How to Save Money on an Oceania Cruises Sailing

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a large white ship docked at a dock

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Introduction:  Our Panama Canal Cruise on Oceania Sirena

How to Save Money on an Oceania Cruises Sailing

Oceania Cruises Fleet Explained

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Westin Playa Bonita Panama Pre-Cruise Hotel Review

Panama Canal Marriott Bonvoy Hotel Options Ranked

Panama Canal New Cruise Terminal Still a Work in Progress

Boarding a Cruise Ship During a Norovirus Outbreak

Oceania Cruises Sirena Vista Suite 6003 Review

What Does Oceania Cruises’ Country Club Casual Dress Code Really Mean?

Oceania Cruises Wine and Spirits Tasting Experiences

What to Expect on a Panama Canal Full Transit

Oceania Cruises Sirena Dining Review

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What Happens When Oceania Cruises Skips a Port Due to Weather?

The Pros and Cons of Sailing on Oceania’s Smallest R-Class Ships

Size Matters, Why We Prefer Oceania Cruises Larger Ships

Introduction

In this post we will cover how to save money on an Oceania Cruises sailing.  In subsequent posts we will also describe how we paid for our flights and hotel using points and credit card annual free night certificates.  Let me begin by saying that this was not a free cruise, it wasn’t even a particularly amazing deal.  In the current environment, demand for Oceania Cruises sailings is fairly high so deals are scarce.  We know this and budget accordingly.  HOWEVER, we do like a deal and look to leverage smart booking strategies, points, and miles to allow us to splurge on the things that we prioritize.  We previously wrote a post dedicated entirely to this topic.  In this post we’ll cover the ways that we followed our own advice for this specific 10 Night Panama Canal cruise in a Vista Suite, the second highest category suite on board the R-Class ships.

Book Early and Onboard

Firstly we booked the cruise 15 months ahead while we on another Oceania Cruises sailing with one of the Oceania Cruises Ambassadors (future cruise consultants in Oceania parlance).  By doing so, we were able to secure a few benefits specifically for onboard bookings:

  • A $250 onboard credit applied to the cruise we were on that simply reduced our final bill by the same amount
  • A reduced deposit of $500 per person reducing the amount of deposit by over $1,500 if we had booked directly through our travel agent.  Booking so early it’s particularly nice not to have extra money tied-up in a deposit and instead in the bank earning interest.
  • The ability for a one-time, no charge change in case we got home and realized the timing wouldn’t work
  • The reservation was immediately credited and “taken over” by our travel agent (more on why this is a great thing later)
  • By booking early it’s also somewhat more likely that your itinerary may change.  While changes generally DO NOT provide benefits to cruisers; if the embarkation or disembarkation ports are changed the cruise lines will generally provide compensation.  We went into great detail in this post on the change and the compensation.  Ultimately this provided another $300 per cabin onboard credit as well as turning some Delta Skymiles into $$$s when Oceania Cruises reimbursed us for the difference in airfare between our initial flights from Atlanta to Cartagena booked 11 months out to our new flights from Atlanta to Panama City booked 3 months out (still using points).

Find a “Bargain” Sailing

We also selected a cruise that was priced lower than many other 10 day Caribbean sailings on Oceania Cruises:

  • We picked a cruise on an older ship at a time when Oceania was launching Vista, the line’s first new ship in a decade.  In a fleet of 7 ships going to 8 this meaningfully changed the supply:demand ratio with many passengers eager to try the new ship.
  • Our selected sailing was longer than 7 days.  Wouldn’t that make it more expensive you might ask??? The reality is that many people booking cruises, particularly Caribbean cruises, are looking for a one-week vacation.  So the price per day for a 10 day cruise is often less than on a 7 day cruise.
  • Embarkation was to take place in Cartagena, Colombia, a less common embarkation port for Caribbean cruises.  Though the port’s popularity is growing with NCL beginning a number of cruises there this past Caribbean season.
  • Related to the last point, the cruise was not originating from a Florida port.  These Caribbean cruises tend to command a bit of a premium for those looking to drive to and from the port rather than taking an international flight.
  • The sailing had different embarkation and disembarkation ports.  For many people this is a negative as it typically costs more for airfare.
  • The timing of our cruise wasn’t during school holidays when demand for cruises tends to be higher.  Though to be honest on Oceania Cruises this is less of an issue than on the mainstream lines targeting families.
  • Oceania Cruises was running a 10% discount for Oceania Club Members on a number of cruises including our sailing for their 20th Anniversary.  To qualify you need only to have sailed on Oceania Cruises once before.
  • Oceania Cruises was still offering their O Life Choice program at the time of booking.  With this we chose to get 6 “free” excursions worth up to $200 each or a total of $1,200.  We ultimately got about $900 in value out of this which means we probably should have opted for On Board Credit instead; however, you cannot apply OBC with Oceania towards excursions BEFORE embarkation.  This often means that your desired excursions will be fully booked by the time you get on board.
  • With Oceania Cruises O Life Choice airfare was also included.  When you waive the included air you receive an “air credit” which on this sailing saved over $1,200 each.  We always take the air credits and use miles and points to book our flights.

a map of the island

Take Advantage of Status

Perks for being Oceania Club Bronze Level Members.  This level is achieved after obtaining 5 cruise credits INCLUDING your current voyage.  Essentially this means 4 prior cruises of 24 days or less in length or fewer longer voyages (details in image below).

a screenshot of a website
Oceania Club Program Details As of May 2024

There are essentially three benefits at this tier that we value more than the others:

  • $100 Shipboard Credit per stateroom
  • Complimentary Bottle of Oceania Club Private Label Wine – we typically take this to dinner one night in the Grand Dining Room and have it opened for a $25 corkage fee.  A comparable bottle would be $50 so roughly a savings of $25.
  • Oceania Club Cocktail Reception – This is a roughly two hour happy hour during which there’s a presentation of anniversary awards to crew members meeting milestones as well as stats for the voyage including most sailed, number of countries represented on board, etc.  While waiters are passing around prosecco, red and white wine, as well as a seasonal cocktail, it’s essentially open bar and you’re free to order whatever you like.

The perks improve significantly with the Oceania Club Silver Level when you receive complimentary included gratuities.  Currently the daily gratuities are $18 per person per day for non-suite passengers and $23 per person per day for suite passengers.  On our cruise this amounted to $460 in gratuities.  Needless to say that we’re excited that we should be Oceania Club Silver by the end of 2025 based on the cruises we currently have booked.  The other meaningful improvement at the Silver Level is an increase in the Shipboard Credit to $250 per stateroom.

a screenshot of a cruise ship membership
Oceania Club Program Details As of May 2024

Become a Shareholder

Shareholder Benefit – Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, the parent of Norwegian Cruise LineOceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas offers a Shareholder Benefit program to owners of at least 100 shares of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings stock.  On sailings of 6 or fewer nights you will receive $50 OBC, for sailings of 7-14 nights the credit goes up to $100, and for sailings of 15 nights and longer it tops out at $250 OBC.  We submitted our request and obtained our $100 onboard credit.  (As always we’re cruise bloggers and not financial advisors.)

a close up of a company's information
NCLH Shareholder Benefit Summary as of May 2024

Use a Travel Agent

We have a great travel agent, though we almost never use him to actually book an Oceania Cruises journey as we book them all on board.  However, he offers great customer service post-booking.  But perhaps the biggest benefit is that his agency provides a Client Loyalty Amenity.  What is that?  It’s essentially a rebate based on the cost of your cruise that’s paid by check within a few weeks after the end of your cruise.  A lot of travel agents provide perks for their clients out of the fees the cruise lines pay them.  On this cruise the Client Loyalty Amenity was $600.

Big stacks of US dollar notes. A lot of money isolated on white background. 3d rendering of bundles of cash
(©iStock.com/Richard Darko)

Our prior cruise consultant worked with a credit card company’s travel program and offered complimentary wine tastings on board as our amenity.  This was fine by us because we generally are up for a wine tasting on a sea day.  However, those were worth at most $190 per couple on a cruise, so ultimately not nearly as rewarding as cash back.

Keep an Eye Out For Credit Card Deals

About the time our final payment was coming due there was a credit card deal to earn bonus points.  This resulted in 50,000 bonus points plus the 10,000 points earned on the $10,000 payment.  These 60,000 points are conservatively worth $900.  We know that the timing of these offers doesn’t work for everyone, but we post them whenever we see them because they present an amazing opportunity to earn 6 points per $1 spent, which is at least twice as good as any card that offers 3x points on “all travel” including cruises.

Conclusion

Ultimately we reduced the cost of our cruise by nearly 35% when we add up all of the tips and tricks used on this cruise booking.  This savings ultimately allowed for us to sail in a Vista Suite for less than the cost of a Penthouse Suite which is what we typically book on Oceania Cruises (though with these same booking strategies we typically pay the cost of a standard balcony cabin).

We consider this a “good deal” because it matched our schedules and budget to a cruise we really enjoyed.  Because ultimately if you didn’t enjoy your cruise it doesn’t matter if it was free; it wasn’t a good deal by our metrics.  And speaking of metrics, I geek out a bit and calculate the cost of the cruise net discounts and perks by the square footage of the cabin and the number of days to get to a rate that I can apply to other cruises as a benchmark.  If you hate math just stop reading here.  I run this simple calculation to account for different levels of cabins (because ultimately space is the biggest luxury on a ship) and the number of days onboard.   So on this cruise we ended up spending $1.29 per square foot per day.  That’s a great deal for an Oceania Cruises itinerary!  By comparison our previous cruise on the new Vista was nearly twice as much at $2.47 per square foot per day.

We hope this explanation of how to save money on an Oceania Cruises sailing was helpful and provides a bit of practical information on how we optimized our booking on this particular voyage!  – Michael

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Advertiser Disclosure: Frequent Floaters is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as CreditCards.com. Some or all of the card offers that appear on the website are from advertisers. Compensation may impact how and where card products appear on the site. This site does not include all card companies or all available card offers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed, or approved by any of these entities.

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