Carnival Onboard Credit: Ways to Use It

Want to spend your Carnival onboard credit but aren’t sure where? Here’s a list of the best and worst ways to do it.

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Are you curious about Carnival onboard credit and how you can spend it? You can technically spend Onboard Credit (OBC) in various ways and on almost anything you wish.

However, there are ways to receive the best value for your credit dollars. We list how you can benefit from the credit and how to avoid areas that may not be as advantageous.

What Is Carnival Onboard Credit?

OBC is money credited to Carnival Cruise Line’s “Sail & Sign” account for you to use while you are on your cruise. Charges appear on your account when you buy something with your Sail & Sign card.

When the cruise is over, you can settle your account by making the final payment using onboard credit, credit cards, or cash. Using up your onboard credit is always advisable, as the credit expires when the cruise is over.

How Can I Receive Carnival Onboard Credits?

The ways people receive OBCs are in the following manner:

  • Booking Deal. If you book your cruise during a promotion, you can receive between $25 to $1,000 of credit per stateroom.
  • Cancellations. If for whatever reason, the cruise is canceled and later rebooked, extra credit may be applied in addition to a Future Cruise Credit or FCC.
  • Price Drop. Carnival may provide the difference in credits if the price suddenly drops after you book it.
  • Compensation. If something goes wrong on your cruise, you may receive credits as an apology.
  • Military. Canadian and US Armed Forces can receive $50 credit per stateroom on specific cruises.
  • Shareholder. Carnival only gives shareholder credits if you own a minimum of 100 shares in the Carnival Corporation. For cruises six days and under, you get $50 OBC. On cruises lasting between 7 to 13 days, you can receive $100 in credit. On longer cruises, the credit may be $250.
Carnival Cruise Ship Funnel
Photo Credit: Camera walk / Shutterstock

Onboard cruise cash credits can go towards almost anything you buy while you are on the ship, with the exceptions of additions (port expenses, fees, and taxes), medical expenses, and purchases before boarding the ship. Carnival’s terms indicate that credits are not refundable, have no cash value, and aren’t transferable.

How to Best Use the Credits and What to Avoid

When using the credits while sailing, some things provide more value, and some things cost the most to buy when using onboard credit. We list the things cruisers can use their credits on, ranging from the best value to the worst.

Specialty Dining

You can use onboard credits to dine in specialty restaurants. However, you must make reservations after boarding. If you book using onboard credit, the restaurant you want may be full, so it is best to book as soon as possible after boarding.

Carnival Cruise Line Chef's Table
Photo Courtesy: Carnival Cruise Line

Specialty dining can range from an $18 meal at Ji Ji Asian Kitchen to an $80 dinner at The Chef’s Table. This is a great way to treat yourself for those who don’t regularly attend any specialty dining experiences. 

Gratuities

Your credit can go towards tips if you haven’t prepaid them before boarding. Tips generally cost $14.50 for each person daily for most rooms. Paying gratuities using onboard credits provides a wonderful way to avoid the bill when the cruise ends.

Many say this is one of the best ways to use OBC, as you should pay gratuities for excellent service. Furthermore, there is no benefit from utilizing another form of payment or prepaying instead of using an onboard credit.

Carnival Guest Services Desk

Doing this works out well. For example, if you have a 10-night stay in a standard stateroom, the gratuities would be $290.00 ($14.50 x 10 nights x 2 people). If you had a $600 credit, you’ll have $310 left for other expenses.

Spas and Treatments

A cruise is the perfect place to treat yourself to a spa day if you rarely take time to enjoy the luxury. Being on the open ocean is tranquil and the ideal place to relax.

Carnival allows guests to use their credit for a day pass for the onboard spa. The cost varies depending on the services you desire. You can access a thermal suite, relaxation room, hydrotherapy pool, experience showers, hot tubs, steam rooms, hammam, and saunas.

Carnival Celebration Spa
Image Courtesy: Carnival Cruise Line

You can only book these when you are on the ship, and the available services vary depending on the facility. Guests can also redeem credits for massages, facials, body scrubs, Botox, acupuncture, teeth whitening, fillers, hairdressing, manicures, waxing, eyelash treatments, and pedicures. You may also note special offers for discounted treatments. 

Photos

While on a cruise, photographers are readily available to capture any moment, whether it’s during boarding, on the deck, or at dinner.

Carnival Cruise Line Pixels Photo Wall
Photo Credit: Melissa Mayntz

Purchasing a photo is not obligatory. However, you can use credits to buy a picture if you want to capture a specific moment.

Shore Excursions

If you book your shore excursions onboard, you can use credits to pay for them. The only caveat is that you must set these up at the shore excursion desk after boarding. If you can plan your own excursions and explore independently, you can save money by not paying for official Carnival tours.

Carnival Sunshine in Port
Carnival Sunshine in Port

Prices for excursions range drastically. For example, on some Caribbean cruises, you can pay $1699 for a private oasis in the Bahamas or go snorkeling for about $10.

Gift Card

Some guests have purchased Carnival gift cards using their credits. If you frequently go on trips with this cruise line, this is a great way to carry over your credit and use it later on a different cruise. 

You can load each card with credits between $100 and $1000, and you can buy five with each transaction. There is no expiration date, so you can save them until your next cruise, even if it is several years later.

Carnival Cruise Line Gift Cards
Carnival Cruise Line Gift Cards (Photo Credit: Michael Vi / Shutterstock)

Some people have contacted Carnival Cruise Lines asking whether this hack is okay and have received mixed answers. Some responses have been that if you earned the credit from rebooking, you can’t use it to purchase a gift card. However, you can use other forms of credit, like from shareholders or price reductions, for this purpose.

Shopping

On each cruise ship, there are places selling souvenirs, watches, jewelry, clothes, liquor, and accessories. You can use credits in any one of these shops. Purchases at sea in international waters are tax-exempt.

Carnival Fun Shops
Carnival Fun Shops (Photo Copyright: Cruise Hive)

However, they might not necessarily be cheaper than if bought on shore. Some items will be costlier because you’re on the ship and can’t shop around.

WiFi

You can use credits to purchase WiFi on a cruise. However, like most things, you need to buy it after boarding. You can save 15-20% depending on the package if purchased online before embarkation. While you can use credit onboard, it isn’t the best use of the money.

Drinks

Carnival onboard credits can be used to purchase a CHEERS! drink package or for individual drinks, but you have to wait to buy it until you board.

Carnival Celebration Drink
Photo Courtesy: Carnival Cruise Line

The downside is that the CHEERS! package is cheaper if bought before boarding. So, if you use your credit, you will pay more. The difference between buying online and onboard is about $6.00.

Casino

You can use onboard credit at the casino; however, you can only cash out your winnings. There is also a 3% fee for withdrawing funds at a table game, but there isn’t a fee to withdraw at a slot machine.

Carnival Breeze Casino
Photo Credit: Turn_Mug / Shutterstock.com

Art

Most investors and art enthusiasts tend not to buy art while on cruise ships. People generally attend art auctions on a ship for the free sparkling wine. Those who tend to buy the artwork are simply caught up in the excitement.

If you do your research, you may discover that you can buy the auctioned pieces for significantly less elsewhere. Additionally, you won’t take home the art viewed on the ship. They will mail you a replica from the warehouse.

While you can use your credit towards this purchase, it isn’t advisable since each piece can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars.

Bingo

Bingo is fun, but it may not pay off when it comes to using onboard credits for Bingo on a cruise ship. On a cruise, Bingo cards begin at $10, although people who buy multiple cards spend more.

In theory, you could win thousands of dollars. However, the odds of winning are stacked against you as many variables are involved.

Cruise Bingo
Photo By: Kevin Hale (Creative Commons)

Also, not all prizes at Carnival Bingo are cash. They may be items from the onboard shops like spa services, jewelry, additional onboard credit, and free bingo cards.

This may be another option if you enjoy playing Bingo and just want to have fun, but if you are looking for a great value, you may want to consider another option.

Conclusion

While there are many items that you can use your Carnival Onboard Credit for, not all of them may be a wise use of your money. Think about how it will benefit you before spending it. If you just want to have fun, though, you can do almost anything you like with it.

Haiyan Ma
Haiyan Ma
I absolutely love cruising with my favorite ports of call being in the Caribbean. As a former crew member for Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival Cruise Line I can continue my passion by sharing my experiences with readers. Find out more about us here.

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