Cruise On-Board Credit Tips: How to get it, and what you can and cannot spend it on

Cruise On-Board Credit Tips

Cruise On-Board Credit Tips: How to get it, and what you can and cannot spend it on

In this article you will get my top cruise onboard credit tips. How to get it, and what you can and cannot spend it on. I was lucky enough to have a lot of onboard credit recently, and that got me thinking – how do you get onboard credit, and what’s generally the best things to spend it on?

What is on-board credit?

So, the best way to think about onboard credit is that it’s free money. It’s a bit like someone giving you a gift card or some cash to go and spend on whatever you like! Commonly abbreviated as “OBC” or referred to as “shipboard credit”, onboard credit can be thought of as cash for you to spend on board.

How do you get onboard credit?

#1 Promotions

The first way is promotions from the cruise lines. So, when they do promotions, you’ll find when itineraries are launched (especially when there are lots of deals and incentives to encourage you to book) the cruise line will normally also throw in some onboard credit.vThis will usually be per person or per cabin, and this can mount up to quite a lot depending on the grade that you book.

#2 Booking incentives

The other way that you get onboard credit, linked to that, is if you book your next cruise on the ship. When you’re on another cruise, they pretty much always will throw in on-board credit incentives (scaling upwards based on the length of the cruise).

cruise ships grand turk

#3 Booking via an agent

If you book with an agent (either online or offline) you’ll often find that cruise agents will throw in other incentives to try and get you to book with them and often they are able to offer extra onboard credit and certainly when you’re booking with an agent ask them if there’s any opportunities they’ll often throw in some extra credit.

#4 Price drops you track

One of the ways that I have been very successful at getting onboard credit is by tracking the price of a cruise. Once I’ve booked a cruise, what I do is I keep an eye on what the prices are for the grade that I’ve booked. If you see the price falling dramatically, I either talk to my agent or if I booked directly with the cruise I say to the cruise line “I see that my cabin is now being sold for so many hundred dollars less – what are you going to do?” They’ll offer an either an upgrade, or what they prefer to do, is offer you on board credit.

For example, the cruise that I’ve just come off on, there was a dramatic reduction in price because the itinerary was changed. I ended up getting $400 of onboard credit because that was the difference in price! This is one of the key onboard credit tips to remember.

#5 Loyalty Programs

As you work your way up the different tiers, you’ll find that onboard credit often gets thrown in as one of the benefits – so loyalty to a cruise line is another great way of getting onboard credit.

#6 Cruise Credit Cards

Some of the cruise lines nowadays have their own credit cards, so if you’re a member of their credit card and you spend and you build up points instead of being able to use those for other things, you can convert those into onboard credits.

If you really love a particular cruise line, check if they have a credit card. You’ll find that a lot of the really big well-known names increasing have a credit card so it’s a great way of just doing your everyday spending and building up credits to your next cruise.

#7 Compensation

If you have a problem on board, that’s another way of getting onboard credits – through compensation. If you have a problem with service or your cabin and the cruise line is not able to resolve it, be cheeky and ask if they’re prepared to give you any onboard credit as compensation (because that is an easier way of them keeping passengers happy and of course it doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of money). Another onboard cruise credit tip to file for future reference.

Passengers boarding cruise ships

#8 Military benefits

If you’re a serving member of the military and sometimes if you’re a veteran through different ID programs, you’re often able to get honourable credit.

#9 Shareholder

If you’re a shareholder of a particular cruise company, you’ll find that you could apply for onboard credit. For example, I hold shares in the Carnival Cruise Corporation, and I use that whenever I go on a cruise. It does involve a little bit of admin because you have to contact them and send them a copy of your booking and a copy of your ship excursionOn-Board Credit Watch-outs

It’s probably first worth considering a few, probably four, key watch outs about onboard credit so you understand how it works fully before you spend it.

#1 Credit is non-refundable

In most cases on board credit is non-refundable, so if you don’t spend it on board, they’re not going to give you the cash back. So, make sure that you spend all of your onboard credit!

You can track it either by getting a printout from guest services or on the app (or the interactive television on most cruise lines) but really important you’re not going to get the cash back so make sure that you’re planning and spending all of your onboard credit when you’re on the ship.

#2 Can’t be used to pre-book/book in advance

Most cruise lines won’t let you use on book credit for things you book in advance. I was just on Oceania for example who did let you pre book things and allocate it against your onboard credit, but many other cruise lines don’t allow it.

#3 Only applicable in certain areas

The credit does differ slightly by cruise line – some cruise lines won’t let you spend on booking on certain things. the biggest and easiest guideline though when it comes to on board credit is pretty much anything that you can use your cruise card for on the ship normally you can allocate to onboard credit so that’s kind of an easy guideline. If you can use your ship-assigned key card to purchase something, you can probably use your onboard credit to pay for it. When you charge something, they first deduct it from your OBC.

cruise ships port miami

What can you spend on-board credit on?

#1 Excursions

You can find all sorts of excursions that you can allocate your onboard credit to. It’s a great way of spending on board credit because excursions can be one of the biggest costs to your cruise fare, so excursions are a really good idea to allocate onboard credit to!

# 2 Gratuities

You’ll find that on every single cruise line you can use onboard credit to offset gratuities – now there are one or two exceptions, so double check and if you’re not sure ask at guest services when you get onboard. It can get pricey with gratuities on a week’s cruise, often haven’t budget for you or you forget and that can mount up you can spend $200 or more per person on gratuities on a week on cruise so on-board credit is a great way of kind of negating that impact.

# 3 Spa Treatments

The third thing that I like to use onboard credit because I see it as sort of free money is spa treatments. Spa treatments on cruise ships can be quite costly so using onboard credit is a great way of making that more of a justifiable expense/

#4 Wi-Fi

Another great use of onboard credit is for Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi can be pretty expensive onboard, and you can use on-board credit to buy it.

#5 Drinks

Drinks are also something you could charge against onboard credit, so either buying a drinks package or drinks ad hoc. I tend to buy drinks ad-hoc using my onboard credit rather than drinks packages.

#6 Cabana/Retreat Area

If the cruise ship has a cabana area or sort of a retreat area, you can use onboard credit for specialty dining – so if you want to go and eat one of the restaurants you can use onboard credit for that.

#7 Shopping

In addition, you can use it onboard for shopping in the onboard shops, so that’s a great thing if you have gifts to buy.

#8 Photos

You can also use it for photographs onboard the ship. File that for your onboard credit tips.

#9 Treats/Snacks

You can use it for treats, so if you like speciality coffees, gelato those kind of things- in those shops you normally use onboard credit.

#10 Speciality Dining

Lastly, you can also use onboard credit for restaurants within Speciality Dining.

cruise ships docked

What can’t you use onboard credit for?

There are a few things. If you need any treatment in the medical centre, you can’t use onboard credit. Most cruise lines will also not let you use it for gambling or bingo. However, there are a couple of exceptions, and that does change over time (with Carnival and Royal Caribbean you can often use cruise onboard credits) so just double check if you’re going on those other lines.

You also can’t use the onboard credit to book your next cruise, unfortunately!

I hope the above helped. You can also watch my cruise onboard credit tips video by clicking the link below.

Watch My Video About On-Board Credit

Watch on YouTube:

I have loads more cruise tips for traveller’s videos, so why don’t you watch another one of those right now?

View more of my cruising tips.



Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 3 million video views per month.

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