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Introduction: 10 Day Norwegian Dawn Family Suite Vacation – On points!

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Nice way to spend 2 weeks on points!

I am really becoming a frequent floater and I just love it. I love ship life. I love the hunt of booking the next great adventure. I love seeing how frugally I can get away with paying for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation 2 or 3 times a year and mostly all on points!

I thought with this first post in this review I would share an overview of how I booked and paid for everything rather than hold you in suspense to the very end. One thing I learned in the better part of a decade of blogging is that travel is so much more fun when someone else is paying for your adventure. To that end, I wanted everything during this trip to be as close to “free” as possible. Let’s see how I did the above?

The Air. Clearly I am a Delta flyer. I always work hard to extract max value out of every single award I book with SkyMiles. I use my Diamond status to do what it takes to get the best value. When it comes to AA I harvest a ridiculous amount of points from their credit card partners via both personal and business cards. I was able to find AA business “saver awards” continuing via Charlotte both ways. After a schedule change I had only two choices 1) a 45 minute connection via DFW in winter or 2) a 7 hour connection via DFW. I chose the latter as I had little faith AA would not be delAAyed or miss getting my bags to San Juan. Plus this gave me a chance to play in Dallas for a bit. Price was 50,000 miles each round trip plus a few bucks tax.

Once I got to Dallas, rather early in the morning, I was again blocked from entering the DFW Amex Centurion (as all will be on arrival system wide very soon). Thus, with help from my Priority Pass cards like my non-Delta Amex Platinum card. Visit was free (other than the annual fee for the card) to spend some time at “The Club” at DFW.

With a long layover in Dallas DFW one of my favorite pastimes is a lunch or dinner visit to the amazing Hard Eight BBQ just a short Uber ride away (with lots of Uber credits the ride was free). The BBQ, on the other hand, was not cheap but well worth the price.

Once we arrived, rather close to midnight, in SJU we were greeted by a very nice driver from GoAirport Shuttle. I booked this service, via TopCashBack to get a small rebate, because Uber is blocked from SJU airport pickups (but not drop-offs). For $75 for four with 5 bags and 4 carry-ons it seems a fair price. More on how it went later on.

Marriott Sheraton San Juan. Before being “Marriotted” I got a nice price on SPG points via travel cards. My grand plan was to be able to walk from the hotel right on to the ship. It did not work as planned sad to say – doh! But still the stay was free.

The point of all this travel was sailing on the NCL Dawn (get a sneak peak via YouTube here). My first cruise ever, so many years ago, was on this very ship and in a aft suite. It made an impression as did this sailing. Not only did I pay for the cruise in full with points but I walked off with a nice pile of cash. You can get an idea of the process in this post. Bottom line for a $6,000 cruise for two I paid about $600 net out of pocket!

Once my trip was over I decided to change my normal habit of flying home right after the cruise. I wanted to know if staying a few days would soften the “getting off the ship” blow. To that end an Uber to a beach hotel was in order. I needed two and the results were fascinating. Oh I used free Uber credits (thank you Uber local offers) to get both done!

Since I had two days I decided to rent a car. Onsite retails were high but off-site were a bargain. Plus they offered a free shuttle to and from the airport. With my yearly travel insurance I had no stress about the rental. Oh and I charged it to my Barclays Arrival+ card so I could pay for the rental free on points after the fact (up to 120 days to pay yourself back with points)!

The hotel I chose to “unwind” from 10 days at sea had to have a great beach and be close to the airport. With a Chase IHG card free night cert for night one and points for the other the stay was free other than the annual fee for the credit card (a flat out bargain) and the next for a bunch of points. Still my only cost was parking (not free for IHG Platinums sad to say).

What to see with just under 2 days in Puerto Rico. Yeah, I did the standard tourist stuff but it was great. Oh and the food was to die for. Sure this part was not free but with all my savings I splurged a little.

My AA flight home was late in the day so even with late checkout from the hotel I had to spend some time at the airport (after a rather long car rental return). Thankfully there is an Avianaca Priority Pass lounge in SJU you can access post security (yes, even Delta flyers can get there too).

My AA flight home, shockingly, was delAAyed. Now it was due to weather-ish. I will say I got to fly one of the brand new AA 321s. The review will be a greAAt comparison to Delta. Oh, as on the way down, free on points plus a few bucks tax.

Overall this total two week vacation cost me, for my wife and I, well under $2000 all-in including ALL of the above. Sure it took some of my time to amass all the points (and the different kinds of points) needed but I will break that down post by post in the review and how I got them. Was it worth it? Spoiler alert – you betcha it was! – René

 

Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.

8 Comments

  1. Small comment – It’s Coppell, Texas, not Copple. And yes, Hard Eight is very good BBQ.

  2. What points did you use for the Norwegian Cruise? Was it just a generic card like the Arrival+ or do they have points that one can earn other than by taking a bunch of their cruises?

  3. rene

    @Ben – There are a number of travel cards that allow you to make a charge and pay yourself back with points. For this one, via creative spending, I paid for most of it on the Arrival+ card yes. It is one of my go-to cards as ~2.1 cents travel credit back is flat out bargain vs. the cost to make the points! The other way I have booked cruises this year is via Chase Ultimate Rewards points earned from all kinds of cards and pooled to my Chase Sapphire Reserve card. See this post: https://renespoints.boardingarea.com/2019/01/21/my-experience-booking-a-norwegian-cruise-ncl-with-chase-ultimate-rewards-points-via-connexions-loyalty/

  4. HawaiiDreaming

    looking forward to the rest of your posts. I have used chase points a couple times for cruises and thoroughly enjoyed it. Just got off the NCL Jade a few weeks ago and used chase points for 2 cabins. $0 USD out of pocket for the cruise. I did pay $11.20 in taxes per person for the flights and also used amex UBER credits. I love this hobby!

  5. rene

    @HawaiiDreaming – Well done! #Proud of you. Stacking takes work but my are the rewards worth the effort.

  6. You can’t “creative spend” for free, of course. I look forward to some opportunity cost math on all those “free” points Rene.

  7. rene

    @Mark – Yes, you can. But not everything can be published in blogs.

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