That means you can save no matter your age.
Still, there are some details you should know. That’s why we recently signed up for the AARP program ourselves to see exactly how things work. Here is how to sign up, purchase cards, and take advantage of the savings…
Overview of the AARP Cruise Gift Card Program
First things first, what exactly is the deal offered by AARP?
As an interest group with tens of millions of members across the country, AARP is known for its influence. For members, it also offers a number of benefits and perks.
The group’s website includes everything from insurance plans to car buying programs to credit cards to literature about topics in aging. But the site also has what it calls “AARP Rewards.”
Here, the group offers all sorts of deals from discounted magazine subscriptions to book deals to sweepstakes entries. One of the biggest groups of deals, however, is dedicated to discounted gift cards.
You’ll find specials for gift cards entailing everything from restaurants to grocery stores. All of them offer a discount off the face value. For instance, there are $25 gift cards to movie theater chain AMC for $23 — about 8% off the face value.
Of all those discounts, it’s the cruise gift cards that seem to offer some of the best deals. Here, the cards are 10% off the face value. Given the cost of a cruise, that can save you potentially hundreds of dollars.
What Cruise Line Gift Cards Are Available?
At the time of this article, there are a total of five different cruise lines with gift cards available via AARP. The available lines include:
- Royal Caribbean
- Celebrity Cruises
- Holland America
Combined, these lines represent close to 100 cruise ships offering trips just about anywhere in the world. In other words, no matter if you want to sail the Caribbean or Australia, the Mediterranean or Alaska, you can do it while saving some serious money.
What Sort of Discount is Offered?
At the time of this writing, each cruise line on the AARP list of offers had two denominations of cards offered: $100 and $500.
Each card is offered at a 10% discount. So the $100 gift cards sell for $90 via AARP and the $500 cards sell for $450.
So if you were to purchase a cruise costing $2,500, you could buy five of these cards for $2,250, saving yourself $250 off the purchase.
Do I Have to Be an AARP Member to Buy?
Of the five different cruise lines that have gift cards on the AARP website, three of them — Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity — specifically state they are for “Members Only.” Princess and Holland America don’t make that distinction.
However, when we tried to register for a free AARP account, we repeatedly reached an error page. When we went ahead and joined as paying members (the charge is just $12 a year), we were able to sign-up with no issue. Once signed up, we were able to access all the gift cards available.
I’m Not Over 50 Years Old. Does That Mean I Can’t Get the Discount?
No! While AARP is known for being an interest group for older Americans, anyone can join, no matter their age. We were personally able to sign up for a membership and then access all the gift cards with no issue despite being under 50 years old.
Where Do I Go to Buy the Gift Cards?
So where exactly do you go to get your card? If you don’t yet have an AARP account, first you’ll need to register. If you sign up, expect a $12 per year charge. That’s a small price to pay for the ability to save up to 10% off your cruise.
If you’re already registered with AARP, follow these steps to find the gift cards:
- Visit AARP.org
- Click “AARP Rewards” in the menu at the top
- Click “Login” at the top right of the next page and then enter your email/password
- Once signed in, look for the drop down menu on the Rewards page. Select “Redeem” and then “All Rewards”
- Scroll down until you see the heading “All Rewards”. Enter “cruise” in the search box to bring up all the discounted cruise gift cards
We’ll admit that it was a little confusing on how to find the discounted cruise gift cards at first. When creating a new account like we did, we suggest that once you register, go ahead and sign out, then close your browser. Then re-open the browser and sign back into AARP. When we signed up, it seemed to not recognize our new account at first.
Is There a Limit on How Many I Can Buy?
Yes. Each gift card will come with restrictions on how many are able to be purchased at once. The “Premium” items like Carnival gift cards had a limit of 25 per month. The non-premium cards had a lower limit of just five gift cards per month.
If you are headed on an expensive cruise, it may be that you have to purchase over multiple months to get all the gift cards you need.
Are There Special Restrictions on Using the Cards?
Before you buy the cruise cards, you’ll definitely want to read through all the fine print that’s provided on the AARP website about their use. Each cruise line seems to have different rules regarding usage.
For instance, Royal Caribbean only allows you to use the card for a new reservation. And you have to book the cruise, pay a deposit, and then email in a copy of the gift certificate to apply to your remaining balance.
Lines like Princess and Carnival are more lenient on when and where you can use the card, but it’s still smart to understand the rules about the cards before buying. You can find the terms on the AARP site before purchasing.
Can I Use These Cards For Myself?
Absolutely. Like other gift cards, the cruise cards don’t have anyone’s name attached. You can use them like cash. So if you want to buy them as a gift for someone, you can do that. Or if you have a cruise coming up and want to use the discount to save money, you can do that too.
Are the Gift Cards Physical or Digital?
If you’re wanting to purchase these as a gift, then you should know that the discounted cards are actually digital. According to the fine print on AARP, each of these is “fulfilled as a digital gift code.”
So you should receive the card via email.
Are the AARP Discount Cruise Cards a Good Deal?
If you’re looking for a deal, it doesn’t get much better than this. With no strings attached, hoops to jump through, or other headaches, you can essentially get 10% off the cost of your cruise by buying these gift certificates and then using them to pay for the trip. So a $2,000 cruise becomes $1,800 just with buying the cards through AARP.
And since you can still shop around and buy your cruise how and when you want, you can buy the cards, and then wait for a deal that looks good to you. The only difference is instead of paying full price, you get a discount.
If you plan to cruise one of the lines offering the cards, we see no reason not to take advantage.
More on Saving on a Cruise:
- The Best Websites to Book a Cruise
- 10 Rules to Getting the Best Deal on a Cruise
- The Best Time to Book a Cruise (Save Money, Better Cabins)