The Secret of Shipboard Credits

What? The cruise line wants to give ME money because I bought a cruise?

Yes, cruise lines love to give you money to spend on board! Why? Simple. It's away to entice you to start and keep spending on board, it can enhance your cruise experience by helping to take the "sting" out of that shipboard account bill on the last morning. Depending on the amount of the credit, they can pay from anything from a few drinks to several or all of your spa treatments or shore excursions. It's amazing how far a simple $25 per person shipboard credit can go and the mind reels at what you can do with $400 or $500 per stateroom!

We all agree that shipboard credits are great, but how do I find them and get them? It's actually very simple. Watch out for them as they sneak up in the funniest places and always ask for them! Even if you dont get one after asking, it never hurts.

Here's where and how you can find shipboard credits:

  • Past Passenger Perks: Are you a repeat cruiser with a certain cruise line or lines? Have you been getting a lot of "junk mail" from them? Don't throw them away! Shipboard Credits are an integral part of many cruise line past passenger programs.
  • Credit Card Statements: Boggled by all the little "stuffers" in your credit card bill? Do you typically throw them out? You could be missing out on a veritable Gold Mine. American Express, Discover, Master Card and Visa will commonly offer shipboard credits to their card holders when participating in promotions with cruise lines.
  • Airline Award Programs: Yes, you can find shipboard credit promotions that are offered specifically to members of Frequent Flyer Programs with certain major airlines. And many times, you'll also receive bonus mileage credits to boot!
  • Group Space: If you're booking with a group you may receive shipboard credits as part of the group's amenities. Even if you're not traveling with a "group", many agencies hold group space to promote to their clients. Ask your agent if they have any group space that has shipboard credits attached to them.
  • Large Agencies and Consortia Groups: Many larger agencies and those that belong to major Travel Industry Consortia have shipboard credits on select ships and sailing dates. Keep an eye out and always ask!
  • E mail: Sign up for the e-mail distribution lists from Cruise Lines and Cruise Retailers. Just the other day I received no less than three offers via e-mail from Celebrity, Princess and Renaissance.
  • One Day & One Week Sales: Many cruise lines and agencies hold "Cruise Sales" that may last for one day or a week or so. Keep a sharp eye out for these as Shipboard Credits are usually abundant.
  • Book & Deposit Rewards: These are becoming more and more common in the industry, especially among Luxury Lines. It is not uncommon for a cruise line to offer you a rather handsome shipboard credit for booking and placing a credit card deposit on the same day. Radisson Sven Seas pioneered this concept and many other lines are following suit. Radisson offers this on every cruise where other lines offer them periodically.

And while some cruise lines are more "Shipboard Credit Friendly" than others, they aren't all that tough to find. But like anything else that's "free", there are some caveats. Most Shipboard Credits can not be used in the Casino and sometimes they can only be used in the shops or lounges and not for Spa Treatments or Shore Excursions. Also be sure to verify the amount of the credit. Many offers are termed to offer "up to X dollars" and are tiered amounts based on the accommodations you choose. And always have your travel agent double check pricing to see if the price code with the shipboard credit is the best value. A $50 per person shipboard credit is no deal if their is a price that is $100 per person cheaper that doesn't contain a credit. Be sure to check the fine print!

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