How to Get and Use Cruise On Board Credits (OBC)

20 Best ways to Use On Board Credits on a Cruise

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If you’ve booked a cruise, you may have been given on board credits by the cruise line or your travel agent. In fact, may people accumulate a fair amount of on board cash credits, and wonder what to do with them

In this post, I share how you can use your on board credits, OBC’s for short, and answer a few common questions from cruise passengers.

What is Onboard Credit or OBC?

What is an onboard credit? An on board credit is a shipboard cash credit. On board credits 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. This includes excursions, drinks and gratuities for crew.

Most of the time, on board credits are non transferable and non refundable, so they must be used during your cruise. OBC is an acronym for on board credit, part of the “cruise lingo” you’ll want to know before you cruise.

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

Can You Use Your On Board Credit to for Pre-Cruise Purchases?

In some cases, your on board credits will only be visible on your account once you board your cruise ship. In those cases, you’ll only be able to use your OBC’s onboard.

However, many times you will be able to see and use your on board cash credits to make purchases, such as book shore excursions or drink packages, online before your cruise.

20 Best Things to do with OBC's on a cruise
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20 Best Ways to Use Your On Board Credits on a Cruise

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 on board credits on 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.

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 On Board

 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? You can even treat yourself to a manicure or pedicure on a sea day.

9. Fitness Centre Classes

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

 There are some really special dining experiences on a cruise. The Chef’s Table, at around $75 per person, is a 5 course meal with wine pairings that are pretty exclusive. They often only serve about 12 people a night so sign up early.

11. Behind the Scenes Ship and Bridge Tour

Sign up quick for bridge tours, as they are very popular!

12. Professional 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. Wifi Package

 Cruise ship internet is a bit pricey. If you need to work or simply want to keep in touch, consider using your OBC’s to purchase a wifi package. 

15. Bingo

If you love Bingo, why not play? 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 cruise ship 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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When On Board Credits Cannot Be Used

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.

One of the cruise hacks many seasoned cruisers use to get more on board credits, is to book their next cruise onboard. When booking a future cruise onboard, you’ll receive on board credits that you can either use for this cruise or on your next cruise.

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 Up 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.

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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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