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How to Get More Onboard Credit: 13 Strategies for Maximizing Cruise Perks

Onboard credit is a perk that can make your cruise experience even more enjoyable. Think of it as a pre-paid account that you can use for various purchases onboard your cruise ship. From specialty dining and spa treatments to shore excursions and gift shop items, onboard credit acts like a cash substitute that you can spend without reaching for your wallet during your vacation.

Getting more onboard credit may sound challenging, but it’s achievable with the right approach. Here are some strategies to help you maximize your onboard credit:

  1. Book During Promotional Periods
  • Wave Season: The period from January to March is known as “wave season,” when cruise lines offer their best promotions, including substantial onboard credit.
  • Black Friday/Cyber Monday: Look for deals during these sales events, as cruise lines often provide generous onboard credit as part of their holiday promotions.
  • Anniversary Sales: Cruise lines may have special promotions around their anniversary dates.
Photo of happy couple learning about more onboard credit from their travel agent.

2. Leverage Travel Agents

  • Exclusive Deals: Travel agents often have access to exclusive offers that include onboard credit. They may also bundle other perks like free excursions or beverage packages.
  • Group Bookings: Travel agents can negotiate better deals and additional onboard credit if you’re booking for a group.

3. Join Cruise Line Loyalty Programs

  • Loyalty Benefits: Membership in cruise line loyalty programs often comes with privileges, including the chance to earn onboard credit. As you climb the tiers, the rewards improve.
  • Shore Excursions: Earn onboard credit for purchasing shore excursions or simply sailing with the line multiple times.

4. Use Credit Card Rewards

  • Sign-Up Bonuses: Apply for a cruise line’s branded credit card, which often includes onboard credit as a sign-up bonus.
  • Rewards Points: Use the credit card for everyday purchases to accumulate points, which you can redeem for onboard credit.

5. Take Advantage of Shareholder Benefits

  • Own Cruise Line Stock: If you own a certain amount of stock in the cruise line company, you might be eligible for onboard credit for each sailing. Check the cruise line’s website for specific details and required documentation.
  • Major Cruise Lines: Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian all offer onboard credit to shareholders who own at least 100 shares of stock. The amount of onboard credit ranges from $50 to $250 depending on the length of the cruise booked.

6. Refer Friends and Family

  • Referral Bonuses: Some cruise lines offer onboard credit if you refer friends or family who book a cruise. Both you and your referral can benefit.

7. Book Early

  • Early Booking Bonuses: Cruise lines sometimes offer additional onboard credit for early bookings. This can be an incentive for those who plan well in advance.

8. Look for Package Deals

  • Bundled Packages: Some booking packages include onboard credit as part of a larger bundle of amenities (e.g., drink packages, specialty dining, Wi-Fi).
  • Holiday and Themed Cruises: Special themed cruises or holiday sailings may come with promotional onboard credit.

9. Use Online Booking Portals

  • Exclusive Online Offers: Booking through specific online portals or cruise-focused travel websites may offer additional onboard credit as an incentive.

10. Monitor Price Drops

  • Price Matching: After booking, keep an eye on price drops. Some cruise lines will match the lower price or offer onboard credit for the difference if prices drop after you book.

11. Book Back-to-Back Cruises

  • Extra Perks: Booking back-to-back cruises can sometimes result in extra onboard credit.
  • Land and Sea Packages: Consider packages that combine a cruise with a land tour. These often come with additional perks, including onboard credit.

12. Check Special Event Offers

  • Event Promotions: Cruise lines may offer special offers during events like anniversaries, new ship launches, or holiday celebrations that include bonus onboard credit.

13. Strategic Planning for Future Cruises

  • Future Cruise Deposits: Booking your next cruise while still on a cruise can reward you with onboard credit. Visit the future cruise reservations desk and place a deposit, often lower than the standard amount.
  • Rebooking Onboard: If you are enjoying your current cruise and already contemplating the next one, rebook onboard to gain added perks such as room upgrades, additional credits, or discounted fares.

Closing Thoughts

Maximizing onboard credit can help elevate your cruise experience without extra out-of-pocket expenses. By leveraging promotional periods, loyalty programs, travel agent deals, and strategic planning, you can accumulate significant onboard credit. This allows you to indulge in specialty dining, luxurious spa treatments, exciting shore excursions, and more — ensuring you get the most value and enjoyment out of your time at sea.

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