10 Easy Ways to Get Cruise Cabin Upgrades on Your Next Trip

Want a better room on your next cruise? These are 10 easy ways to get cruise cabin upgrades on your next trip!

10 Easy Ways to Get Cruise Cabin Upgrades on Your Next Trip

Want a better cabin on your next cruise? There are several ways that cruise lines offer stateroom upgrades, some of which are completely free. Here, we’re going over ten easy ways you can get cruise cabin upgrades on your next vacation.

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10 Easy Ways to Get Cruise Cabin Upgrades on Your Next Trip

1. Bid for a better cabin.

In recent years, multiple cruise lines have introduced cruise cabin upgrade bid programs as a way for guests to get a higher cabin category prior to the sailing. These lines include Norwegian (which started the trend), Royal Caribbean, Princess, MSC, Virgin Voyages, Celebrity, and river cruise brand Uniworld.

Norwegian Prima Balcony Cabin Review

On most lines, you can’t bid on an upgrade unless the cruise line sends you an email inviting you to do so. They give you a minimum amount you can bid, and you can choose how much you’d like to bid from there. Since many passengers will be participating in this silent auction of sorts, it’s usually best to bid somewhere above the minimum, but people have certainly won with minimum bids as well.

Either way, you’re all but guaranteed to get a great deal on the upgraded cabin if you win your bid, no matter what you choose to put on the table. Just keep in mind that you won’t be able to choose your specific cabin if your bid is accepted. You might not want to participate in the bidding process if location is important to you. This is particularly true for those who may get motion sick and want a specific deck or midship location.

If your bid is not accepted, you aren’t charged anything. If it is, the cruise line will charge the credit card you used to book your cruise immediately. There is no chance to opt out at this point.

2. Book during an upgrade promotion.

Taking advantage of cruise line promotions is an easy and stress-free way to get cruise cabin upgrades. Mainstream cruise lines will often run various sales and deals; sometimes that deal will include a cabin upgrade (they will usually say ‘oceanview for the price of an interior’ or ‘balcony for the price of an oceanview’).

These deals can appear any time of year, but are especially popular for voyages during a slower season (like when kids go back to school in the summer/fall) and during the Wave Season booking period, which is at the beginning of the year. This is because the cruise lines want to boost sales for the available itineraries at the start of the new year and fill their ships as fast as possible.

Sign up for cruise line email lists and keep an eye on their social media accounts to stay aware of any promotions they’re offering.

Oasis of the Seas Ocean View Balcony Cabin

3. Book a guarantee cabin.

When booking a cruise, you will have the option to book a cabin category and choose your exact stateroom on the ship. Or you can choose to save a bit of money and book a guarantee cabin. A guarantee stateroom means that you are guaranteed the category you book (or a higher one) but you don’t get to choose its location on the ship. The cruise line will assign your exact cabin usually just days (or a week or two) before the sailing.

In most guarantee booking cases, you will receive a cabin in the category you chose. But it’s not uncommon to book a guarantee interior, for example, and receive an oceanview. Similarly, you might book a standard guarantee balcony and end up getting an aft cabin with a much larger balcony than you paid for.

Oftentimes, guarantee cabins are a great value and offer a good chance at cruise cabin upgrades either within a category or to an entirely better category — as long as you don’t mind being wherever the cruise line decides to put you on the ship.

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4. Inform the cruise line of your special occasion.

If you’re sailing for a special occasion such as your honeymoon, anniversary, or birthday, let the cruise line know. If you’re working with a travel agent, make sure they know too. This tip isn’t likely to work on birthdays or anniversaries (though you may have a better chance if it’s a milestone birthday or anniversary) but you may have a better chance with a honeymoon.

Even if you don’t get a cabin upgrade because of your special occasion, it can pay to inform the cruise line/your travel agent anyway. They will likely make your vacation even more special by surprising you with bottles of wine or champagne in your cabin, sweet treats, and other gifts.

Carnival tips and tricks

5. Stay loyal.

If you’re a cruiser who finds a cruise line and wants to stick with that brand, the loyalty program can really pay off. One of these ways is through the opportunity to take advantage of special promotions, some of which could be the chance to upgrade your stateroom category before the deal becomes open to the public. As a loyalty member, you may also receive upgrade discounts on voyages you’ve already booked.

Some cruise lines’ loyalty programs even include upgrades as you reach higher tiers, such as a one-time stateroom upgrade once you reach Carnival’s highest Diamond loyalty tier.

6. Track pricing after you book.

Once you have a reservation, set up price alerts for your cruise on a website like Cruiseline.com or on the Ship Mate app. If the fare drops on a cruise you’ve already booked, you can usually ask the line to match the new price. Or — often more successfully — ask for a cruise cabin upgrade.

Some lines may be more willing to do this than others, and there’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to accommodate a request like this, but it doesn’t hurt to inquire about it.

7. Select ‘auto upgrade’ when you book.

Want to upgrade your cabin for free? During the booking process, you may have the option of checking a box that says you’re willing to accept an automatic upgrade, should the cruise line choose to upgrade you. This means that the line may move you up a category or two without informing you ahead of time, freeing up the cheaper cabins for booking closer to the sail date. For some cruise lines, the auto-upgrade option is automatic during booking, and you must unselect it if you don’t want an auto-upgrade.

Auto-upgrades can be great, but it’s also a gamble similar to a guarantee cabin. If you chose your original cabin carefully based on its location on the ship (perhaps including the fact that it’s not directly under a pool deck or over a loud nightclub), you might get an unpleasant surprise if you’re auto-upgraded into a less-desirable and noisy spot. Keep this in mind when booking your cruise to decide whether you want to opt-in for the possibility of an automatic upgrade.

cruise cabin upgrades

8. Tell your travel agent you’re interested in an upgrade.

Working with a travel agent has many benefits, including the fact that they often have access to additional perks that the public may not. If you’re interested in cruise cabin upgrades, let your travel agent know. They may have access to travel agent-exclusive upgrade promotions, or be able to book you through a group rate with discounted fares meaning you’ll pay less for the category you really want.

If they do a lot of business with a specific cruise line, that can also give them a certain amount of pull — which means they may be able to call in a favor with the cruise line close to the sail date and get you the upgrade you want.

9. Tell the cruise line if you have an issue with your cabin.

You’re a few days into your cruise and realize that there’s a big issue with noise in your cabin, or the shower water stays lukewarm and never really gets hot enough. Rather than stay quiet and deal with it, let the staff know — starting with your room steward. They will escalate the concern to their supervisor, who will likely be able to pull some strings and move you to a different cabin if there isn’t a quick and easy solution to the problem. If that doesn’t work (but it should), inform guest services.

Sometimes you’ll be moved to what is essentially an identical cabin in the same category. Other times, as a gesture of goodwill for your troubles, the staff will move you to a cabin in a better category. This is absolutely not license to make up a complaint about your stateroom in hopes of getting a better one. Crew members will likely investigate the problem to determine whether it can be fixed before making a guest pack up and switch rooms entirely. But if you have a genuine issue, tell the cruise line. They want you to have a wonderful vacation and will do what they can to ensure that.

10. Ask in the terminal on embarkation day/the morning of the second day of your cruise.

When you’re checking in at the terminal on embarkation day, it doesn’t hurt to ask one of the check-in agents if there are any cruise cabin upgrades available. Some cruise lines may not even have a policy that allows this at check-in on embarkation day, but others might be able to accommodate such requests. You can also do this at guest services as soon as you board the ship. These upgrades won’t be free. If they are available you’ll have to pay, but it’ll almost certainly be cheaper than if you had booked that cabin initially.

If you’re really dying for an upgrade and don’t mind packing up your things to do so, another approach is to ask about an upgrade on the morning of the second day of the cruise. By then, the ship is already sailing and everyone is settled into their rooms. Staff members know exactly how full the ship is and which cabins are occupied. If there are available cabins in higher categories, they might switch you to one of those for an even smaller upgrade fee than you would have paid had you asked the day before.

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Have you used any of these methods to score cruise cabin upgrades? What other tips and tricks do you have for getting better rooms on a cruise ship? Drop us an anchor below to share your experiences.

Sarah has been writing about the cruise industry since 2015, and in that time has taken a dozen cruises and counting. Her favorite onboard activities include trying the casual dining options, spending time in the spa’s thermal suite, and attending the love & marriage show. You can keep up with her on Instagram at @IAmSarahJaneB.
Sarah Bretz, Contributor
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1 comment on 10 Easy Ways to Get Cruise Cabin Upgrades on Your Next Trip

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  1. I’ve NEVER gotten an upgrade on a guaranteed cabin! EVER! And I’ve booked that category a number of times. I HAVE gotten upgraded from inside to balcony, and from balcony to a suite, but not ever from a guarantee cabin

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