Aside from a free cruise (because let’s face it, that’s the dream), is there anything better than free money?
The free money we’re talking about is on-board credit and if you’re a first time cruiser you may be wondering just what that is; in its simplest terms, a cruise ship is a cashless environment so you don’t need to bring any money on-board.
Onboard credit can be used for anything from drinks to a spa treatment, from duty-free gems to a shore excursion, so you’ll want to know our secrets for getting more free money than the next cruiser…
Let’s Start at the Beginning
When you’re checking in onboard, you’ll register a credit or debit card with the cruise line then every time you make a purchase on-board, the price will be added to your onboard bill.
At the end of the cruise you’ll receive a copy of everything you’ve spent, and on the morning you disembark this money will automatically be taken from your account.
So we like to call onboard credit, ‘free money’. You’ll receive it for a variety of reasons, but this credit will be added to your on-board account at the start of the cruise and you’ll spend this ‘free’ money on whatever you want.
It’s worth noting you can’t take this money with you, so you couldn’t withdraw it like a cash machine to spend in a port and you definitely couldn’t take it home with you if you haven’t spent it all by the end of the cruise (so for goodness sake make sure you do spend it!)
Do Your Research
If you’re on the hunt for on-board credit, the first thing you need to do is some research; when are you looking to cruise? When are you looking to book?
As a general rule of thumb, cruise deals that come with on-board credit tend to be for people that plan ahead so make sure you are that person!
If you wait and book last minute, chances are you’ll get a good price but you wont have any on-board credit to spend. Booking early does mean you sometimes pay slightly more but guarantees your on-board bill will be a lot lower (and this always feels better once you’re actually on your cruise).
Deciding which is best for you is where the research comes in! Take a look at some offers for this year and next and try to judge which is likely to be best for you. If you’re not sure you then you may want to speak to a specialist cruise consultant which leads us nicely on to the next point…
Book With a Specialist Cruise Consultant
Sometimes in life you just need an expert, someone with in-depth, insider information that you just don’t have access to, and this applies to holidays too!
If you want someone who knows the best deals inside out and whether a ‘deal’ with on-board credit on it actually is a bargain or not, then you need someone that specialises in cruises.
You never know, they may even just add a little bit of extra OBC (on-board credit) onto your account as a thank you for booking with them (they can be very generous!)
Our specialist cruise consultant, Trish, even has some tips on how to spend it! She says: ‘Exploring new places and making new memories is such a huge part of the cruise world and a great way to spend that free money!
We all see on board credit as a little bit boring, but there is so much you can spend it on!’ Read more of her stance on onboard credit here!
Just Charge It
Okay so you’ll have to be a serious cruise fan for this one, but if you are then it may be worth shopping around for a new credit card…
Certain banks and card providers (RBS for example) have special deals in place for loyal card holders that work by giving you extra onboard credit on your cruise when you book using your credit card.
And if you’re booking the cruise anyway, that’s money for nothing- and that’s what we’re looking for!
Watch Out For That Price Drop!
We’ve all been there, you finally make a purchase after what feels like hours, days, months of umming and aahing, then all of a sudden it drops in price! Sadly, the same thing can happen with cruises too.
Book early and you’ll get lots of offers (like free parking or onboard spend), book late and you get a cheaper price.
Nine times out of ten you won’t be able to do anything about this sudden price drop after purchasing, but there are cruise lines that will help.
Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Princess will all take a look at the price drop and, in some cases, they’ve been known to give away extra on-board credit to make up the difference. So, extra onboard credit could be your saving grace…
Phone a friend
Some cruise lines actually give extra on-board credit (typically $25) if you recommend a friend after you’ve booked! So don’t be shy to shout about a certain cruise, ship or cruise line you loved; it may well (literally) pay off…
Have a Moan
Okay so it’s not the nicest of ways to get onboard credit, but if you’re not happy about something it’s worth trying your luck.
If your itinerary changes unexpectedly or if you’re late boarding (and it’s the cruise lines fault, not that you were unorganised on day of embarkation), it’s worth speaking to the cruise line.
Customer service is very important to them so they may make a gesture of good will in the form of onboard credit, and that wouldn’t hurt would it?.
Buy the Cruise Line
Relax, we don’t mean the whole cruise line. Buying a few stocks and shares though does entitle you to some extra on-board credit whenever you book.
Book a Cruise…On a Cruise
Maybe not the best advice for your very first cruise, but not bad for your second, would to be to purchase what’s known as a future cruise credit.
Booking a cruise on a cruise always gets you extra on-board credit. Don’t worry if you’re indecisive though, cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line will let you buy a ‘deposit’ on any future cruise (normally around $100) which will then give you the same amount of OBC when you use it!
Making Your Onboard Credit Last When You’re Onboard…
Getting the on-board credit is one thing, keeping it is another. Eventually you’ll need to start spending your own money but the www.CRUISE.co.uk team have several tips to stretch out your on-board credit as long as possible…
At one point, you could pre-book your shore excursion before you boarded and the money would be deducted from your on-board credit, but this is not the case anymore!
Whilst you can still pre-book shore excursions, you now have to pay for them up front so in order to use your onboard credit, you have to wait till you’re onboard to book.
This is obviously the cheaper option, but can mean the more popular excursions will already be sold out so this is a case of picking your battle. But is good news for anybody wanting to leave it to fate or to be more spontaneous on their cruise!
Treating yourself to a spa treatment that you might not normally book at home is another great use of onboard credit. but there’s an easy way to stretch the OBC even further.
Book your spa treatments on a port day- the ship will be mostly empty (with everyone off in port exploring) and cruise ship spas tend to put on port day sales.
This will sometimes mean that as much as 50% is discounted off treatments so if you’ve seen a particular port before, why not skip it and bag yourself a bit more discount and a dedicated spa day!
Don’t Waste Money on Soft Drink Packages
A lot of people use their onboard credit on buying a soft drinks package for either themselves or their kids, but they’re not always a great use of money.
This particular package will let you purchase a soft drink from any bar around the ship for free so can be a great money saver, especially if you’re travelling with a young family. However, did you know that some drinks are already free?
But it all depends on what drinks you really feel like you need everyday; if you’re a tea or coffee lover and think you can last on an unlimited supply of it everyday, then make sure you’re not using your onboard credit to pay for something you get included in the price you paid for your entire cruise!
Not to mention, most cruise lines supply you with a kettle in your room so don’t worry you’ll be topped up with teabags and coffee everyday (or better yet, stock your suitcase up with as many teabags as possible so you’ll never be without a hot drink!)
Pick and Choose
If you’re a fan of professional photos and souvenirs from your cruise then ignore this advice, but if you’re set on really getting the most out of your onboard credit then you will have to pick and choose what you really want!
Opt out of paying for the photographer’s staged photos and bring your own digital camera and smart phones; equally decide if you’d rather a souvenir from the port destination or the cruise ship itself.
Souvenirs and professional photos will beat down your onboard credit so only spend your free money on this if you fancy paying out more of your real money for your drinks later…
Don’t Answer That Email!
In recent years, cruise lines have really made steps in speeding up Wi-Fi at sea but once you lose sight of land there are more important things to worry about.
You can buy Wi-Fi access with your on-board credit and have access to your emails, social media and streaming sites if you like, but our advice would be to wait till you get to land.
You’ll make the most of your relaxing time on your floating holiday if you stay away from the normal websites you live off at home, but if you’re still desperate to feel in touch with the world we have one tip…
As you’re getting off the ship follow the crew! They’ll know exactly where all the local ‘hot-spots’ are for free Wi-Fi and they’ll be happy to share this information with you.
(Don’t) Roll the Dice…
Cruise ship casinos are a big no-no when it comes to using your on-board credit. You can buy casino chips (and hopefully win some back) with your onboard account, but you won’t be able to use any credit you have.
Best to keep to spending onboard credit on luxury spa treatments, drinks at the karaoke bar and perhaps a dreamy shore excursion at the fantastic destination you’ve just arrived at!
What do you normally spend your onboard credit on? Do you make sure you treat yourself to something nice or do you let it fritter away? Have you used any of these tips? Let us know in the comments below…
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