The Best Way to Use Your Onboard Cruise Credit

When it comes to cruising, it’s really important to make sure you get the best value for your money. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of ways to use your onboard cruise credit and cruise like a pro!

What is an onboard cruise credit?

Onboard credit is the amount pre-paid to you by your cruise line to on your onboard account. You can spend this “pocket money” onboard the cruise ship however you want. Each time you make a purchase, the amount is deducted from your cruise credit balance.

It is a marketing incentive to encourage your to book your vacation with a particular cruise line.

Often you can get an onboard credit as part of a promotion at the time of booking. The money will be available to be used on all of the onboard services on the cruise ship and is a great perk to have and one of the ways in which you can save money on your cruise.

Of you are planning a cruise and this is the first time you cruise, ask for the onboard credit perk from your cruise line if it is not already included in your offer.

Most people tend to ask if onboard credit can be refunded or if you can opt for cash instead. The answer to that question is no. Once you use your onboard credit you are not able to get a refund for anything remaining. Any amount over cannot go back into your pocket.

So keep in mind how much you have left before purchasing something. Because there will not be any refunds or exchanges later on. It’s better to spend it and enjoy it during your vacation on something you want!

Tips for getting the most out of your onboard credit and how to turn your credit into real savings


1) Use an onboard cruise credit for gratuities

Many cruise lines include gratuities (tips) in the price of the cruise. If this is not the case, it is often a fixed fee that you pay when you check out at the end of your cruise.

To ensure that the cost of your gratuities onboard do not spiral out of control, it vital you get exact information from your cruise line about this cost.

Ask if you can prepay gratutiies. Then you do not have to worry about tipping onboard. Although may passengers do choose (in addition to prepaying gratuities) to give a little extra to certain personel.

It can depend on in which region you live whether the cruise line includes this in the price of your cruise. Rules for booking if you are living in the U.K, mainland Europe, or in the USA can vary.

That being said, if you want to take full advantage of your onboard cruise credit, use it to pay for your gratuities.

You’ll still be able to tip them afterwards but this way you don’t have any extra cash burning a hole in your pocket while on vacation!

2) Sign up for loyalty programs to get free onboard cruise credit

It is free of charge to join the cruise line’s membership program. You will be allocated a membership number. So even if you have already booked your cruise, call the cruise line and ask them to link your membership number to your booking.

That way you can earn loyalty points immediately. As you earn points you will be entitled to extra perks the more nights your cruise on future vacations. And points mean extra such as free onboard credit.

3) Book your shore excursions with your onboard cruise credit

Book shore excursions ahead of time through the cruise line, through your cruise planner and by using your onboard credit allowance. If the cruise line’s booking system does not allow you to do this, call the cruise line directly and book cruise excursions over the phone and be sure to tell them to debit your onboard cruise credit so you don’t actually pay extra for them.

Make sure to get off the ship during port calls if they’re offered. The last thing you want is to go home thinking “I wish I would have done this.” You will have plenty of time to use your onboard credit during the evenings or on sea days.

If you shore excursion requires a special visa, this is often sometime the cruise line will arrange as part of the excursion when booking, for example when visiting St. Petersburg, Russia.

4) Spa Treatments are a great way to use on board cruise credit

Use your onboard credit to splurge on a massage. Spa treatments can be pricey, so if you can allocate some of your on board cruise credit to really indulge and book a spa treatment to start your vacation off on the right relaxing note!

5) Buy or Upgrade your beverage package

Cruise beverage packages are expensive. If you are lucky enough to get this included in the price of your cruise as part of a promotion, you most likely have the least expensive drinks package included, often known as a “classic” beverage package.

If you enjoy specialty cognacs, single malt whiskey, pricier cocktails etc then you may want to use your on board credit to upgrade you existing drinks packages. Check out the cruise lines website to see how the packages differ and if you think it’s worth spending your credit to upgrade your packge.

If you do not have a beverage package including in your booking, then on board cruise credit is a great way to help you to pay for adding this extra.

6) Book a specialty restaurant

On most cruise ships, on board credit can be used at any of the specialty restaurants. This means that you can enjoy a specialty dinner in a new setting without having to worry about the cost.

And some of these specialty restaurants are fantastis. Tuscan Grille on Celebrity cruise ships offers great Italian cuisine and wines. Whilst Royal Caribbean offers our favorite, Wonderland restaurant. You eat in a whimsical setting inspired by Alice in Wonderland film with dishes that are brilliantly artistic.

It’s all about enjoying yourself while you’re on vacation. So splashing out on specialty restaurants is a favorite way to spend that on board credit.

7) On board activities or Wi Fi packages that cost extra

Not absolutely every activity on board your cruise ship will be free of charge. For example, often bowling, go-karting or zip-lining on board comes with an extra charge. On board cruise credit is a great way to “pay! for these activities. After all, you may only do this once in your life – why not now when you cruise?

If you want to surf the internet or keep in contact with friends and family back home, then purchase a Wi Fi package from the cruise line. Use you cruise credits to pay for it if it doesn’t come included when booking your cruise.

8) Professional photographs

Most cruise ships offer professional portrait photography sessions. These can be a great way to capture memories of your vacation. Sessions typically cost around $20-$30, but using your on board credit can save you money.

9) Shopping for souvenirs with on board cruise credit

Finally, consider using your on board credit to purchase souvenirs or other items from the ship’s gift shop. This is a great way to get some extra value on your cruise vacation. And you’ll be able to take home some reminders of your amazing cruise. Leave some spare room in your cruise packing to bring them all home with you.

Meet the Author

Mattias has nearly 2 decades of travel industry expertise, working with cruise lines, tour operators, airlines, IT providers, hospitality suppliers and everything else in between that makes the travel industry tick. more..