How to spend your onboard credit

Onboard Credit

You just found out that you are going to receive Onboard Credit on an up coming cruise. Congratulations!!

First time recipients of Onboard Credit (OBC) may have many questions about the ins and outs of OBC, even if they are experienced cruisers.

Here is a guide to understanding Onboard Credit and how you can use it on your cruise.

The Basics of Onboard Credit

Onboard Credit (OBC) is just that, credit.   Having OBC means that  you start with a credit on your onboard account. Cruise ships, in general, are cashless. Your stateroom key card is also a charge card. It becomes your primary method of payment while you are onboard.  As you  charge items on your cruise, any credit balance  from OBC will be debited before you end up having a balance on your account.  Think of your OBC as a gift card that you can use to enhance your cruise vacation.


Sources of Onboard Credit

There are many sources of Onboard Credit. You can receive OBC as part of a cruise line promotion, from  your travel agent, from points on a cruise line sponsored credit card, from booking a future cruise while at sea,  or perhaps through your loyalty program.   Since Onboard Credits can come from many sources, it is important to know that not all OBC works in exactly the same way. Please check the FAQ section on your cruise line’s website before you try to spend your OBC.

 Great ways to use your Onboard Credit

Shore Excursions

While you could be tempted to stay on the ship for your entire cruise, don’t do it. Every port of call is an adventure waiting to happen.

Whether you want to see the major sites, hang out on a beach, feed your adrenaline addiction, or see one of the wonders of the world, there is probably a cruise line sponsored shore excursion made just for you. Book an excursion, pay for it with your OBC and enjoy your day in port.



Many people use their OBC to fund their very own custom beverage package.  This allows great  flexibility at sea.  Using OBC you are never limited to the guidelines of a pre-paid beverage package. Some beverage packages are very limited in the scope of their purchasing power. You may be limited to just soda, just water and juice or find out that your package will not cover that  fancy martini you have been dreaming of  for months.

So, if you want a specialty coffee or tea,  a mocktail, a bottle of wine or champagne, a premium cocktail, a smoothie or a bottle of sparkling water, OBC has the flexibility to provide you with the beverage you want, when you want it, on your own terms.



Gratuities that are not pre-paid before embarkation will automatically appear daily on your onboard expense account.  In the cruise industry, which generally pays very low wages, tips from passengers have always been an essential boost to crew members’ income. Currently most non-luxury cruise lines will automatically add  gratuities of between $12 USD to $16 USD. The amount of  gratuities paid is usually dependent on the type of  stateroom in which passengers are booked.

On a recent cruise, our daughter’s  gratuities were completely covered by the OBC we received from our Travel Agent.  For our 11 NIght Best of Western Mediterranean cruise on  Celebrity Reflection both my wife and I had 4  promotional perks from Celebrity. We each enjoyed unlimited internet, pre-paid  gratuities, a premium drink package and $150 of OBC.  Since our daughter’s gratuities were covered by our Travel Agent’s  OBC, it was just as though they were prepaid just like ours.


Onboard Photography

Have you have had your photo taken by one of the ubiquitous photographers working on board or on the gangway, and loved it?   Do you always get a formal or family portrait taken on every cruise?  Forget  worrying about the price that treasured memory will cost. Use you OBC to buy your favorite prints on your next cruise.


Laundry and Dry Cleaning

Laundry and Dry Cleaning services, during a cruise, are  less expensive than you might imagine.  If your favorite suit, shirt, skirt or dress gets wrinkled beyond what you can fix yourself, use your OBC and send it out to get laundered, dry cleaned or pressed.



Spa and Salon treatments and Services


Massages, acupuncture, facials, hair and nails, teeth whitening, aromatherapy, scrubs, body treatments and wraps,  all of these spa and salon treatments and services can be yours and paid for with your OBC.  To make your OBC stretch a little further in the spa, check out your daily calendar for package specials. You may also find some discount on pricing during embarkation day or when the ship is docked in port.



Unlike land based hotels and resorts that offer free Wi-Fi to their guests, if you want to stay connected at sea it is going to cost you. What you get in terms of internet service at sea and what you pay varies widely among different cruise lines. Check on internet offerings from your cruise line during the planning stages of your trip. Internet charges will be reflected on your expense account at the end of the cruise. You can use OBC to cover or defray your shipboard internet needs. Let your OBC keep you connected.



Alternative Dining Venues

Specialty Dining Venues

Specialty Dining Venues vary from cruise line to cruise line and ship to ship. One thing they all have in common is that they are not included in your cruise fare. Some feature a cover charge while others offer an À la carte menu.  Treat yourself to a more upscale dining experience at sea and use your OBC to pay your cover charge at a specialty restaurant on your next cruise vacation.

À la carte Venues

Not all specialty dining venues features a cover charge. Premium ice cream and gelato, specialty coffees and sushi are usually for an additional fee. Use your OBC at  outlets  such as Ben and Jerry’s on Royal Caribbean,  the Cafe al Bacio & Gelateria  on Celebrity, and Bonsai Sushi on Carnival.


Room Service

Sadly, the days of  complimentary  room service on cruises has pretty much come to an end. While you can still find many complimentary  items on a room service menu, more and more cruise lines are adding a la carte and premium items that come at extra expense. Also gone is complimentary room service around the clock. Want a late night snack? On most cruise lines, you will have to pay a service fee for late night room service.

Want to feel like it’s like the good old days? Use you OBC to cover the increased costs of room service at sea. While gratuities are not added for room service or required, it is nice to keep some small bills to tip the crew member who brings you your food.

Artwork from the Gallery or Art Auction

Based on the crowds I see in the art gallery, the invitations I receive, and the excitement that emanates from Art Auctions, I would say that art is a big part of some folks cruise vacations.  As with all purchases on board, art work bought at sea is charged to your stateroom account. This means that your OBC can finance your art purchases during your cruise vacation.


 Retail & Duty Free Shopping

Most cruise ships have a number of retail outlets. On a typical ship, you will usually find a shop that sells cruise line souvenirs, basic toiletry items and basic health needs, a high-end jewelry store, a designer fashion shop, a perfume and cosmetics shop and a duty-free shop selling alcohol and tobacco.  As well, there are always pop up sales of clothing, accessories and jewelry happening somewhere on the ship that are listed in your daily planner.  Retail purchase are paid for by your stateroom key card and go onto your expense account. Think of all the shopping you could do with your OBC.

 On a personal note, my family has a  bit of a fridge magnet problem. One way that we document our adventures is with fridge magnets purchased along the way. Cruise ship magnets figure prominently in our collections. OBC can be used in the gift shop and on deck for all sorts of souvenirs and cruise ship swag and have funded a magnet or two in the past.


Casino Game Play

The use of OBC in the casino varies from cruise line to cruise line. Make sure to check with  casino staff   to see if you can charge some chips or slot game play to your onboard account or use OBC.

This past summer, on Celebrity Reflection, I was able to use some OBC in the casino. The cashier loaded slot credits onto my SeaPass Card. I was informed that those slot credits could not be cashed out. However winnings could be cashed out.  I ended up winning and walked away with some cold hard cash.

One final note,

I have tried to make this post as generic as possible to show the many ways that Onboard Credit can be utilized on your next cruise vacation.  Please keep in mind that each cruise line treats Onboard Credit differently. As well, since Onboard Credits can come from many sources, it is important to know that not all OBC  is created equally.  Please check out OBC guidelines for your particular cruise line. Also, please understand, although this post references opportunities to spend your Onboard credit before you cruise,  not all OBC can be used pre-embarkation.  Onboard credit, in most cases is posted to your onboard account on the first night of sailing and is then available for your use.

Also note, in most cases, OBC is non-refundable and has no cash value

Have a great cruise and let your OBC work for  you.


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Family Guy, Educator, Lifelong Learner,
Traveller, Tourist, Travel Addict, Excursionist,
Jaunter, Wanderer, Cruiser.

Family Guy, Educator, Lifelong Learner, Traveller, Tourist, Travel Addict, Excursionist, Jaunter, Wanderer, Cruiser.
  1. This is quite a list! I never thought of using it for gratuities.

    1. Glad you liked my post. Happy Cruising

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