Booking a Cruise Onboard: How to Score Extras and Discounts

Next Cruise office on Harmony of the Seas (Photo: Cruise Critic)

If you're like us, you've inevitably breezed past your cruise ship's onboard sales office, ignoring the colorful brochures and promises of booking incentives. Why waste time planning your next cruise when you only have about a week onboard to spend time at the pool, play trivia for silly prizes and try your luck at the casino?

The thing is, if you're going to go on another cruise someday -- and, face it, we all know you are -- then, you'll really want to check in at the sales desk to see the kinds of deals featured. That's because your cruise line is likely to be offering onboard credit, reduced deposits or an attractive discount when you book a future cruise onboard your current sailing. Many of the cruise lines mentioned in this story let you transfer your booking to your travel agent, so you can reap any perks they offer, too. Many also let you change your cruise dates or ship or even cancel by a certain date with no penalty or fees. In most cases, you have nothing to lose if your travel plans change and everything to gain if you're going to take another cruise with that line.

A host of lines from mainstream to luxury offer onboard booking perks, though each line's offerings and booking parameters are slightly different. Here's a look at some of the key benefits the major lines offer when you book a future cruise during a sailing on their ships. Unless specifically outlined below, deposits and cancellation policies for onboard bookings don't differ from those that apply to the lines' other methods of booking a sailing.


Azamara Club Cruises

Azamara features a Future Cruise program in which cruisers can book their next trips while onboard. With an Open Passage booking, you can reserve a sailing with a reduced deposit (more than half of the usual amount) and receive up to $500 in onboard credit for the future sailing date (the amount is dependent upon selected cabin category and voyage length). You don't have to pick your sail date right away, but the deposit is nonrefundable (though there is no expiration date).

The Confirmed Passage deal also offers reduced deposits, and you pick your ship, sail date and cabin category at the time of booking. Passengers booking Confirmed Passage deals get up to $1,000 onboard credit, which varies in amount by cabin category and voyage length; the credit can be redeemed for the future or current sailing, though the deposit becomes nonrefundable if the credit is used instantly. Note that there is a limit of three future cruise bookings allowed per person.


Carnival Cruise Line

In 2017, Carnival introduced a new Future Cruise Vacation program, allowing passengers to book a new cruise at a promotional rate up to two weeks following their sailing.

The program gives passengers the option to either book the promotional rates onboard as before, or do it later, either online or through the FunHub app. Passengers who take advantage of the new program may combine Early Saver Rates with a $25 per person onboard credit up to $50 per stateroom, 50 percent reduced deposit requirement and a two-category upgrade. For those booking suites, the onboard credit is $50 per person up to $100 per stateroom, along with the other benefits.

The program has some limitations. Passengers won't be able to choose other rates, such as those for past guests or Friends and Family vouchers. Under the old program, onboard credit remained if you found a rate reduction at a later date; now, the credit will disappear if you rebook.


Future Cruise Vacations on Celebrity Infinity (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity's Future Cruise Vacations program offers reduced deposits. Passengers pay $100 each, instead of the standard deposit of $250 or $450 per person (depending on the length of the cruise) to reserve a cabin for a future cruise. You can book unlimited future cruises for yourself and up to three additional cruises for friends or family, and you can combine the booking deal with one other offer (such as the "Go Big, Go Better, Go Best" sale, for example).

Choose either the Cruise Now or Cruise Later option when reserving a cruise. The Cruise Now plan offers up to $500 in onboard cabin credit (based on the length of the sailing, the itinerary and the cabin category) for passengers who know which ship and sail date they want; the credit can then be redeemed for use on your current or future cruise. You can cancel your booking up to 90 days before your sailing date without penalty. You also can change your cruise date or ship, and, if the price drops for your cruise, you can get the better deal. The Cruise Later option is best if you know you (or a friend or family member) want to cruise but haven't yet picked a ship, destination or date, and prefer to determine those particulars later on. There is no expiration date on your reservation, and you (or they) are eligible for up to $200 in future onboard credit.


Costa Cruises  

Costa Cruises offers cruise consultants on its ships to help passengers take advantage of the line's simple future booking offer: If you reserve a cruise onboard, you get a 5 percent discount.


Crystal Cruises

Crystal Cruises' passengers who book onboard can pay a reduced $100 preliminary deposit (they can pay the remainder of the standard deposit once they're back home). Crystal also gives a 2.5 percent discount to passengers who book while onboard; repeat Crystal Cruisers are automatically enrolled in the Crystal Society past passenger program, entitling them to an additional 2.5 percent savings, too (for a total of 5 percent off a future cruise).


Cunard

Cunard Line passengers who book future voyages while still on their cruise are entitled to a future onboard credit of up to $400 each (amount varies by cabin category and cruise length booked, and is applicable only for the first two passengers in each cabin). Plus, passengers pay a reduced deposit of $300 per person (versus standard deposits of 25 percent of the total cruise fare). For longer voyages of more than 24 nights, cruisers get a 3 percent discount and a reduced deposit amount of 10 percent of the fare.


Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise Line's Future Cruise desk offers a chance to book your next sailing by putting down half the typical deposit amount when booking a cruise of seven nights or longer. You'll also get 10 percent off the prevailing rate for the cruise (in certain cabin categories and excluding peak/holiday voyages) and an onboard credit of $100 per stateroom for sailings of six nights or fewer and $200 for longer cruises. (Note these offers exclude two-night sailings.) You must travel within 24 months of the booking. You can reserve two cabins per household for one future sail date; keep in mind that travel companions not currently onboard at the time of booking are not eligible for the offer.  


Holland America Line

Holland America's Future Cruise Consultant desk offers up to $200 per person in onboard credit for the future cruise booked (the amount's based on length of sailing and stateroom category) with a deposit of $100 per person. You can choose an itinerary on your current sailing or make a future cruise deposit and take up to four years to pick your cruise.


MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises' Future Cruise Consultant program allows passengers who book onboard to receive up to $200 per cabin in onboard credit, based on ship, sail date and cabin category. Deposits can be as low as $50 per person, depending on the current available promotions and whether the passenger opts to receive an instant $200 onboard credit (in which case the deposit is nonrefundable) or to receive their credit on a future cruise (in which case cruisers can take advantage of the standard refund policy of a full refund for up to 90 days before sailing). Cruisers can book specific cruises while onboard or decide up to four years later. You can combine the reservation with certain other promotions, too.


CruiseNext promo on Norwegian Gem (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line's onboard CruiseNext program allows passengers to make a $250 deposit (per stateroom -- deposit amounts start at $500 for Haven and suite categories) to reserve a cabin on a sailing of six days or longer and gives each booked passenger $100 in instant onboard credit, meaning you use the credit on your current sailing. The CruiseNext deals are combinable with whatever other applicable promotional offering Norwegian might be offering at the time of booking. In addition, passengers get a complimentary in-category stateroom upgrade for the future cruise. While onboard, you can make up to four deposits toward future cruises (with increasing OBC amounts (up to $500 for four deposits), and you have four years to pick your sailing date before the deposit expires. You can even charge the deposit to your onboard account. Deposits, minus the amount of the instant onboard credit, are refundable within 30 days.  


Oceania Cruises

Oceania features an Oceania Club Ambassador/Future Cruise Sales desk that offers promotions for booking while onboard. Passengers can save between $200 and $9,000 per booking when they book onboard, and they'll also get $100 in shipboard credit for each booking they make to use on their current voyage. Required deposits are reduced to as low as $250 per person, and the onboard booking deals are also combinable with the line's best available promotional offer, items such as free airfare, "OLife Choice" amenities and early-booking savings. Onboard bookings come with a Best Price Guarantee, too (which can be matched until the day of the sailing), and passengers who wish to change their plans have the flexibility of a one-time change (penalties apply), which allows them to receive the applicable onboard savings for their newly selected voyage.


Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises offers future cruise sales consultants on each of its ships. You pay $100 per person to reserve a future sailing, and you can claim future onboard credit of up to $150 per passenger (based on cruise length and cabin class). You can book a specific cruise onboard or get an open reservation to sail that's good for up to two years. Your deposit is refundable if you choose not to use your reservation.


Cruise Consultant on Seven Seas Explorer (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Regent touts exclusive savings for passengers who book onboard. Cruisers get 50 percent off deposits and savings of up to $6,200 per suite, based on sailing date and suite category. Plus, passengers get a $100 shipboard credit for booking, redeemable on their current voyage. You have up to 30 days to cancel for a full refund and are able to change your selected sailing date one time for no fee. If you don't know when you want to sail, you can buy a "Future Cruise Certificate" for a $3,000 deposit. The certificate is redeemable for up to two years, and the sailing date can be outside of the two-year window.


Royal Caribbean International

Royal Caribbean features a Next Cruise booking program. You get up to $500 per cabin in future onboard credit (based on length of sailing and cabin category) and pay reduced deposits from $50 per person for your reservation. Cruisers have to pick their ships and sailing dates at the time of the reservation, though they can also opt for an open booking, which will get them a future onboard credit of up to $100 per stateroom (based on the cruise length). Each person can make up to three bookings for themselves or friends or family while onboard.


Seabourn

Seabourn features a simple savings formula for onboard bookings. Passengers get a 5 percent discount when purchasing a sailing onboard -- a $500 "Future Cruise Deposit" is required to secure it (the remainder of the initial required deposit is due within 10 days of disembarkation). If you're unsure of which cruise you want, you can purchase an "Open" Future Cruise Deposit onboard and receive the 5 percent savings toward the future cruise when it's eventually booked. The deposit expires four years from the date of purchase, and you must apply it to a sailing that embarks prior to the expiration date. If not, it will be automatically canceled on that date, and the amount paid will be credited back to the credit card used to purchase the deposit. The deposit can also be canceled and credited back at any time at your request.


Silversea

Silversea gives a 5 percent discount when booking a specific sailing or putting down a deposit on any future cruise. If you book a future voyage while onboard, you can put down a floating deposit of $1,000 per person, which secures the 5 percent savings if you convert it to an actual voyage within six months of initiating the booking. If you do not apply the deposit to an actual voyage, you can request to have it refunded in full.


Viking Ocean Cruises

Viking Ocean Cruises features dedicated Travel Consultants onboard who can book interested passengers aboard future cruises with incentives that include discounts of $200 to $500 per person (depending on the length of the cruise). Plus, passengers can change their preferred itinerary or sailing date up to four months prior to departure, without penalty.


Windstar Cruises

Windstar doesn't sell future cruises onboard its ships, but instead offers passengers an extended window to take advantage of a special 5 percent discount offer for future cruise bookings. Passengers must simply secure a new reservation within 60 days of disembarking from their cruise; reference the "Yacht Club Welcome Home" offer to take advantage of the promo.  

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