Do your vacation plans this year involve a cruise? You can book a cruise using your regular travel rewards credit card, like our top-rated Escape by Discover, or get points for the purchase when you use your card to pay for a cruise. But to earn maximum rewards points for your cruise — and for points you can redeem right on the cruise ship — you’ll want a credit card specifically designed for cruise rewards.

Most of the major cruise lines issue major credit cards you can use anywhere and earn points toward your next cruise vacation and the things you’ll purchase while you’re on the cruise, including:

  • stateroom upgrades
  • spa trips
  • shore excursions
  • gift shop purchases
  • drinks and more.

Let’s have a look at some of the top cruise lines and the terms of their major credit cards.

Royal Caribbean Visa Card

The Royal Caribbean Visa Card offers you one reward point for every dollar in purchases, and double points for money you spend with Royal Caribbean International, including booking cruises as well as money you may spend on the cruise.

When you earn 5,000 points, you can redeem it for $50 in onboard credit, upgrades, souvenir Royal Caribbean-branded merchandise and more. Earn 15,000 points and you can put $150 toward the purchase of your cruise tickets, upgrades and more. In short, subtract two zeros from your Royal Points to find the dollar equivalent in shipboard credits, upgrades, companion tickets and more.

There is no annual fee on this card, and it carries a variable interest rate of between 12.99 and 20.99%, depending on your credit rating. There is a 25-day grace period on purchases.

Additionally, if you transfer a balance when you first receive the card, you’ll get an introductory APR of 1.99% for the first seven months.

Because of the rewards offered, if you are loyal to Royal Caribbean cruise lines, you can accrue points quickly by using this card to pay for anything you buy. Just be sure to avoid the high interest charges by paying your balance in full by the due date.

Norwegian Cruise Line MasterCard

Norwegian Cruise Line is currently offering cardholders a chance to win a free cruise, onboard credits, and more. Simply book any Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) cruise by July 31, 2010 and you’re entered for a chance to win 1 million WorldPoints, which are worth $10,000 in onboard credits, four 7-day Caribbean Cruises for two, or any combination of rewards offered with the NCL MasterCard. 000 On-

This card is one of the better cruise lines credit cards, offering a variety of benefits and rewards and 10,000 bonus points after your first qualifying transaction.

With the NCL MasterCard, you can redeem your WorldPoints for:

  • onboard credits
  • stateroom upgrades
  • cruise deals
  • car rentals and hotel stays
  • merchandise or gift certificates from more than 100 retailers through the WorldPoints program

Benefits of this card include:

  • concierge service
  • auto rental insurance
  • The card offers one WorldPoint for every dollar spent, and double points on money spent with NCL.

    The APR is 11.24% to 23.24% standard, (depending on your credit), with a 1.99% introductory APR for seven months on balance transfers.

    Carnival World MasterCard

    The Carnival World MasterCard, the major credit card affiliated with Carnival Cruise Lines, offers a low 0% interest on balance transfers for the first nine months. After that, your interest rate will be either 11.24%, 13.24% or 17.24% depending on your credit rating.

    Balance transfers count for one bonus FunPoint per dollar, making this a top choice to transfer a balance from a higher interest credit card and earn points toward your cruise vacation. It gets better, too. You earn 5,000 bonus points with your initial balance transfer, and another 5,000 bonus points after your first qualifying purchase. 10,000 FunPoints equals $100 off a cruise.

    Normally, you receive 1 FunPoint for every dollar in purchases, and double FunPoints for dollars you spend with Carnival Cruise Lines. You can also redeem your FunPoints on other major cruise lines, including:

    • Princess Cruises
    • Costa Cruises
    • The Yachts of Seabourn
    • Holland America Line
    • Cunard Line