I’m the type of person who always likes to have several trips lined up in advance. I would love to be spontaneous and just go with the flow for once but unfortunately, it’s not in my nature. Plus, daydreaming and planning the next vacation relaxes me and helps me disconnect from the crazy world we live in.
So of course, when I got my sign-up bonus (X2) on our Citi Thank You Premier cards, I started mapping out my next big trip strategy. Hawaii, South America, maybe even Tahiti…again? Between two accounts, we had access to 122k Citi Thank You points, which presented me with endless possibilities. I also currently have 85k Membership Rewards points, and many Amex mileage transfer partners overlap with Citi.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, I was able to match to the current 60k points offer by contacting Citi via secure message. For some reason, they deposited an extra 10k points into my husband’s account right away, but told me I would have to wait 1-2 billing cycles. Good enough, I’ll take it.
We just came back from a big trip, so I knew my husband wouldn’t be up for discussing travel. So, I planned to address the specifics in a few months. However, the other day he told me in no uncertain terms that he doesn’t want to fly anywhere in 2019. He just wants to go on a cruise that sails from our home state of Florida.
I knew I could probably change his mind, but decided it wouldn’t be fair. After all, he has just endured 10 flights in the span of two weeks Most of them were spent in a tiny economy seat, and he is a big guy. I thought it would be fair to do what he wants (for once). So, no flights for us in 2019 because I’m not crazy about taking the kids somewhere by myself.
So, I’ve decided to burn our Citi Thank You points on a cruise. Fortunately, it’s one of the best options in the program because you get 1.25 cents per point. For some unknown reason, Citi doesn’t advertise this type of redemption. They mention that you get 1.25 cents per point towards flights, but the reality is, you also get a bump in value towards hotels, cruises and car rentals. That makes the current bonus worth $750 towards travel, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.
Choosing the perfect cruise
This was my next dilemma. I looked at various sailings, and finally settled on 4-night Royal Caribbean cruise to Bahamas. As much as I would love to try Disney line, it ain’t happening due to ridiculous cost. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, of course. I simply wouldn’t enjoy myself knowing that I could take two cruises for what Disney charges for just one sailing.
It’s been 15 years since I’ve been to Nassau, and I’m looking forward to returning.The itinerary also includes a stop at RCL private island. I have decided to get two cabins because sharing one with a family of four would not be enjoyable for either me or my husband.
The sailing will take place during holidays so unfortunately, I didn’t snag an amazing bargain. But the price was decent (a total of $2160 for two balcony cabins, plus $200 in onboard credits), and my stash of Citi Thank You points would cover a good chunk of it. After we sailed in a balcony cabin in 2009, my husband refuses to settle for less.
Watching a sunset from the balcony
But then I started thinking: What if we paid for my sister-in-law to come and put the kids in her cabin? That way, my husband and I would have peace and quiet, but would have our spawn nearby at all times. My sister-in-law agreed. Winning!
Unfortunately, booking a triple occupancy cabin has raised the cost by $600, but I feel it’s worth it to spend some alone time with my husband. Plus, my sister-in-law really enjoys taking care of my kids, and they view her as a second mom. My son actually called her “aunt mama” once.
Booking the cruise through Citi Thank You Center
You can’t redeem your points online, instead you have to call 1-800-842-6596 number. But before contacting Citi, I filled out a price quote request on CruiseCompete You get several free, no-obligation quotes from cruise agencies. I often book cruises through Discover portal because you get 5% cash back on top of all the other perks. The downside is that you have to use Discover card.
After getting several quotes, I called Citi Thank You Center. A very nice agent confirmed that I can use my Citi Thank You points as a payment towards cruise. The cabin for me and my husband was more expensive compared to CruiseCompete quotes, but the triple occupancy cabin would cost an identical amount. So, I decided to book that one with my stash and go through another agency for the second cabin.
I then selected “points sharing”:
Note that shared points will expire 90 days after they are received, so do it only when you have specific plan for them.
Citi was being Citi, and as it turns out, I had two accounts, and my husband’s points ended up in the wrong one. No worries, I was able to combine them after some trial and error. With Citi nothing is ever simple. OK, time to book the cruise. I called back and drained my entire Thank You stash towards $1,529 cruise payment.
I still had a balance of $200 and decided to go ahead and pay it now, even though I wasn’t required to. You have to use a Citi card for your cash portion, and I plan to cancel my Citi Thank You Premier card in the spring of 2019. So, to be on a safe side, I decided to take care of everything now. From this point on, I can deal with cruise line directly.
My cruise fare is refundable (minus deposit), so I asked how it would be handled if I changed my mind. I was told that the refund would be in cash, not points. I can’t vouch for this since I’ve never booked a cruise through Citi before. Plus, I don’t really envision canceling unless there is an emergency.
All in all, I feel like I found a good “home” for my Citi Thank You points. It’s not an exotic redemption, but it’s what my husband wanted. Frankly, sailing on a ship (with food and entertainment taken care of) and without needing to fly anywhere, sounds pretty darn nice. Plus, I was able to bargain a 2020 Hawaii family trip out of it (more on that later).
P.S. Current 60k offer on Citi Thank You Premier card pays us commission. If you decide to apply, I hope you consider supporting the blog. As always, we only recommend cards that we personally find worthwhile, and I actually applied for this offer when the bonus was only 50k points.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.