American Airlines Vacations sells cruises, providing the opportunity to earn AAdvantage miles for cruise purchases, but an e-mail I noticed yesterday certainly caught my attention. For a limited time – specifically, through Tuesday, March 8th – AA is offering up to 10 AAdvantage miles per dollar spent, up to a maximum of 100,000 miles, for bookings of balcony staterooms or above sailing on or before December 31, 2017. So is this a deal you should jump on immediately? Or move on down the sea to the next port?
AA Vacations – Normally Not a Great Site for Cruise Deals
As mentioned, AA Vacations has been selling cruises for years, providing an incentive of one AAdvantage mile for each dollar spent on cruise fare. Normally, this really doesn’t work out to be a very good deal. Why? I’ll demonstrate with a couple of hypothetical bookings, one on AA Vacations and the other on Cruise.com, a prominent online travel agent (OTA) for cruises that I use frequently. Here’s the results for the same Caribbean cruise on Celebrity Cruises, in a Concierge Class balcony stateroom, for October, 2017. First, the quote from AA Vacations:
And now, the quote from Cruise.com:
Here, you’ll see a couple of differences. Cruise.com is $60 less, and offers a $50 onboard credit for this particular sailing (the $300 credit plus extra goodies doesn’t apply, as that promotion expires before the sailing date). The reason being, different travel agents cut different deals with the cruise lines, and these are usually passed through as “agency discounts” or additional on-board credits in addition to whatever deal the cruise line is offering at that time. So in this case, in a normal, point-per-dollar-spent scenario, you would effectively be paying an additional $110 ($60 fare difference plus $50 OBC) for 2,870 AAdvantage miles. That’s a pretty steep price, working out to 3.8 cents per mile; hence, why I’ve never found it terribly compelling to book cruises through AA Vacations.
Enhanced Bonus Changes the Game, But Caveats Remain
But what about with this special offer? Concierge Class qualifies for the 10x promotion, thus the $2,870 cruise fare would earn you 28,700 AAdvantage miles. Under pretty much any measurement, 28,700 miles for $110 is a SCREAMING deal, at just .38 cents per mile. BUT…there is an important caveat to keep in mind, and that is the impending AAdvantage devaluation. Miles aren’t awarded until after you complete your cruise, so unless you plan to book and then sail in the next day or two, any miles awarded will be post-devaluation. Plus, depending on how far out you are planning to book, nearly two years is a long time to take a chance on the value of frequent flyer currency. If you’re looking to book a cruise in December of 2017, your miles wouldn’t be awarded until the early part of 2018. What happens if Delta officially announces a switch to a revenue-based redemption system effective sometime in 2017, and then American, being the obedient puppy dog that it is, quickly follows suit to match? Granted, purchasing 28,700 miles for $110 would probably still be a good deal, but perhaps not as great of one as it seems today.
Bottom line – if you’ve been thinking about a cruise, this strikes me as a great deal, devaluation or no devaluation. I’d suggest giving it a look, though compare prices to your usual travel agent or OTA to make sure the math makes sense for your particular sailing.
Photo at top: Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas pulling in to port in Nassau, Bahamas.