When it comes to cruising, tastes and preferences inevitably vary from one cruiser to the next. But if there's one thing that we can all agree on, it's the appeal of having an onboard credit. What's not to like about free money?
As with most major cruise lines, you can pay for goods and services on a Royal Caribbean cruise using onboard credits (OBC). When acquired, this free money appears on your SeaPass account, affording you an additional means to enjoy goodies that aren't included in your cruise fare.
Although OBC doesn't grow on trees, there are several ways to get your hands on these coveted credits -- and even more ways to spend them. Read on to discover how to get onboard credit on your next Royal Caribbean cruise, and how to use your OBC like a pro.
The most straightforward way to get ahold of onboard credit is through the various deals and offers available when you book your cruise. Royal Caribbean often includes OBC alongside other perks in their online deals. The most eye-catching deals are typically found during big promotion days -- like Black Friday or Cyber Monday -- and you can sign up for email alerts to stay informed.
Royal Caribbean's website, however, is not the only place to find deals that include OBC. You can also find them in Cruise Critic's Deals page. Additionally, booking with a travel agency may be a worthwhile strategy, as onboard credits are commonly offered as promotional items from time to time.
The amount of OBC you can pick up from these promotions will vary, and depends on the type of cabin you book. Expect onboard credit deals for inside cabins to be lower than the dollar amount afforded to those who book suites or balconies.
Another effective way to score onboard credit when booking your cruise is to make your reservation while you're currently sailing. Royal Caribbean's onboard sales program, dubbed NextCruise, provides several perks and incentives -- like reduced deposits, discounts for third and fourth guests, and extra OBC.
The amount of onboard you can receive through the NextCruise program will vary depending on several factors like cabin size, length of itinerary and ship. But the NextCruise program is a profitable to score onboard credit: netting up to $600 in OBC isn't unheard of, particularly if you're booking a longer sailing in a suite.
Fittingly, branded credit cards offer another way to get your hands on onboard credit. Royal Caribbean offers a co-branded Visa credit card with Bank of America that operates on a points-reward system. For every 10,000 points you accrue on purchases with your credit card, you will receive $100 in OBC. You also get bonus points when you sign up for the card, and you can immediately cash those in for onboard credit as well.
Royal Caribbean shareholders are also entitled to onboard credits per sailing, and they are applicable on any eligible Royal Caribbean International or Celebrity Cruises voyage. You'll need to own a minimum of 100 shares to obtain this benefit, and the value of the OBC will depend on the number of nights you sail: you get $50 OBC per stateroom on sailings of 5 nights or less, $100 on sailings of 6-13 nights and $250 on sailings of 14 nights or more. This shareholder benefit can be redeemed online but note that you should submit your request at least 2-3 weeks before your sail date to ensure they're credited to your account on time.
Other ways to obtain onboard credit are purely accidental. If Royal Caribbean has to cancel your cruise, they will typically make up for it by offering you future cruise credits for an amount equal to the canceled cruise, and some amount of onboard credit. Alternatively, if something goes wrong during your cruise -- like a mechanical or operational issue, a billing error or if you encounter service that isn't up to standard -- you may be offered onboard credit as a goodwill gesture.
You also have the option of purchasing onboard credit or converting gift cards and gift certificates into OBC through Royal Caribbean's online Cruise Planner. Sure, this method may take away the thrill of having 'free money,' but it's still money that you get to spend on board your cruise, which leads us to...
The sky's the limit when it comes to spending your onboard credits on your voyage. Since cash and credit cards are not accepted as a form of payment on board your Royal Caribbean cruise for individual transactons your SeaPass card is your only means of purchasing anything onboard that's not included in your cruise fare. This is, naturally, tied to your credit card, or a cash deposit left with the Reception Desk at embarkation.
One savvy, if not terribly exciting way to use your onboard credit is to spend it on gratuities. Everyone who sails on a Royal Caribbean cruise has to pay gratuities, and while you do have the option of pre-paying them begore you sail, it's wise to use your onboard credit on this unavoidable expense.
If you'd rather spend your onboard credits on yourself, there are plenty of options for that, too. One popular alternative is to 'drink your OBC.' As with most major cruise lines that are not all-inclusive, soft drinks and alcoholic drinks are not included in your cruise fare. Royal Caribbean offers drinks packages as well as the option to purchase drinks as-you-go. In both cases, you can use your OBC to quench your wet your whistle.
Similarly, you can also spend your onboard credits on Royal Caribbean's specialty restaurants. While the cruise line has several dining venues included on your fare -- like Coastal Kitchen, Sorrento's Pizza, the fleetwide Windjammer and, of course, the Main Dining Room -- many other onboard eateries and cafes charge a fee. These include venues like Johnny Rockets, Portside BBQ, Giovanni's Italian Kitchen, Izumi, Jamie's Italian by Jamie Oliver, Chef's Table, Samba Grill, The Mason Jar, 150 Central Park and Starbucks Coffee, among others.
And just like with drinks, your OBC is good for either dining a la carte or for purchasing a dining package, offering you plenty of food for thought when deciding what to do with your onboard credit.
As the saying goes, man shall not live by bread alone, and your onboard credits grant you access to other purchases that go beyond culinary indulgences. Spa treatments, fitness classes, professional photos, Wi-Fi packages and items at the onboard stores and boutiques are all acquirable with OBC. Ditto if you'd like to try your luck at the casino, or take in a round of bingo. Maybe your OBC can help you win big.
If you're not sure how best to spend your credits onboard, you could opt for Royal Caribbean's unique The Key Program, which entitles you to an array of perks. Some of these benefits include priority boarding and debarkation, Wi-Fi access, VIP seating at shows, carry-on bag drop-off and more. One thing to note about his program, however, is that if you decide to get it, everyone older than six in your suite must also purchase it (prices range $20 and $34 per person per day but are subject to change). Also, you can only purchase The Key passes online before you sail and there are a limited number of passes available, so act quickly if you do decide this is the OBC purchase you want to make.
Although you can't quite spend your onboard credit off the ship, you can use it to purchase or to partially pay for the shore excursions that Royal Caribbean offers in ports of call. There is, however, one notable exception: Perfect Day at CocoCay. Many activities are free here, but your OBC can be applied towards any of the premium activities at Royal Caribbean's island, like the Up, Up and Away balloon ride, exclusive Coco Beach Club or the Thrill Waterpark.
While your OBC is very valuable during your voyage, it's worthless once your cruise ends. Even if you're booked to sail again on Royal Caribbean, you won't be able to roll over any unused credits between sailings. So, make sure you not only spend them wisely, but also spend them thoroughly
Updated August 16, 2022