Carnival Cruise Lines is having a flash sale on most cruises through February 2012 that includes cabin upgrades and onboard spending money -- but only until Thursday.
The deal: The Triple Play Sale offers discounted fares, a free cabin upgrade and a shipboard credit of up to $100 per cabin. Sale rates start at $259 per person plus tax and apply to selected sailings and ships through February.
Here's how the "free money" offer works: Each cabin receives a credit of up to $50 for two- to five-day cruises and up to $100 on six- to eight-day cruises. The money goes into a "Sign & Sail" account; any unused portion gets disbursed to passengers in check form on the last day of the cruise.
Free upgrades, applied when making the reservation, are based on availability. Use the fare code "OCB"when booking online, by phone or with a travel agent.
When: The offer is good until 11:59 PDT Thursday; some blackout dates apply.
Tested: To check out the sale price, I went to Carnival's website and selected a four-day cruise aboard the Carnival Inspiration from Long Beach to Baja, Mexico, that will depart Jan. 9, 2012. The "Triple Play" price for an interior cabin totaled $629 including tax. The upgrade allows choosing an interior cabin on any portion of the ship -- forward, midships or aft -- with a choice of the Riviera or main deck. The deal also comes with $50 to spend on board or take in cash.
I also checked a seven-day cruise from Long Beach to the Mexican Riviera aboard the Carnival Splendor (yes, that ship) leaving Sept. 4. The total price for an interior cabin with an upgrade to midship on the main deck was $1,190, including taxes. And that came with the $100 credit.
Is it really a deal? I found cheaper fares on the cruises mentioned above with Carnival's "Early Saver" rates, even with paying extra for the upgrades. But a Carnival spokesman said in an email that "Early Saver" rates have more restrictions and aren't always available; for instance, they close three to five months before the sail date. My suggestion: Take a look at the "Triple Play" and the "Early Saver" rates and price out what works best for you.
Contact: Carnival Cruise Lines, (800) 764-7419, or contact a travel agent.