With the holidays approaching, many people are looking for the perfect gift, often turning to gift cards for a simple and flexible solution. If you have someone who enjoys cruising, a gift card can be a good option.
While shipping gift cards at this point can be risky for pre-holiday delivery, most can be purchased online, and a few like Disney and Carnival are sold at retail outlets. A lifeline for last minute shoppers.
Before purchasing a gift card from a cruise line, there are a few important things to know. The features and benefits of gift cards vary among major cruise lines, so it’s a good idea to take a moment to carefully review what is being purchased to determine if it is the right gift.
Terms and conditions for gift cards are listed on cruise line websites, but here are some of the essentials to consider before purchasing.
Cruise Line Gift Cards – What You Need To Know
Popular cruise lines such as Holland America, Carnival, Norwegian, Princess, Celebrity, and Royal Caribbean all offer gift cards (except MSC), with most starting with $ 25 denominations.
The basics of gift cards include:
- Gift cards are non-refundable and cannot be resold or exchanged for cash. This is an important factor, especially if the recipient of the gift decides not to travel
- They don’t have an expiration date
- There are no fees beyond the purchase price (no dormancy or transaction fees)
- Gift cards are not issued in a person’s name. This is a problem for physical cards because there is no way to get the money back if it is lost.
- Most must be purchased before sailing
- Most are in US dollars only
What can you buy with them?
Beyond the cruise fare, there are a number of ways that cruise passengers can spend money on board. Shore excursions, drinks, photos, food, and spa treatments are potential additional costs. However, not all gift cards can be used for everything.
Disney Gift Cards are probably the most flexible, as their cards can be used for cruise-related purchases such as onboard expenses, including shore excursions and spas, or for the fare of the cruise itself. same. Additionally, gift cards can be used for Disney related products and services, such as tickets to parks, restaurants, merchandise, etc.
Norwegian Cruise Line allows gift cards to be used for onboard expenses such as “a relaxing massage, an adventurous shore excursion or a special night out.” This is also similar to the benefits of carnival. Princess Gift Cards can be used for many products and services, but not for shore excursions.
Celebrity and Royal Caribbean have the most limitations on the use of gift cards. Government fees, taxes, onboard tips, gambling (casino) cannot be paid with gift cards.
How to buy a cruise line gift card
There are several ways to purchase gift cards, including online, in-store, or through travel agencies. Traditional plastic gift cards or electronic card options are popular offers among cruise lines. E-cards in particular are the fastest way to email the gift once purchased from the cruise line’s website.
Traditional plastic cards can be mailed, although it may take a few weeks. Note that most cruise lines will not send gift cards outside of the United States, but will allow electronic cards for Canadian residents. Delivery charges may apply to traditional cards.
For retail options, Carnival gift cards can be purchased at a number of locations including Price Chopper, Safeway, Lowes, Winn Dixie, Office Max, and Publix. Disney Gift Cards can be purchased through Target, Sam’s Club, and Disney resorts and stores.
Sales and promotions
Everyone loves a good deal, and sometimes there are promotions on gift cards. Currently, there are no significant sales for this upcoming holiday season. In the past, Carnival has had sales, something to watch out for. Associations such as AARP have also had discounts on cards, so review current memberships / associations for all offers.
Many Disney fans buy Disney gift cards from Target. Their loyalty card “The Target REDcard” (a debit card) offers an automatic 5% cashback on any purchase at Target, including gift cards. There are also Black Friday deals with Sam’s Club, with discounts of up to 10% on Disney gift cards.
Beware of third party or private sales through Facebook or other social media. Users have repeatedly reported fraud. Cruise lines do not allow resale of gift cards, which buyers should be aware of. It is best to purchase cards from cruise lines, travel agents, or authorized retailers.
Important terms and conditions
Most cruise gift certificates are available in US dollars only, although Disney does offer Canadian dollar gift cards. Additionally, most are not available to residents outside of Canada and the United States, and therefore not suitable for friends and family overseas.
Princess clarifies that “digital gift cards redeemed by Canadian residents can only be used for the cruise passage for bookings made in US dollars.” Royal Caribbean notes that gift cards must be redeemed in advance, especially for payment of the price of the cruise. They also clarify that if a reservation is paid in full, the gift certificate cannot be used as payment for a cruise vacation and will be applied to onboard credit as long as it is applied 10 business days prior to the departure date.
Shipping traditional plastic gift cards can be slow and expensive. For example, Norwegian estimates that cards can take up to 14 business days to be sent by post. Expedited is $ 15.95 with 6 day shipping, which is expensive if you buy a $ 25 gift card.