How to Get a Free Upgrade on a Cruise

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Cruise ships offer some of the best vacation values available, and if you spend a little extra time planning your trip, you can receive a cabin upgrade without opening your wallet. Cabin upgrades are perks that can turn a good vacation into a great one. You could end up with a cabin on a more desirable deck or be moved from a lower-category cabin to one with a balcony, or even a suite.

Things You'll Need

  • Cruise brochures
  • Visit a travel agent who is experienced with cruises. Discuss the dates and itineraries you're considering, then ask the agent about promotions that offer free upgrades or cruises likely to offer them. Make sure the agent explains "cabin categories," as the same size cabin can have a different price depending on its location. Consider the cabin location carefully.

  • Consider traveling during a "low" season, or when kids are in school. You won't find many deals during peak cruising seasons, but if you can travel when most families cannot, you'll have a better chance at getting a free upgrade. Your agent can tell you which dates are more popular than others.

  • Visit the websites of the cruise lines, major Internet travel providers and cruise forums. (See Resources.) Because deals pop up constantly, you might find a few your travel agent missed. Bring those to the attention of the agent.

  • Book with a travel agent. Agencies that do a lot of business with a cruise line can often get more perks for their clients and can usually match any deals you've found on the Internet.

  • Stay in touch with the agent after you book your cruise. Ask the agent to contact the cruise line periodically to inquire about an upgrade.

Tips & Warnings

  • Improve your chances by cruising the same line on a regular basis. Cruise lines always give preference for upgrades to repeat customers. Ask about "category guarantees" that ensure you will get a cabin in the category you booked or better. If the cruise ship oversells in that category, some passengers will get free upgrades. Many cruise lines offer free upgrades to customers who book early. If you can plan far ahead, do so. Remember that many upgrades relate to location, not cabin size. You may end up with the same size cabin but on a more popular deck.

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