How to Cruise For Free?

By ,   January 8, 2016 ,   Tips & Tricks

Cruise for free? Probably you don't believe that it's possible. But on most cruise lines there are many ways to grab a free cruise for yourself. Read our review to learn how. The review is integrated with How to find the best UK cruise deals.

Major cruise lines offer travel incentives for group tavel booking. One of these incentives is called a TC, or "tour conductor". A TC is actually a credit for the Group Leader ("Pied Piper"), to cruise for free with a group of relatives, friends or colleagues that he/she has brought to the cruise line.

Ask your relatives and friends first, and then go to co-workers and acquaintances. The other travelers will receive a reduced group rate. You will cruise for free.

As a tour conductor, you'll work with the travel agency and make all the travel and cruise ship arrangements for the whole group. The cruise travel agent will walk you through itineraries you might be interested in, guide you to all types of cruises, and inform you of cruise lines' group policies. Your primary jobs will be recruitment and communication.

However, the award from the line is limited to the fare of the cruise itself. Port charges, Governments fees and taxes are not included and have to be paid by the guest. As a Group Leader you'll need to make yourself familiar with the policies of the cruise line before you start booking, as offers vary by cruise line.

How to Cruise For Free - CruiseMapper

Cruise For Free: How to Start?

The place to start is to decide how you will create your group. Identify a group of like minded individuals who want to sail together. Remember that cruise lines love Pied Pipers. To earn your Free Cruise you have to start speaking to all the people you know about their interest in joining a group cruise vacation. Group cruises are great for:

  • Family Reunion; Friends; Birthday Celebrations;
  • Anniversaries and weddings; Associations and Clubs;
  • Sports Groups; Social Groups; Professional Groups; Retired Military Groups; Church Groups; Franternity and Sorority Groups.

If you can't find enough family or friends to get the group benefits, look for travel agencies who are members of national accounts or travel consortiums (Ensemble, Virtuoso, etc.). Travel agencies are given incentives by the line to block a significant amount of space in advance of sailing dates. The incentives are usually in the form of better pricing, added amenities, or both.

As a group leader you earn the right to sail for free. But do not worry - your friends will also get benefits. As a starter, the rates for groups are lower than the individual rates. You can also sell the free cruise TC and divide the money among your group members, thus saving everyone money.

Cruise lines base their fares on double occupancy, that is 2 persons to a cabin. They often refer to occupancy as "berths". 1 berth is 1 bed, or 1 passenger. The group size needed to obtain a free bed/berth varies by cruise line. Major cruise lines, including Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, Disney, Royal Caribbean, Princess and Norwegian, ordinarily define a group voyage as a minimum of 16 passengers occupying eight cabins (3rd and 4th passengers in a cabin are allowed, but they don't count toward the total). The tour conductor, the 16th person, cruises for free. 

Here is an example of the number of free berths/beds you could earn if your group booked a 7-night cruise:

  • 8 cabins (16 passengers) traveling = 1 Free Berth/Bed
  • 16 cabins (32 passengers) traveling = 2 Free Berths/Beds (1 free cabin)
  • 24 cabins (48 passengers) traveling = 3 Free Berths/Beds
  • 32 cabins (64 passengers) traveling = 4 Free Berths/Beds (2 free cabins)
  • 100 cabins (200 passengers) traveling = 12 Free Berths/Beds (6 free cabins)

What you choose to do with the free beds is up to you. Following are a few ways to take advantage of earned beds:

  1. Group Leader Sails Free: The ones who take the time to organize and promote the group, coordinate with all group members and make the arrangements, often keep the free berths for themselves and cruise for free. Group leaders may even earn extra spending money. This is agreed upon in advance and kept confidential.
  2. Gifts or Shore Tours: Some groups take the value of the free berths and apply towards the purchase of city tours, helicopter ride or snorkeling adventures. Other groups may choose to provide in-cabin gifts like wine, fruit baskets, bathrobes, caps or t-shirts.
  3. Deeper Price Discounts: As we said above, there are also group leaders who take the value of the free beds and divide it among the others to provide an additional discount. 
  4. Special Guest Invitation: Inviting a guest lecturer or celebrity to add value to your group experience is another way to use the free berths. This could be a radio personality or a specialist in your group's field of interest.
  5. Onboard Group Escort: Some cruise groups choose to hire a group escort in order to help in coordinating on-board and on-shore activities. Even though you may have to pay a fee for the escort, the cabin bed is free.

Some cruise lines offer special perks that are only available to group cruisers. For example, many companies award “group amenity points” which are based on the number of guests in the group: the more passengers, the more points, and the more perks. Amenities include such things as cabin upgrades, shipboard credits, private hosted cocktail parties, bottle of champagne in cabin, logo wear.

Remember that many cruise lines offer a free cruise for less than 16 passengers. For example, such are the ultra-luxury lines Silversea and The Yachts of Seabourn (providing 1 free berth for every 10 sold). You may find even more attractive policies and terms with off season sailings. 

If you establish an ongoing relationship with a cruise line or a travel agent, you may be able to work such deals consistently, so that all cruise vacations of yours are free. You may even turn it into a full-time job. 

WARNING: As the group leader you will have to work hard to sail for free. You'll be coordinating with group members, promoting the group and facilitating communication between the group members and the cruise agent. Your agent will work directly with the line to make the air arrangements, bookings, cabin assignments, onboard events, dining times, etc., but your group will look to you if anything goes wrong. Be prepared! Being a TC is not a breeze. 

Other Ways to Cruise For Free

  • Points for frequent travel: This works like frequent flyer points - you accumulate points with the airlines and may be able to cruise for free with the money you save. Many of the cruise packages are offered with an air travel package, since most travelers are not lucky enough to live close to a cruise port.
  • Combine discounts: Collect your discounts from vendors, discounts from the cruise line, travel agents, restaurants and airlines. Trade with your friends to get more coupon books and discounts. When you put all together, your voyage may be free (nearly free).
  • Contests and prizes: Enter whenever you have an opportunity. Someone has to win the free cruise and that person might be you.
  • Last minute deals: You may be able to find the greatest deal that is free (nearly free) if you resist and wait until the last minute to book your cruise. Tremendous discounts are offered to those who fill up empty space caused by travelers canceling their voyage. Also check the wave season cruise deals.
  • Travel packages: These offer huge discounts. If you can work your cruise package in conjunction with one of the ideas above, you may sail free of charge.
  • Get a job on a cruise ship: Along with your weekly salary, you get the chance to cruise to exotic destinations free of charge. Room and food come complimentary with the position.

Trade Your Talent and Cruise For Free

You can trade your talent for a free luxury cruise. Cruise lines are very interested in keeping their guests happy at all times. Such a goal is a bit more challenging on sea  days. To address the issue the cruise companies offer all manner of activity onboard. Many of the activities are staffed by outside performers who typically sail free or at discounted rates. Most outside contractors are able to bring along a traveling companion. He or she also cruises free.

  • Photographers and travel writers often get free cruises as they agree to write about the cruise, the destination, or the entertainers and the businesses on the cruise ship. If you have photography and writing skills, along with media credentials, try this avenue. Contact the line to see what you can work out. 
  • Enrichment Lecturer: Many lines feature formal enrichment programs in a variety of topics. The majority of these use destination-driven lectures but many lines also consider general interest topics.
  • Computer Instructors: Today many cruise lines are interested in contracting with people who can deliver a series of computer classes onboard.
  • Arts and Crafts Instructors: Projects range from "high art" watercolor classes to simple projects like macramé. Typically, the more popular are those classes that are destination related, i.e. folk art or handicraft of one of the countries on ship's itinerary.
  • Dance Instructors: Dance classes are also often related to the visited destinations, i.e., Tarantella (Italy), Line dances (Texas); Salsa (Puerto Rico), Meringue (Dominican Republic); Samba (Brazil), etc. Obviously you must know your business and have happy feet.
  • Gentleman Host: If you are single, chatty and happy feet, get ready to entertain unescorted ladies appropriately. Polite company and dancing are the stock in trade for the position.
  • Nanny, Bodyguard or Personal Assistant: You should get a cabin and board on the cruise ship for free as part of the payment for your services.
  • Performer with the cruise line: Cruise for free and earn income as an entertainer.
  • Bridge Players: If you love playing bridge and have the "knack" for it, you could spend a couple of hours per day in the game room in exchange for your free cruise. Often a requirement here is that your companion must be ready and able to sit in on a game if a pair need to be completed to play.

The list doesn't end here. Major cruise companies will consider any kind of interesting activity. In any event, trading your talent to cruise for free, is worth the investigation.

Free Birthday cruise

In 2017, MSC Cruises started offering a new "free deal" for customers celebrating their birthday. in case your birthday falls during selected MSC cruises, it is complimentary.

  • MSC's free cruise offers are on itineraries in europe (Mediterranean, Baltic), Asia (Arabian Peninsula /Dubai), Caribbean (West Indies, Cuba). Longer itineraries are available through World Cruises.
  • Booked passengers can extend their free birthday cruise and combine itineraries into B2Bs (back to back cruises) from 14 to 22 nights.
  • Bookings must have at least one paying passenger and only one free birthday passenger. The birthday of the passenger must fall on one of the itinerary days, but excluding the arrival and departure days.
  • Such offers are usually promotions, subject to selected availability and valid for lower cabin categories only (usually excluding Suites).

Star Cruises (Asian company) also offers free Birthday cruise deals on select ships and departure dates. The company's "Free Birthday Celebrant Package" consists of:

  • Cabin decorations (set up on the embarkation day)
  • 0,5 kg chocolate cake
  • Birthday card
  • Cruise voucher (at the ship's Reception) is applicable at onboard retail shops and spa/wellness outlets. To use the voucher, you need to swipe your access card at the outlets. When you settle your bill during checkout, the voucher's value is deducted from the total amount due.
  • Free Wifi vouchers for 2 passengers for the entire cruise  (at the ship's Reception). Wi-Fi connections on Start Cruises ships are available in all public areas and in the cabins.

As you see, there are various ways to cruise for free. All it takes is a little bit of effort and an open mind to make it happen. We hope your dream cruise vacation to be worth the time and trouble. If you do one, or combine the options above, it could be easy to get your cruise for free. Who doesn’t like free?