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So here’s an interesting new dilemma: making sure that we actually get to enjoy the quite reasonable amount of on-board credit (OBC) that we’ve got for our forthcoming cruise without resorting to pickling our livers on the last night.

The position is that between us we’ve got a magnificent £380 of OBC for this next cruise. I know, other people will have had more on cruises they’ve done, but this is the largest amount we’ve had. We’ve also received our excursion booklet, and the invitation to book excursions in advance in order to make sure we get the ones we want. Then there’s the offer on internet time – if I buy the package before we sail then I’ll get extra minutes, and that offer isn’t available after embarkation (it used to be…..). And of course I can also make reservations for the Select Dining restaurants in advance. All of which seems perfectly OK, except that I remembered, just before booking about 4 excursions for each of us and buying the internet time and booking meals for both of us in East and The White Room , that this year these advance purchases have to be paid for – well, in advance. So the costs of all those things would be charged to my credit card before we embarked, and would not be deducted from the OBC.

This is a problem. Looking at previous cruises a good half of our on-board account has been spent on things such as excursions, meals, and internet time. This raises the awful possibility that because we’d spent all this money in advance we could end up at disembarkation time with unspent OBC! I can see us in Metropolis on the last evening, faced with the task of drinking our way through £50 or so of remaining OBC, and gritting our teeth and getting on with it. We’d be looking for the most expensive drinks on the ship –   Champagne and single malt scotch, perhaps. Now there’s a mixture to avoid.

P&O didn’t used to do this – I’m sure that excursion bookings, etc, made in advance were charged to the on-board account and settled at the end of the cruise.  This meant that any OBC you had could indeed be offset against these charges. In fact that’s definitely the case – a few years ago we did an expensive excursion to Florence specifically to use up OBC, and that was definitely booked in advance.

I suppose it’s all about revenue generation, which I suppose the cruise lines do need – there are enough stories around about the profits the cruise lines aren’t making last year and this. But given that OBC is now a regular part of the package – especially with Vantage Fares – it feels a bit like one hand taking away what the other hand giveth.

5 Responses to “Modern Cruising dilemmas #1: Protecting our On-Board Credit”

  1. Stuart says:

    Hi Tom, if it helps your liver, your auto tips will eat some of your OBC. If you need any help drinking away your OBC I will unselfishly put myself forward to help you out.


    • Tom says:

      Thank you!

      Actually, I’d forgotten that gratuities were now automatically deducted from the on-board account. Thank you for reminding me.

  2. Barrie says:

    P&O seem adamant on their website that you cannot book a table at a select restaurant in advance, merely pay the cover charge up front. Is this true? If so, what is the advantage of paying up front rather than booking onboard and using OBC. Sorry I am a cruise novice, travelling on N315, and wanted to book a select restaurant for my wife’s birthday. I wouldn’t want to risk missing out if others are booking in advance.

    I’d welcome your experienced advice.



    • Tom says:

      Thank you for the comment, Barrie.

      I’d been looking at the Gift Collection – a download PDF. (Go here and then download The Gift Collection brochure.) I think, from reading it, that you can then call P&O and make a reservation – the small print alongside the ‘Dining Out’ section says “…. we request you contact the restaurant manager within 24 hours of embarkation to confirm the BOOKING” (my emphasis).

      I’m not booking in advance for the restaurants – our experience is that we haven’t had a problem booking, as long we could be a bit flexible. The White Room is generally reasonably busy but East has often seemed quite empty. However, if you’ve got a target to hit – your wife’s birthday – then that’s an argument for booking in advance.

      We had a meal in the White Room on our last cruise on Ventura – here’s my account of it.

  3. Neil says:

    Hi Tom & Barrie

    Unfortunately all the Gift Collection lets you do is pay for the meal before boarding. You CANNOT specify the date or time prior to joining the ship. Basically there will be a voucher which you take to the restaurant (or call them) once you are on the ship and they will book the date and time you want subject to availability. There is no way of reserving a table on a set date prior to joining the ship

    The only slight work round is if you are in Caribbean Peninsular tier or above which lets you book in the embarkation lounge onboard which gives you about an hour ahead of other pax embarking. Generally we have had no problems getting the Select venue we wanted on the date we wanted but you have to be flexible on time. The exception was Azura where Seventeen was fully booked on the day we wanted.

    Note also that White Room and Seventeen impose a cancellation charge if you cancel a booking (or do not turn up) 24 hours or fewer in advance of the booking. Also be aware that the prices vary depending on the duration of the cruise.


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