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How to get free upgrades on cruises

Score a more luxurious cabin without sending your budget to sea.

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Group of friends in formal wear enjoying champagne in luxury cabin on a cruise ship

Bought an inside cabin but wishing you could get a room with a view instead for no extra cost? Sounds like a dream — but it could become your reality.

Cruise cabin upgrades can happen. While sometimes it’s luck of the draw, there are certain things you can do to help increase your chances of staying in that enviable balcony stateroom. While the below tips aren’t guaranteed to work, it never hurts to try.

Bon voyage!

Top tips to upgrade your cruise cabin after purchase

  1. Join a membership program. Cruise lines are more likely to grant upgrade requests when you’re a member of their program. Princess Cruises members can receive discounts, priority boarding, upgrades to bathroom amenities and upgrades to their vacation protection. Royal Caribbean states that upgrades will be offered to its Diamond Plus and Pinnacle Club members.
  2. Open and book with a cruise line’s credit card. Some of the best cruise line credit cards let you earn points and freebies every time you set sail depending on the tier you’re in, you might qualify for luxury upgrades. Plus, you might be able to use points towards perks and better amenities.
  3. Book a guarantee or to-be-assigned (TBA) cabin. While you won’t pick exactly which cabin you’ll get up front, you are guaranteed your nominated cabin class or higher. If the more premium cabins sell out, then you’ll get what you nominated. If they don’t, you might get upgraded.
  4. Choose a ship with a generous amount of superior rooms. It’s fair to say that if the ship has a limited number of premium cabins, you’ve got a limited chance of nabbing one for free. Opt for a ship with more and increase your chances.
  5. Wait a day before requesting the upgrade. Once the no-shows on the ship have been confirmed after departure, you might be able to cash-in on their rooms. Visit the front desk to make the request. Consider offering a little extra to compensate for the change.
  6. Cruise off-peak. The less people on your ship, the more chances a superior cabin will be empty. Use this to your advantage.
  7. Look for specials. Sometimes, cruise lines will offer you a balcony stateroom for inside or outside cabin prices. Keep your eyes peeled for cruise discounts and deals — or consider shopping during Black Friday and Cyber Monday to nab the best sales of the year.
  8. Use your onboard credit. This one’s up to the cruise line to accept or not, but if you’ve got onboard credit to spare, consider asking to use it for a room upgrade. Onboard credit usually can’t be used until you set sail, so wait until you’re clear of the port before asking if it’s possible.
  9. Reserve an outside cabin up front. Jumping from an inside cabin to a stateroom is a big request. Make it more realistic by booking a cabin that’s slightly superior from the start. If you’ve booked an inside room, perhaps try for an upgrade to an outside cabin instead of a suite.
  10. Celebrate an occasion. When checking in, let the staff know that you’re celebrating something whether a birthday, anniversary or engagement. The cruise line may help you celebrate in style if it can. If nothing else, it might gift you a bonus like a bottle of wine or tickets to a show.
  11. Complain if you have something to complain about. Not happy with your cabin? If there’s a legitimate reason like a broken amenity or too much noise let the front staff know. It should be their top priority to make amends.
  12. Cruise frequently with the same liner. Brands love loyalty and will pay you back in kind for being a return customer. If you like, you can drop them a message about having enjoyed your last trip and how you are really looking forward to your next one. Who knows, the kind words just might get you some extra-special treatment.
  13. Ask for it. Remember to be polite — there’s never any harm in contacting customer service and just making the request.

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Bottom line

Think of it this way — if there’s empty outside or stateroom cabins when the ship sets sail, the cruise line isn’t losing any money by upgrading you. In fact, it could be gaining a new loyal customer that way.

Scout the best cruise deals today to get started booking your waterborne retreat.

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