Avid cruisers are the first to say that nothing beats the cruise you are on, except for the next one. If you are a first-time cruiser, you may be wondering why so many people book their next cruise while on the current one. It’s not just the excitement of being on the high seas that prompts people to arrange their next vacation; the cruise lines are savvy and offer a number of perks to guests who book their next cruise while still on their current one.

Cruise Lines Offer Incentives Through Future Cruise Programs

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Most cruise lines have a program geared toward future cruises. These programs offer a wide number of perks you won’t get if you book later. These perks include reduced deposits, flexibility on scheduling, increased onboard credit, discounts, better choice of stateroom and upgrades.

The reduced deposit and flexible cancellation policy are two of the main reasons these programs are so successful. The option to deposit such a small amount to secure a spot on a future cruise is a boon to travelers who want to book and then save up.

When you’re on board, ask about your cruise line’s future cruise program and they will have a consultant who can sit down and explain all the perks directly to you. If you are concerned because you booked your current cruise through a travel agent, most, if not all, will credit your travel agent of choice with the booking. This means you can also get whatever perks are being offered by your travel agent directly.

Examples of Incentives Offered by Various Cruise Lines

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If you are considering booking a cruise, it’s wise to know which lines offer the best future cruise programs. Here’s a look at some of the programs currently available.

Carnival’s 'Welcome Home' Program

  • 50% deposit
  • Two-category upgrade (excluding suites)
  • Up to $50 per stateroom onboard credit or $100 if you book a suite

Royal Caribbean Next Cruise Program

  • Up to $600 in onboard credit
  • Deposits as low as $100 per person for select fares
  • Save up to 10% on future shore excursions when pre-planned
  • Book up to three staterooms on any cruise with the same benefits

Norwegian CruiseNext

  • Purchase stateroom deposits and receive specified onboard credit amount. An example is one $250 stateroom deposit will get you up to $100 in onboard credit, while four $250 stateroom deposits will get you up to $500.

Princess/Cunard

  • Up to $300 per stateroom onboard credit
  • $100 deposit per person
  • Can book onboard with rates from travel agency; have up to two years to book next cruise
  • Deposit is fully refundable if not used within two years

Celebrity Cruises Onboard Future Cruise Program (Reserved Passage)

  • $100 deposit per person
  • Up to $500 onboard credit per stateroom
  • Pick your stateroom
  • Combine with one other special offers
  • Transferrable to groups
  • Flexibility to change reservations up to 75 or 90 days before cruise

MSC Future Cruise Program

  • Price matching if you find a cheaper cruise later
  • Flexibility to change reservation
  • Combine with MSC Voyagers Club savings
  • Best selection of staterooms and suites
  • Deposits as low as $50 per stateroom
  • Earn double MSC Voyagers Club points
  • Up to $200 in onboard credit per stateroom

What Happens if You Don’t Book Before Disembarking?

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In many cases, the cruise line extends the onboard specials for a few days, or even two weeks after you return home from your cruise. If you already returned to your home port and disembarked from the ship, review the terms of the future cruise program online as you may still be eligible for the same benefits as though you were still on board.