Monday, March 9, 2009

Cruise Deals That Include "on board" Credits Can Save You Money

If there's anything good about a bad economy, it's that the cruise lines are offering lots of cruise deals to entice people to book vacations.

Chances are you want to take a trip anyway, and right now, if you shop around, it's possible to get much better deals than you could a year or two ago.

One way cruise lines sweeten the pot is with "on board credits."

But is this really a good deal? Or is it like frequent flyer miles (something you'll never be able to use)? Let's take a closer look:

First off...

What Are on Board Credits?

On board credits are basically dollars that you can use while you're on the ship.

As we've talked about before, cruises are all-inclusive in that they include lodging, meals, entertainment, and of course travel to your cruise destinations, but you'll pay for extras. Extras include everything from alcohol to shore excursions to spa treatments to casino gambling to merchandise at the shops. If you partake heavily in the extras, you can end up with a pretty big bill at the end of the trip. Even if you mostly take advantage of the free stuff, you'll probably still end up spending money on some of the little things.

Because virtually everyone spends a bit of money on the ship, on board credits are likely to be used by anyone. This makes them a pretty good deal as far as cruise deal perks. There usually aren't a lot of restrictions, and there are plenty of ways to spend those on board credits.

How to Find Cruise Deals That Offer on Board Credits

As I've mentioned before, I like to watch Travelocity for cruise deals (they'll often have at least one cruise line doing a promotion that includes goodies such as free airfare or on board credits), but there are other places to find deals too.

  • "Junk mail" mailings from cruise lines -- If you've cruised with a line before, chances are you're on their mailing list. Don't be so quick to throw their flyers away though, especially if you're planning another trip. You'll probably find information on their current cruise deals inside.
  • Email newsletters -- The e version of junk mail. Again, being on the cruise line's mailing list can be a back door to cruise deals such as on board credits and other perks.
  • Booking your next cruise while on board the first -- Cruise lines almost always offer on board credits for folks who book again while they're still on vacation. You don't have to commit to a time or a place, just to a cruise, and you've usually got a year or more to solidify your sailing.
  • Ask the bigger travel agencies -- While I'm a Travelocity fan, it never hurts to ask a travel agent what's out there. Larger agencies and those that belong to major Travel Industry Consortia often have shipboard credits on select ships and sailing dates.
  • Airline rewards programs -- I've never gotten much out of the frequent flyer deals, but I've read that some can include on board credits for affiliated cruise lines, so if you fly a lot, it may be worth looking into.

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