Well, we're about to make it really easy for you because we know exactly what the cruise-goers on your list want this year: onboard credit.
When we polled readers on the cruise gift they'd most like to receive this holiday season, more than 80 percent choose shipboard spending money over cruise-related books and memorabilia and even a snazzy new underwater camera. Frankly, we're not surprised. It's been a tough year, economy-wise, and many folks who've kept on cruising anyway tell us they've had to cut back in other areas, from shore excursions to spa treatments. So, short of a free cruise, we can't think of a better present.
How can you give the gift of onboard credit to a friend or family member who's heading out on a cruise over the holidays or in 2010? Pretty much every cruise line we've surveyed so far, from mainstream to luxury, offers an option to gift someone onboard credit. Here are some pointers:
Visit the cruise line's Web site, and do a quick search for its onboard gift ordering form. (We've included a handy list below, which directly links to more than a dozen.) Some cruise lines offer credit in increments of $25 or $50, while others leave the amounts open-ended.
You'll need your giftee's booking number to place an order. If you want the gift to be a surprise and can't snoop out the number, call a customer services representative; they may be able to look up the reservation for you and complete the order over the phone.
A caveat, though: When it comes to at-sea gifts like onboard credit, it may actually be better not to leave it as a surprise; otherwise, your benefactor (and you) will have no way of knowing something's amiss if it doesn't arrive. Our advice: Fess up ahead of time -- trust us, they'll still be excited.
If there's a seafarer on your list who simply must have something to unwrap or who isn't booked to sail in the near future, don't despair. We have plenty of other cruise-related gift ideas, from books and movies to travel gadgets and toys, in our 2009 Holiday Gift Guide.
Onboard Credit Gift Links
--by Melissa Paloti, Managing Editor