Onboard Credit is essentially free money aboard a cruise ship!
Onboard Credit is essentially free money!

Two buzzwords guaranteed to get anybody’s attention would be ‘Free Money’.

We have all seen the big glossy advertisements from the cruise lines dangling potentially ridiculous amounts of onboard credit. If the proverbial carrot has proven irresistable and you’ve clicked the ad, wondering what it is exactly, you wouldn’t be the first. To sum it up, yes it really is FREE MONEY! Yes you read that right; the cruise line is giving you free money to spend aboard your cruise.

Depending on the length of your time at sea, the credit can be any amount from a handful all the way up to a few thousand, which can generally be used anywhere on the ship with the exception of the casino and medical centre. Apart from being able to physically withdraw it as cash and stuff into your socks, use is unrestricted beyond that so you can let your imagination run wild as to how you spend it, be it shore excursions, a shopping spree in the onboard boutiques or just one mighty party that runs until the funds dry up.

Make a booking for a cruise and you can receive free money to spend onboard.
Yes it’s real. Cruise lines will sometimes shower you with free money to spend onboard your cruise by making a booking.

Just be mindful of the fine print when booking your cruise as some types of onboard credit promotions are sold for use on a specific part of your cruise, such as Princess Cruises, which might restrict this credit for use on Shore Excursions. It’s also good to ensure that you aren’t paying a higher fare for any cruise that includes spending money, when some creatively worded incentives have rates that include no onboard credit but are significantly cheaper.

There are some key things you can do to ensure you get every cent you’re entitled to:

Have your past passenger number on hand when booking – This ensures you will receive every promotion to which you’re entitled applied to your booking. Cruise lines may also give onboard credit for reaching certain milestones in their loyalty program too, for example when you reach your 20th voyage.

Buy into the Future Cruise Deposit program of your favourite cruise line – Most cruise lines offer a program where you pay $100 while on your current cruise and this covers the deposit on your next cruise, a significant reduction on the usual deposit amount. As an added bonus, the cruise line will almost always give anyone who pays their deposit on a future cruise a fistful of dollars in onboard credit to spend next time you board.

Ask your travel agent – It’s one of those old cases that ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get’. Indeed, asking your travel agent to look for a fare which includes onboard credit could well prove beneficial as they may have naturally opted instead for the cheapest available – but not always the best value rate for your needs.

Keep an eye on any promotions that occur – Some but not all cruise lines let you reprice your booking if you find a better deal for the same sailing, so if a new rate comes out with large amounts of onboard credit attached to it, calling and asking your agent or cruise line to work out if you can move to the new rate will help you take advantage of new offers.

Shop around from travel agent to travel agent – Ensure you obtain multiple quotes as some may offer specials that feature larger amounts of onboard credit than a competitor.

Refer a friend and reap the benefits – Many agencies and cruise lines offer programs that reward you for referring a friend who has never cruised with that line before, usually by way of onboard credit. While these are only small incentives, if you get five or six couples referred to your favourite cruise line, you will be your cruise line’s favourite person and well on your way to a fat onboard credit on your next cruise! This is especially handy if travelling in a group where you know there will be new people to a certain cruise line!

What are your tips for maximising your onboard credit? Tell us below in the comments!

Cruise as a group and the benefits will stack up.
Bring your friends, family, neighbours, colleagues, everyone on a cruise and you’ll be the one to benefit.