In 2020 terms like future cruise credit, FCC, onboard credit, and OBC are frequently tossed around as if everyone should know what they mean. Instead, there is confusion — even among experienced cruisers — about the definition, usage, restrictions, and differences between them.
- Future cruise credit (abbreviated as FCC): Issued by the cruise line, based on the amount you have paid, to be used for a future cruise.
- Onboard credit (abbreviated as OBC): Funds applied to your loyalty account or reservation to be used as cash during your cruise. OBC is usually given as a booking incentive or reward by the cruise line or travel agent. Although onboard credit is spent like cash, it has no cash value.
With the global suspension of cruises, future cruise credit is the currency of the cruise industry. In exchange for canceling cruises, cruise lines encourage guests to accept fcc instead of asking for a refund. Each cruise line has its own cancelation and refund policy and incentives for accepting future cruise credit.
Determining the amount of future cruise credit you’re entitled to is intentionally confusing. It’s calculated based on the “cruise fare,” which is not actually the amount you paid for your cruise. Your total cruise cost includes taxes, fees, drink packages, premium dining, spa services, and excursions. These items are not included in the fcc calculation; they’re refunded to your original form of payment.
When you’re ready to book your next cruise, your FCC is there waiting for you and can be applied as payment toward the cruise itself, including taxes and fees but not “add ons” such as drink packages, pre-paid gratuities, excursions, or spa services). FCC does have two important dates: book by and sail by. When redeeming future cruise credit, you must book by a certain date, usually a year from date of issue, and sail by a certain date, usually a year after expiration. For example, the current expiration and sail dates are use by 12/31/21 and sail by 12/31/22.
The cruise line or travel agent often give onboard credit as an incentive to book your next cruise. It’s also given by cruise lines as compensation when guests are unhappy with the level of service or experience. Although OBC has no “cash value,” you spend it as cash before or while on your cruise. In other words, use it or lose it because onboard credit is not refundable.
Future cruise credit is used as payment for your reservation; OBC is used to pay for the fun stuff on your cruise. Each cruise line has a different policy about what onboard credit can be used for, but in general, you may use it for spa services, drinks (or even drink packages), or specialty dining. You may also use OBC to pay for premium activities such as the race track on Norwegian or bumper cars on Royal Caribbean. In many cases, your onboard credit can be used to pay for excursions, too.
With all the cancelations due to Covid-19, some cruise lines offer to transfer pre-cruise purchases to OBC (and, in some cases adding a bonus similar to the FCC offers) instead of refunding the money. I see this as a way to lessen the expense for your next cruise since you’ll already have your activities and add-on’s paid for.
If you have questions about future cruise credit or onboard credit, want to discuss your next cruise, or want unbiased information, advice, and assistance call Joel at 844-483-6669.