If you cruise on Carnival, Princess, or any other Carnival-owned cruise line, you can get free onboard credit on every cruise, just for being a Carnival stockholder! Here’s how to get your free OBC.
One of my favorite perks of cruising is getting free onboard credit—often abbreviated to OBC— when I book during certain sales. Since I always use a cruise travel agent, I’ll often get extra onboard credit just for booking through the agency.
OBC is awesome! You can use it for just about anything on the ship—buying souvenirs in the shops, paying for specialty dining, booking shore excursions, and more.
But did you know that you can get even more free onboard credit every time you book a cruise on Carnival, Princess, Holland America, or any other cruise line owned by Carnival Corporation?
It’s true! If you’re a Carnival stockholder, you’re eligible for free onboard credit each time you cruise. As long as you own enough shares and can show proof before each sailing, you’ll get free money to make every cruise even more fun.
Carnival Corporation offers free OBC to shareholders on all of their cruise lines. Carnival, Princess, and Holland America are the most popular Carnival-owned lines for North American cruisers. But several other cruise lines around the world are also under the Carnival Corporation umbrella.
Shareholders cruising with Cunard, Costa Cruises, Seabourn, AIDA, or P&O can also apply for free onboard credit.
If you own Carnival stock (or you’re planning on buying some), it’s super-easy to get your free shareholder OBC. Read on to find out how many shares you need to own, how much credit you’ll get for each sailing, and how to let your cruise line know you’re eligible.
How much Carnival stock do you have to own to get OBC?
You’ll need to own at least 100 shares of stock in Carnival Corporation at the time of sailing to earn their free onboard credit benefit. The shares need to be held in the name of a booked passenger to earn OBC.
How much onboard credit will I get for my cruise?
The amount of free onboard credit you’ll get per cruise depends on how long your sailing is, and which cruise line you’ll be on. See the table below to find out how much OBC you’ll be awarded on your next cruise.
The amount of onboard credit you’ll receive (and what currency it will be in) depends on the specific cruise brand and where it’s based.
So, if you’re from the UK and sailing on a cruise on an Australian brand, you’ll get your onboard credit in AUD. An Australian sailing on a North American brand on a European itinerary will get OBC in US dollars.
North American brands:
- Carnival Cruise Line*
- Princess Cruises*
- Holland America Line
- Costa Cruises*
Continental European brands:
- Costa Cruises*
- AIDA Cruises
- P&O Cruises UK
- Princess Cruises*
- P&O Cruises Aus
- Princess Cruises*
- Carnival Cruise Line*
*The currency and amount of onboard credit for some cruise lines is determined by the operational currency used on any specific sailing.
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Although so many things are automated these days, you’ll need to let the cruise line know that you’re a shareholder before each and every cruise, so you can have your OBC credited to your account.
Annoying, I know, especially if you take a lot of cruises! But trust me, it only takes five minutes, and you’ll earn between $50 and $250 (or a similar amount in other currencies) to spend on your next cruise. Now that’s a nice rate of return!
Five steps to apply for onboard credit as a Carnival stockholder:
- Own at least 100 shares of Carnival stock
- Print, copy or scan your proof of shares
- Black out your address and account number
- Send proof to your cruise line before your cruise
- Check your online cruise planner for the OBC a few weeks before your cruise departs
You’ll need to mail, email, or fax proof of your shares to your specific cruise line at least three weeks before your sail date. (Click here for a list of mailing addresses, emails, and fax numbers for each cruise line.)
Proof of shareholder status could include a copy of your shareholder proxy card, a dividend tax voucher, or a nominee statement with both your mailing address and brokerage account number blacked out.
Be sure to also include your full name, reservation or booking number, ship name, and sailing date to ensure you’re credited correctly.
Carnival’s free onboard credit program for shareholders only allows one shareholder per stateroom to use the benefit. So if you have multiple shareholders in the same cabin, only one can get the free OBC.
But if you want to get creative, you can sometimes work around this policy.
Let’s say you’re traveling as a family unit—two parents and your kids who are old enough to stay in a nearby room. Each parent owns at least 100 shares of Carnival stock, but you’d like to actually sleep in the same room as your spouse or partner.
Despite the strict rules around one free OBC benefit per cabin, the cruise lines aren’t the bed police! If you book one parent into each of the two rooms, both adults can get the free credit.
Of course, each stateroom key card is assigned to a specific passenger and also acts as ID and your way of making purchases on board. So the logistics can get tricky with this workaround, but many cruisers use this method to double up on OBC.
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Just like any other cruise onboard credit you might receive in a special sale or via your travel agent, Carnival shareholder onboard credit isn’t transferable. The cruise line will apply the OBC only to the account that matches the name of the legal shareholder.
But if you want to share your credit with friends or family, you can always use it to buy a gift on board for a friend or loved one. Just remember you need to make the purchase yourself—you can’t give your cruise card to another passenger to use your OBC.
Although it would be nice to be able to save your unused onboard credit to use on a future cruise, your OBC expires at the end of each sailing. So use it before you lose it!
If you have several hundred (or more!) shares of Carnival Corporation stock, you’re probably wondering if you can get more free onboard credit for each block of 100 shares you own.
Unfortunately, free onboard credit for Carnival shareholders is limited to one credit benefit per person per sailing.
Carnival Corporation employees likely already know that they’re not eligible for onboard credit for owning Carnival stock. But some non-employees also aren’t able to take advantage of this program.
If any of these situations apply to you, you also won’t be able to get free OBC as a Carnival shareholder:
- A travel agent cruising at travel agent rates
- Tour conductors or group leaders cruising at a reduced rate
- Anyone sailing on a complimentary basis
***UPDATE November 2021***
Carnival has very recently begun denying shareholder OBC to guests cruising at discounted rates. According to many longtime Carnival cruisers who have applied for the free onboard credit, the company has been denying the benefit for reasons including:
- VIFP offers
- Casino rates
- Military discount rates
- Resident discount rates
- Senior citizen discount rates
It’s unclear whether this is a permanent policy change by Carnival Corporation, or just a temporary hold while ships are sailing at reduced capacity. I’ll continue to update the post as more information emerges on this new development.
Unlike some cruise lines that allow you to use OBC before your cruise to pay for packages and services on board, Carnival and its subsidiaries only allow you to use onboard credit once you’re physically on the ship.
But, you can use your onboard credit for almost anything you’d normally pay for once you’re on the ship. Here are some examples of how you can use your free shareholder OBC:
- Specialty dining that you book on board
- Shore excursions that you book on board
- Beverages that aren’t covered by a drink package
- Purchases in the onboard shops
- Spa and salon visits
- Experiences like wine tastings, cooking classes, or behind-the-scenes tours
Just remember that some cruise lines will give you a discount if you prebook and prepay for some of these extras before you sail. Take that into consideration when deciding how you’ll use your OBC.
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There are tons of ways you can use your free onboard credit for owning Carnival stock on a cruise. However, Carnival has a few rules about what you can’t use it for. Make sure you know these exclusions before you assume you’re covered (and stuck with an unexpected bill).
- Using shareholder OBC for casino play
- Paying for crew gratuities with shareholder OBC
- Using shareholder OBC for anything that you need to use cash for (like for extra tips, or vending or self-service laundry on some ships)
What’s your favorite way to get free onboard credit on a cruise? Have you received OBC for being a Carnival shareholder? Let me know in the comments below!
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