How to Use Carnival Gift Cards


My most popular posts are about how to get discounted Carnival gift cards, but getting the cards is only half the equation.  There are a few quirks to spending them, and I will outline these in this post.

Before You Board

You can use the gift cards to pay for a cruise.  You may use them if you are booking online on the Carnival website, and you may also use them if you’ve called Carnival to book your cruise.  You can also use them while booking with a third-party travel agency.  They can be used for the deposit and also to make payment towards the cruise.

You may also use them to pay for shore excursions and spa treatments before you take your cruise.  You may not use them to prepay for drink packages and gratuities. (Important edit–you can pay for gratuities before your cruise with gift cards.  The Carnival FAQ’s on gift cards say otherwise, but there are several ways to do this.  If you add gratuities when you make your booking, you can use gift cards to pay your balance.  If you add them later, you may not be able to pay them off online, but you can call Carnival or your travel agent to apply the credit.) But don’t worry, you can pay for these using the gift cards while on board.

While On Board

Bring your gift cards with you on your cruise to load onto your on board account.  There are three opportunities to do this.  As you’re checking in at the pier, ask the agent to load the card(s) onto your account.  There are self-service kiosks where you can load your on board account.  And you can always get guest services to load your account at the desk.  Once the money is on your account it can be used for any expenditure, including chips at the casino and gratuities.  If you don’t spend all the money on your account, the balance will be refunded to you.

My Recent Experience Using the Gift Cards

Before we recently went on a short cruise on the Carnival Sensation,  I had purchased a discounted gift card through AARP.  When we checked in, I asked the agent to load my on board account with the gift card.  She said that she was having problem with her machine, and asked if I could load it later on the ship.  Later on that day, I found a kiosk near the coffee bar, but the “load” feature was not working at that time.  I went down to the guest services area and tried the kiosk there, but that feature was also disabled on that machine.  I went to guest services, and they were able to easily load it there.

With the gift card, and the on board shareholder’s credit, we had more money on our account than we wanted to spend.  On the last day of the cruise, I stood in the long line at guest services to cash out.  When I finally got to the front of the line, I was told I could only cash out $28, and the rest would be refunded to my gift card (caution, this last part is not true.)  The reason for the split is that the funding of the account came from two sources–the gift card and the shareholder’s credit.  I got my $28 in cash and enjoyed the rest of my final evening on the cruise.

When I got home, I went online to see check the balance of my gift card.  On the page to do this, you are asked for the PIN number, which I never had been given.  I called the number on the back of my gift card, and the CSR I reached said that I would be mailed a check for the balance remaining on my account.  I asked her to check again, because the agent on board the ship had told me that I would receive a credit back on the gift card.  She put me on hold and said that she would check.  When she came back on after a few minutes, she said that a check had not been mailed out yet, so this would indicate that I would be receiving the credit on a NEW gift card.  I did receive the new card a few days after I returned from the cruise with the correct amount on it.

I have several Carnival gift cards in my files now, and I’ve written their values on the cards with a black Sharpie.  I’m sure I’ll have several more in inventory before my next Carnival cruise.


Leave a Reply