Cruise On Board Credits (OBC): How Can You Use Them?

20 Best ways to Use On Board Credits on a Cruise

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20 Best Ways to Use Your On Board Credits on a Cruise (OBC’s)

If your travel agent or cruise line has offered you On Board Credits (OBC), you may be wondering how they work, and exactly how you can use them. 

In this post, I’m going to be sharing everything about on board credits, including 20 ways you can use them to make the most of your cruise vacation.

What is Onboard Credit or OBC?

An onboard credit, often referred to by it’s acronym OBC is basically a shipboard cash credit. OBC’s are often given by the cruise line or travel agency as a promotion or incentive to book. On board credits can be used towards most items related to your cruise vacation, just like cash. While an OBC is generally used once on the cruise ship, in some cases you can use it before your cruise to make payments on shore excursions and other packages.

Onboard credits can also be part of a perks package by your cruise line. There are several ways to get even more onboard credits, which I’ll share below.

Most of the time, the OBC is not refundable, so it must be used during your cruise.

Refund or FCC for canceled cruise - cruise ships in st marteen

Can I use my onboard credit to make online purchases or reservations before my cruise?

In some cases your OBC will only appear on your account when you get on the ship, and can be used once onboard. This is often the case with a travel agent bonus, such as when booking into a group.

However other times you can access your OBC even before boarding, which allows you to pre-purchase certain items online before your cruise. It may even be half and half.

I promise it’s not as complicated as it sounds. To find out about your options, you can ask your travel agent or cruise line vacation planner, however there’s another way.

Simply log in to your reservation in your cruise planner or personalizer. In many cases you’ll see a ship board credit in your account, in which case you can use it to book excursions, purchase beverage packages, etc.

We enjoy having access to our OBC before our cruise, as we book our favorite excursions in advance. However, either way, we always find ways to use it!

20 Best Things to do with OBC's on a cruise
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What can you use the OBC for?

On board credits are amazing! It really is like having extra money for your cruise.

This is why it’s important when deciding on booking a cruise, to look beyond the price of the cruise to see if any extras are included. A slightly higher priced cruise may include a specialty dining package, free gratuities, or a good amount of on board credits.

We love having an OBC for our cruises! It allows us to book and pay for some “extras” that perhaps we wouldn’t have purchased otherwise as well as any practical purchases.

The onboard credit can be used on almost any cruise expense. In most cases, your on board credit isn’t refundable if you don’t use it during your cruise vacation, so make sure you use it and enjoy!

Here’s a list of 20 ways that you can use your OBC for practical on board purchases or to treat yourself on your cruise

Regal Princess Retreat Pool

1. Gratuities – Since gratuities will appear as a daily charge on your ship board account, you can use your OBC’s to pay for this.

2. Shore excursions – Don’t underestimate how great a shore excursion can be. While not necessary in every cruise port, taking a tour or doing an activity you’ve always wanted to do, such as swimming with dolphins, could be well worth it.

3. Drinks – Drinks can really add up on a cruise, and OBC’s are perfect to offset the cost.

4. Drink packages – It may be worth it to purchase a drink package, which may be alcoholic or non-alcoholic.

cruise ship martini bar

5. Specialty restaurants – Some of our best dinners have been in the cruise specialty restaurants. Consider splurging on the steakhouse or another specialty dining experience.

6. Shopping in the onboard boutiques – The duty-free shopping is actually pretty good on most cruise ships. You’ll convenience store items, logo wear, brand name luxury goods, high end jewelry and watches, a souvenir shop, and your favorite cruise line swag.

Celebrity Cruises Logo Shops

7. Spa treatments – pamper yourself with a massage or other spa treatment. As a tip, look our for first day specials and port day promotions.

8. Hair and nail salon – Would it feel amazing to get your hair done for formal night? Perhaps a manicure or pedicure during a sea day would be nice?

9. Fitness center classes (with fees) – While the gym on a cruise ship is included, and there are some free classes, there are also some that have an extra fee. If you vowed to keep fit on your cruise, check out the Pilates and other classes available.

cruise gym class

10. Chef’s table dining experience – There are some really special dining experiences on a cruise, including 5 course meals with wine pairings that are pretty exclusive. They often only serve about 12 people a night. 

11. Behind the scenes ship and bridge tour – Sign up quick for bridge tours, as they are very popular!

12. Cruise ship photos  – If you’re on a family cruise or a romantic cruise and want to do something special to bring home the memories, get some photos taken by the ship’s photographer. You can even opt for a photo package. Make sure to sign up online to see if there are any pre-cruise discounts.

13. Specialty Coffee – You can purchase specialty coffees individually or get a coffee package

14. Internet packageCruise ship wifi isn’t as expensive as it used to be. Keep in touch with the grandkids or anyone else who isn’t able to join you on your cruise

15. Bingo – If you love Bingo, why not? Bingo cards are available once on the cruise ship.

Cruise Bingo

16. Art auction – Attending an art auction is free, however you may fall in love with a work or art and want to buy it and bring it home. Your OBCs can be used towards a print or other items.

17. Arcade – Let the kids have a small allowance to use at the ships arcade or the candy store

18. Onboard activities (where there’s an extra fee) – While there’s a lot included with the price of your cruise, there may be some additional fees for certain activities. Some examples are the race cars on Norwegian Joy or the North Star on Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas.

19. Acupuncture – Did you know you can have an acupuncture treatment on many cruise ships? In some cases you can also see a chiropractor. There are many services available on a cruise to help you rejuvenate and feel better.

20. Private Adult area – If you’re in the need of a little R & R (rest and relaxation), it can be worth it to purchase a daily or weekly pass to the ship’s exclusive adult area. Check these out to see if your cruise ship has one, and what it includes.

Things you wouldn’t think of – The truth is there’s so much available to do, see, and experience on a cruise vacation, that it’s impossible to think of them all. However, in most cases, if there’s an additional cost on your cruise, you can use your OBC to pay for it.

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What can’t you use the OBC for?

An on board credit is almost as good as cash, but it does have its limitations. These are the things that you aren’t able to buy with your OBC.

  • future cruise deposit
  • flights
  • ships medical services
  • items off the cruise ship

How can you get more Onboard credits?

travel agency DP

Onboard credits are often given by the cruise line and/or a travel agent as a promotion when you book a cruise. In some cases, cruise lines have referral credits, like Princess cruises.

When booking a future cruise onboard (even an open booking), you’ll also receive OBC’s either for this cruise or to use on your next cruise, depending on the cruise line.

Other ways to get more OBCs include military benefits, past passenger promos, shareholder credits, regional promotions. It always pays to ask your travel agent about this.

Finally, OBC’s are sometimes given as good will gestures, such as a compensation for an issue onboard a cruise ship or even as a resolution to a complaint you may have made.

Suggested: How to Handle a Complaint on a Cruise and Actually Get Results

How to use your onboard credits on your cruise
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What if you don’t use all your on board credit?

Most of the time on board credits are non refundable, as they are meant to be used during your cruise. There are a couple exceptions to this, but if you’ve been given OBC’s as a gift or promotion, this wouldn’t apply.

If you really can’t think of how to spend it all on the ship, consider shopping in the duty free shops and purchasing something special. This can be souvenirs, liqueur, or even a beautiful handbag or gorgeous piece of jewelry.

Read next27 Cruise Travel Hacks Repeat Cruisers Swear By

Final thoughts: On Board Credits (OBC) – How Can You Use Them?

Onboard credits are just as good as cash on a cruise, and can actually be a great way to get even more enjoyment out of your cruise vacation! You can use OBC’s on things you may have bought anyway, or to treat yourself to a special activity, onboard experience or even a gift from the cruise ship boutiques. 

I hope I’ve answered your questions about on board credits and how they work. If you do need more information, please leave a question in the comments below.

Have you had onboard credits on a past cruise? If so, how do you like to use them?

Happy cruising!

Ilana xoxo

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