In these tough economic times, many cruise lines are discounting heavily. Plus, for clients of top agencies, some cruise lines are offering on-board coupon books, but are they worth the paper they are printed on?

I took a close look at the Royal Caribbean International’s coupon book. Here’s what I found.

The coupons include 10 percent off flowers purchased on board; 10 percent percent off tuxedo rental or purchase of robes; a $1, yes, $1 bonus bet on blackjack; and a “complimentary work of art” for attending an art auction (translation a Seriolithograph of their choosing). There’s a spa credit, in theory — but in practice it is only a $15 discount off a body composition analysis. The photo credit is only a fourth 8″ by 10″ portrait when three are purchased. The coupon doesn’t apply to the smaller casual cruise pictures, digital and film picture CDs or printing. For Bingo fans there’s a free Jackpot card when any Bingo card “package” is purchased.

What’s the point? The discounts are either trivial or offer discounts on items and activities most passengers don’t use. Celebrity Cruise Lines in their book at least gives two-for-one glasses of wine, fitness classes and discounts off any spa services or internet minutes.

The Royal Caribbean book is glossy and full color, so it looks good. And there are postcards attached to the coupons for clients who want to advertise the line to their friends. But for most passengers, the money the cruise line spent might be better used for a couple of free soda coupons.

If any readers have experience with other cruise lines and real or so-called on-board coupons, please comment. I will compile the best in a future post.