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How to Get Onboard Credit

Free and Money. Are there any better, more beautiful words in the English language? Money doesn't grow on trees, but it can be found elsewhere, on the high seas. Usually it's called an incentive or a bonus but which ever you decide, onboard credit let you spend freely with less guilt. You’ve already paid your cruise fare, so now you can splurge on the extras like that Swedish massage, specialty restaurant, or an excursion to swim with the dolphins without busting your budget.

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Not many people need convincing as to why onboard credit, which is money automatically, deposited in your onboard account is a good thing. But finding out exactly how to get it and where you can spend it can be a bit more tricky. We found eight ways to hit the onboard credit jackpot and offer some suggestions on how to burn through it even though you probably will have your own ideas.

How to get it

Value-added deals

If you happen to subscribe to the email list of any major cruise line, you are receiving colorful promotions that push you to book your next cruise with a number of these incentives. These periodic promotions are usually the ones in you can find on the homepage of the cruise line website and they usually include some form of onboard credit.

You can receive them just by booking by a specified deadline. The lowest average we seen is $25 per cabin for an inside cabin, but the amount can range greatly. For a luxury line, onboard credit offers can go all the way up to $1000 per couple and beyond. Pay attention to whether the credit varies by cabin class and whether it's a per-person amount or per cabin. Amounts are often staggered by cabin category.

Booking with Travel Agencies

Whether you book with an individual travel agent or an online agency, onboard credit is a booking bonus common in the industry. Most third-party sites offer an average $100 per cabin as a booking bonus but it can vary. The larger the agency, the deeper their pockets when it comes to onboard credit. Loyalty is everything so if you worked with the same travel agent for every cruise your onboard credit amount can build over time.

Booking a Future Cruise While on a Cruise

While a cruise has you on the ship they will want to ensure that you will sail with them again. Often to lure cruisers many lines have designated sales desks on board their ships with personnel available to offer you anything to get you on a future cruise. Many say this is the ultimate way to rack up onboard credit for their next sailing. Celebrity Cruises offers $500 per cabin when you book your next cruise on board. You can also make it deposit on Norwegian and earn hundred dollars in onboard credit to spend instantly on the cruise year on.

Loyalty Program Offers

Loyalty is always the key to cruise lines. First-timers are a booming market that return cruisers are more than just bodies on a ship. They are actually brand ambassadors and from a business perspective treating your loyal passengers well is a big return on an investment. That's why onboard credit is one of the frequent awards for continued patronage. The more you sell the more perks should be awarded. Oceania has a tiered program and maxes out at $1000 per cabin for its most loyal cruisers. Norwegians Latitudes Insider Offers is a promotion that gives onboard credit up to $250 on select sailings to members only.


If you spread the good word you will be thanked. Most cruise lines do offer referral bonuses for new cruises booked by first-timers. Don't just book the cruise deal yourself, get your skeptical friends to book with you and use their bookings to obtain your own onboard credit advantage. The amount is around $25 per every referred cabin booked for Royal Caribbean. Princess on the other hand deducts $25 in the form of a discount rather than offering it as a credit.

Credit Cards

Some cruise line credit cards allow you to turn your accrued points into onboard credit which makes turning cash spent into cash made on your next cruise vacation. It seems the return on investment though is relatively low with this method. Royal Caribbean's card requires 10,000 points to equal just $100 in onboard credit.

Price Drops

You've booked and paid for your cruise but are still in the window of opportunity. If you notice that your cruise fare is dropped, many times the line will make up the difference through an onboard credit offer within a 90 day window. This form of onboard credit is money back rather than many gifted but it still beats paying a higher cruise price with nothing in return.

Become a Shareholder

If you happen to love your cruise company enough to invest money in the brand, major cruise lines offer a shareholder benefit in the form of onboard credit. It's important to check the fine print and make sure you're eligible and redeem your benefit by contacting the line 2 weeks prior to your sale date.

When Something Goes Wrong

It's never the best way to earn credit, but if something does go wrong the ship is stranded or misses a port of call or experiences a significant malfunction, or you're just not generally pleased with the service, one of the ways you can be compensated is through a future credit offer. The amount will vary depending on the situation.

Where to Spend it

Think of your onboard credit as virtual cash and there are very few places on board were you can't spend it. It's always a safe bet to check the fine print or ask a cruise line representative about the onboard credit restrictions prior to your shopping spree.

Shore Excursions

A pricey but significant part of any cruise is shore excursions. Applying onboard credit to an excursion offers a free or discounted way to embark on a special short experience.

Specialty Restaurants

This is another way to spend your onboard credit and ships are continuing to add more and more alternative dining venues. Your onboard credit may be a better deal than especially dining package.

Spa Treatments

Most of us don't have the time or money to indulge in these treatments on a regular basis but isn't that what a cruise is for? Onboard credit in the spa usually applies to anything on their treatment menu. So go ahead wrap yourself in seaweed, paint your nails or get a trim and a hot shape for the formal night. Onboard credit gives you the opportunity to pamper yourself.


Unless you're cruising with a river luxury line, alcoholic beverages are rarely free of charge. There are alcohol packages that help you say that if you only need a couple of beers or one or two premium cocktails, using onboard credit is a better way to drink for free.

A la Carte Items

There are still plenty of complementary offerings on board but it's what is not included that seems to cost so much. Sometimes frozen yogurt just isn't as good as that gourmet gelato. They availability of unique treats at sea, such as a Starbucks latte or giant cupcakes, is fun because additional fees. Don't dread the feeling of being nickeled and dined so use onboard credit as an excuse to go for that specialty coffee or Ben & Jerry's.

Private Islands

Just because you think you're on land doesn't mean your onboard credit cannot be used. If you're making a port call to your cruise lines private island then your onboard account applies to any purchases made there and this includes the reservation of a private cabana.


Onboard credit is applicable to most onboard purchases so one can purchase that commemorative model ship to a toothbrush you managed to forget. More and more designer stores are making an appearance on cruise ships thanks to brand partnerships. Now you don't have to wait to buy the iPod or the coach bag you've always wanted you can buy them in the middle of the ocean and make the purchase memorable.

Professional Photos

A long-held cruise tradition, the formal nights portraits are a staple in the gallery of every cruising ship. And as you know that endeavor isn't cheap but onboard credit can be used to turn the onboard photographer into your own personal paparazzi and this immortalize his your perfect airbrushed photo for generations to come.

Internet Packages

Some desire to get out of touch on vacation but others are terrified by the idea. If you need to connect, Internet at sea has long been expensive and rather difficult. But as speed and bandwidth continue to improve the pricing still remains the challenge. Use your onboard credit in this instance also.

Casino Play

What could be better than gambling with your own money? Gambling was somebody else's money! On some cruise lines casinos are off limits when it comes to onboard credit so check to make sure your line allows it before you hit the slots.


Cruisers always have to budget for gratuities unless they booked some cruise line that has the service charge already prepaid. That said using onboard credit for tips is and always allowed on all line so check before the start of your cruise so you can plan accordingly.