Everything About Buying Discount Cruise Gift Cards via AARP (Carnival, Royal Caribbean, & More)

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.

AARP Membership card
Being an AARP member is open to anyone — regardless of age — and can be used to purchase cruise gift cards at a 10% discount to face value, potentially saving you hundreds.

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 I signed up for the AARP program myself 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 clothing store H&M for $23 — about 8% off the face value. Other options include discounted cards to AirBnB, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s and more.

Of all those discounts, it’s the cruise gift cards that seem to offer some of the best deals. Here, the cards are 8-10% 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 this time, gift cards from Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Carnival and Holland America are all available through the program. Denominations are available of $100 and $500 face values. Discounts are 8-10%.

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:

  • Carnival
  • Royal Caribbean
  • Celebrity Cruises
  • Princess
  • Holland America

Combined, these lines represent roughly 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 an 8-10% discount. So in general 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.

Here are the current discounts by cruise line:

  • Celebrity: 10% off
  • Royal Caribbean: 10% off
  • Princess: 8% off
  • Carnival: 10% off
  • Holland America: 8% off

Do I Have to Be an AARP Member to Buy?

Of the five different cruise lines that have gift cards on the AARP website, four of them — Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Holland America and Celebrity — specifically state they are for “Members Only.” Holland America doesn’t make that distinction.

For Holland America, you should be able to register for a free AARP account to purchase. However, I haven’t tried doing that. Given that most lines require a paid membership (which starts at only $12), it’s best to sign up that way.

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?

To purchase the cards, login to AARP Rewards and the select “All Rewards” under “Redeem” in the menu. Then scroll down to see your options.

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

I’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 I did, I 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 I signed up, it seemed to not recognize my new account at first.

Is There a Limit on How Cards 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.”

You will receive the card via email. One thing to note is that it can take several minutes before the cards arrive in your inbox.

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.

I’ve personally bought and used cards for a Carnival cruise. Applying the cards on the payment page was simple, and I had no issues.

If you plan to cruise one of the lines offering the cards, we see no reason not to take advantage.

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  1. I have done this for 4 Carnival cruises. It works great. I had no problem purchasing them and redeeming them when booking my cruise. I used USAA travel service to book all of my cruises and they accepted my carnival gift cards over the phone for payment. I saved 10% and it was easy.

  2. On your payment page click on gift card, enter the card number, the pin and the amount you want applied to the card. I have done this multiple times. Good luck and happy cruising.

  3. Unfortunately, the discount for the Princess Cruises gift card has gone from 10% to 8%. I asked AARP about this, and they said that the discount amount is up to Princess, not AARP.

  4. No place to add gift card online for payment. Called gift card #, they can’t add it no place on cruise personalizer. So exactly hiw are yiu redeeming Princess gift for cruise payment.

  5. AARP Rewards (and thus access to gift cards) is only available to US residents. Wish I’d known this before joining AARP (which you can do as a Canadian).

  6. Warning: The AARP site does not support Safari, only Chrome. Mac users, I just saved you half an hour, you’re welcome. I left them lots of feedback.


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