Onboard Booking Incentives | CruiseHabit

Onboard Booking Incentives

When you’re on a cruise there is one universal truth - you can’t wait to be on another one! Cruise lines are ready to abide and offer incentives for you to book future cruises while you're onboard.  Recently, Royal Caribbean made some changes to their onboard booking policies, and took some heat for it, specifically the elimination of reduced deposits when you book with their NextCruise desk on a Royal Caribbean ship.  We thought it’d be a good time to compare the cost and incentives for booking on land vs onboard for several popular cruise lines.   

Many of the deposits and other factors vary by stateroom type, number of passengers, and itinerary.  To keep things simple, we're going to compare various lines' incentives based on cruises matching the below criteria:

  • 7 night Caribbean cruise
  • a standard verandah stateroom
  • 2 passengers

Keep in mind that sales come and go and policies change, but to the best of our knowledge, the information below is accurate as of August 1st 2017.  Also, a common incentive is the inclusion of onboard credit, something we explain here.


NCL's Onboard Booking Incentives - "CRUISENEXT"

  • $250 deposit (vs $500 on land)
  • $100 onboard credit

Norwegian Cruise Lines onboard booking policy is pretty straight forward (with less confusion than their general offering in terms of various packages).  


Holland America Line's Onboard Booking Incentives 

  • $100 deposit (vs $700 on land)
  • $35 onboard credit

HAL's program doesn't have a fancy name, and the onboard credit isn't much - but money is money.  There is a big difference betweek the deposit you'd pay on land and what you pay at sea.


Royal Caribbean's Onboard Booking Incentives - "NextCruise"

  • $100 onboard credit

RCI's offer changed very recently, and in fact, some of their online info may not reflect the change.  Previously this cruise would have got a $150 OBC and the deposit would have only been $100.  The current program requires the same deposit as on land, $500.  While the deposit change is big, the net change is really the $50 onboard credit reduction, though $100 is still more than what most lines offer.  In fact, their current program is very similar to that of MSC.


Celebrity Cruise Lines Onboard Booking Incentives - "FutureCruise"

  • $150 deposit (vs $500 on land)
  • $150 onboard credit
  • Chose one of the "Go Good, Go Better, Go Best" offers*

Celebrity offers the "Go Good, Go Better, Go Best" promotion on many sailings, but not all.  The promotion, in this case, give you the option to chose from $300 of additional OBC, the Classic Beverage Package, prepaid gratuities, or XCELERATE (Celebrity's onboard internet service).  When you book onboard however you get this on any sailing.  It should be noted that while this promotion is common with regard to inclusion in the onboard booking program, it does change each month.  


Carnival Cruise Lines Onboard Booking Incentives - "Future Cruise"

  • $250 deposit (vs $500 on land)
  • $50 onboard credit
  • 2 category upgrade

Carnival's offering is similar to some others out there, including other Carnival Corporation brands.  Unlike some others they do throw 2 in a two category upgrade, but it should be noted that this is only when available, and within the same stateroom type (meaning you won't get upgraded from an oceanview to a verandah or anything like that because of this program).


Princess Cruise Lines Onboard Booking Incentives

  • $200 deposit (vs $500 on land)
  • $50 onboard credit

Princess' program is pretty cut and dry and matches what it's sister-line Carnival offer but without the upgrade perk.


MSC Cruise Lines Onboard Booking Incentives

  • $100 onboard credit

Like Royal Caribbean, you'll get a generous OBC for booking onboard, though you'll pay the same deposit as you would on land, $400.


Billy's Take

While the value prop of booking onboard varies by line (and of course, some specials may come and go on top of these offerings), it's usually a pretty safe option, as the deposits are generally refundable (unless you book a non-refundable fare), and if a better offer comes up that isn't compatible with the onboard promotion, in the US and Canadian markets at least, it's pretty easy to pick whatever works out best.  There is one downside to booking onboard, and that is that some of your vacation will be spent in booking the cruise - we've deposited on sailings in as little as five minutes, though other times we've found ourselves at the onboard booking desk for thirty minutes.  

If you use a travel agent (and we recommend you do), know that you can usually transfer these bookings to your travel agent - just ask the onboard sales rep how this works, and often, they'll automatically start the transfer process for you right there.

Have you booked your next cruise while onboard?  Does this sound like a deal?  Comment below or reach out on Twitter or Facebook!