This review provides "Cruise Onboard Credit" information, tips and advice - what is it, how to manage it, where to spend it, cruise line stockholder onboard credit benefits and OBC bonus /promotion deals.
We give you here a review of cruise deals with onboard credit included (packages, promotions, booking bonus), major cruise lines onboard credit benefits for shareholders (including on NCL, Royal Caribbean and Carnival ships) and useful tips on spending on cruise ships - what are the best "credit fun" buying options on board big cruise ships.
Cruise Onboard Credit
Generally speking, the cruise ship onboard credit is a "cashless money" card used by passengers on the ship or on cruise lines private islands during the voyage. It's the amount you set up before sailing - a credit you can use onboard.
Most cruises operate on cashless system and each operation is done through a card (the same that you use to unlock your cabin). You can use the card to pay for services or goods you want onboard - at the end of trip you can pay the outstanding balance of the card.
Onboard credit is added to your cruise ship account. When you board the vessel, you give the line your credit card number and they open an account for you. The representative of the line will confirm your onboard credit or you will receive a card in your cabin stating you have onboard credit and its exact amount.
Everything you get on cruise ships- from drinks and dinner wines, to boutique shopping and shore excursions and tours, will be accumulated on your account. You can track your scary account piling up on the TV in your cabin. If there is any dispute about your credit balance, you must take care of it before departing the ship at its Pursers Desk (usually located in the Lobby), as departing constitutes that you've agreed to the charges as listed by the line and then all will be charged to your credit card.
Why is the cruise ship onboard credit offered?
Onboard credit on cruise ships is offered for various reasons with either cruise line packages, special and discounted deals, and often- as part of a promotion campaign by the shipping line (owner or operator) or by the travel agency. Ask the travel specialist you booked your voyage through for creative ways your onboard credit will work during your ship cruise vacation. Even if onboard credit is not offered with a package, you could ask your agent to purchase it before sailing. As a rule, pre paying for expected expenses makes the vacation more enjoyable.
Does everyone in cabin get the charging privilege? Short answer - it’s up to you. During check in you will determine who will have the onboard credit card charging privileges. If you don’t want to use a major credit card with unlimited charging power, set up your account using cash. You may also set charging limits. Ask the line representative for all options available during check in. You can also request changes during your trip - again, at the Pursers Desk.
- Booking with a travel agent. Whether you work with a large online agency or with an individual cruise travel agent, onboard credit is a common in the industry booking bonus. Most sites offer an average of $100 booking bonus per cabin, but this varies. The larger the agencies, the deeper their pockets concerning onboard credit. Loyalty is of great importance and if you have worked with the same agent for every cruise vacation, your shipboard credit is likely to raise over time.
- Booking by a specified deadline. $25 per cabin is the lowest average, but the amount ranges greatly. Luxury cruise lines provide onboard credit per couple of up to $1,000, and even beyond. Pay attention if the credit varies by the class of stateroom (cabin grade) and whether it's per person or per cabin.
- Booking a future cruise while on the ship. Lines do what they can to ensure their customers to sail with them again. Many ships feature a designated sales desk, with personnel educated to offer bonuses for "future cruise" bookings. Some find it the ultimate way to pick up onboard credit for their next sailing. Celebrity offers up to $500 if you book a voyage onboard. Making a deposit toward an NCL Norwegian, you can earn $100 onboard credit to spend right on the trip you're on.
- Value-added deals. Subscribe to the email list of a major line/operator, and you'll undoubtedly receive colorful promotions that will encourage you to book a vacation, with a great deal of incentives. The periodic promotions, usually the same that you can find on the line's homepage, almost always include a form of onboard credit.
- Price drops. If you notice that your fare has dropped, the line will often make up the difference through onboard credit bonus. This is kinda money back operation, but still beats paying higher fare and nothing in return.
- Referrals. Most lines boast referral bonuses for new voyages booked by first-timers. Don't just book the amazing deal yourself! Get your friends do the same and use their bookings to your onboard credit advantage. On board Royal Caribbean ships there is $25 per referred cabin booked. Princess deducts $25 as a discount, rather than offering a credit.
- Credit cards. Some of the cruise lines' credit cards (not all) allow passengers to turn their accrued points into onboard credit. This is turning cash spent into cash on their next cruise ship vacation. Return on this investment is relatively low. For example, the card of Royal Caribbean requires 10,000 points (equal to $10,000 - a point for every dollar) which is just $100 onboard credit. Have in mind that some credit cards are available only to North American residents.
- If something goes wrong. Not the best way for earning a credit, but when something goes wrong during a cruise (accident / incident), like skipping port calls, ship stranded, cruise illness outbreak, etc), or you are not pleased with the service, you may be compensated through future cruise credit offer depending on the situation.
- Loyalty program offers. Treating return travelers well yields the return on investment. Shipboard credit is a frequent reward for loyal passengers. The more you sail, the more you'll be awarded. NCL Norwegian Latitudes Insider provides onboard credit of up to $250 on select sailings (Latitudes members only). Oceania boasts a tiered program with $1,000 per cabin, for their most loyal customers (Diamond level).
Invest money in the brand if you love your cruise company. Most major lines offer shareholder benefits in the form of shipboard credit.
- Carnival Corporation (including Carnival, Costa, Cunard, Holland America, Princess, Aida, Seabourn, P&O and Ibero) offers up to $250 onboard credit per cabin for voyages 14 days/longer, $100 for cruises of 7-13 days, and $50 for sailings 6 days or less.
- RCCL - their brands (Azamara, Celebrity, CDF, Pullmantur and the largest Royal Caribbean) offer a similar to Carnival benefit, with $200 per cabin for voyages between 10-13 nights. $100 is offered on voyages of 6-9 nights, $50 for sailings less than 5 nights.
- NCL Norwegian has an offer of $100 onboard credit per cabin available to shareholders cruising 7 or more days, and $50 for voyages 6 days or less.
Remember to check the fine print and make sure you are eligible, as sometimes there are minimum share/stock requirements. Redeem your stockholder benefit and contact the line at least 2 weeks prior to sailing.
Cruise shareholder credit benefits
Travelers owning at least 100 shares of stock in CCL (Carnival Corporation) or RCL (Royal Caribbean) can receive onboard credits up to $250 during their next cruise vacation.
- Azamara Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean Ltd., Royal Caribbean International: Onboard credit is provided to shareholders who directly own (at time of booking) at least 100 shares of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. To take advantage of this offer, the following items must be submitted:
- Home address, telephone number, e-mail address
- Ship and sailing date
- Confirmation number
- Crown&Anchor Society/Captain's Club number (if any)
- A photocopy of the shareholder proxy card or current brokerage statement that shows proof of ownership of a minimum of 100 Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. shares.
- Carnival Corporation, Carnival Cruise Lines, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, Holland America, Princess Cruises, Seabourn, Windstar: Onboard credit is available to shareholders who hold at least 100 shares of Carnival Plc or Carnival Corporation. Tour conductors, travel agents cruising at discounted rates, employees or anyone traveling on reduced rates are excluded from the offer. The benefit isn't transferable and not combinable with other shipboard offer. It can't be used for casino charges/credits and gratuities that are charged to your onboard account. One onboard credit is allowed per shareholder-occupied cabin. Shareholders have to provide the following info to the travel agent together with their initial deposit:
- Ship and sailing date
- Reservation number
- Proof of ownership of Carnival plc or Carnival Corporation shares (shareholder proxy card's photocopy, shares certificate, nominee statement, or current brokerage).
Onboard credit is actually virtual cash. And there are few places onboard the cruise ship where you cannot spend it (though these vary by line). Ask line's representative about any onboard restrictions. Following are the most popular ways to spend the shipboard credit money on cruise ships:
- Specialty Restaurants. Ships continuously add new alternative dining venues. Your credit may be better than any specialty dining package, because these certificates are usually limited to specific restaurants. Use your own account to ensure that you choose the venues.
- A la carte items. There are a large variety of complimentary offerings onboard cruise ships. The unique treats at sea are fun but full of added fees. Use your onboard credit to forgo the buffet for Ben&Jerry's or regular for specialty coffee.
- Drinks. Alcoholic beverages are seldom found free of charge, unless you're cruising with a luxury line. Alcohol packages are a good deal, but if you need just a couple of beers, using shipboard credit is a better way.
- Shore Excursions. A significant (but pricey) part of cruise experiences are shore excursions. Applying your onboard credit to excursions provides a free way to embark on special shore experiences.
- Private islands. Onboard account applies to all purchases made when you make a port call to your line's private island (Cococay or Labadee with Royal Caribbean). This includes private cabana reservation.
- Spa Treatments. Onboard credit for spa applies to anything on the treatment menu - the list could be a long one. Wrapping in seaweed, painting nails purple, getting a trim for formal night. Onboard credit allows you to pamper with no need to have deep pockets.
- Photos. A formal night portrait is always in the gallery of every cruising family. Onboard credit can turn the photographer into your personal paparazzi, immortalizing you for generations to come.
- Souvenirs. Onboard credit is like a gift card, applicable to most purchases onboard. Designer stores make their appearance at sea, and why should you wait to buy the item you have always wanted? Buy it in the middle of ocean, and make any purchase memorable.
- Casino play. Casinos on some lines are off-limits if it comes to shipboard credit. Before hitting the slots, check if your cruise company allows it. The casino could double your onboard credit easily, or... lose it all. At least you'll have fun.
- Gratuities. Cruisers have to budget for onboard gratuities, unless they book an offer with prepaid service charge. Using shipboard credit for tips is not allowed on all lines, so check before the voyage in order to plan accordingly.
- Internet packages. Some travellers are terrified by the idea to be out of touch during their vacation. If you need to stay connected, Internet at sea is much expensive and difficult undertaking, but however, speed continues to improve. So, why don't you use your onboard credit and share some photos with an umbrella cocktail in hand?
If you have remaining onboard credit at the end of voyage, it's applied to your charge account. And in case there is still credit left (which is extremely unlikely), then you lose credit and you can't get the left over shipboard credit back as cash - it's a "use it or lose it".