How to get a free cruise upgrade? (2024 Guide)

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Leo

free cruise upgrade

We all like cruises! They allow us to relax, discover the world, eat great food, and have fun.

You know what’s better than that? A cruise done with a free cabin upgrade without spending a penny more!

I have been on many cruises and a few times I have gotten a free upgrade. Sometimes it was a fluke but other times I used some strategies to receive it.

Are there some secret tips and strategies for an upgrade then? Actually yes, there are some things you can do to increase your chances of getting it.

I thought I would tell you the most effective ones and the ones that, in my opinion, are the easiest you can use.

I really hope they are useful to you!

Book early and choose off-peak seasons

Suite cabin on Royal Caribbean
Suite cabin on Royal Caribbean

Booking in advance is a fundamental rule in cruising, I have told you this several times already.

As many of you know, it saves you a lot of money, but perhaps not all of you know that it also gives you higher chances to get an upgrade.

This happens because cruise lines often assess their cabin inventory as the sailing date approaches, and being early in the queue can put you in a favorable position.

Several cruise lines, when they choose to assign an upgrade do so in order of booking if there are no other aspects they can consider (we will see some later).

Additionally, choosing the right time of the year is crucial.
If you travel in peak season, the ship will probably be fully booked and you can never get an upgrade, even if you pay for it. There just aren’t materially any free upper-class cabins where you could go!

Consequently, if you want an upgrade, you have to hope that there are vacant cabins they can assign. If there are, companies almost always assign them because free upgrades tend to make passengers happy, and everyone wants happy cruise passengers!

Join loyalty programs

Joining a cruise line’s loyalty program is one of the most effective strategies for getting upgraded.

As I mentioned earlier, to assign an upgrade the cruise lines might start with the people who booked first, but in some cases, you can move up the list if you have certain requirements. One of them is to be enrolled in that company’s loyalty program.

These programs reward frequent cruisers with points leading to perks such as cabin upgrades.

Consequently, even if you are a first-time cruiser, sign up for the program as soon as you can. It is usually free and you can sign up through the cruise line’s website or app.

Travel for special occasions

Suite balcony on a cruise ship
Suite balcony on a cruise ship

Another technique for getting a free upgrade, which I have learned over the years, is to let people know you are cruising for a special occasion.

If you’re celebrating an anniversary, a birthday, or your honeymoon, make sure to inform the cruise line when you book your trip.

It’s not a surefire strategy, but it is certainly worth mentioning.

In case you do not receive an upgrade you may still receive some gifts, such as a cake or a bottle of champagne.

When my parents went on a cruise for their wedding anniversary they found chocolate strawberries and a bottle of sparkling wine in their cabin for free.

Tactical tips at check-in

If you do not receive the upgrade in advance, you can also use some tactics at check-in once you arrive at the port.

Arrive early

First, arrive early at the port of embarkation. The earlier you check in, the more likely you are to be considered for an upgrade, as some options may still be available before the majority of passengers arrive.

Politely ask for it

Once you are at the check-in desk, politely ask about the possibility of an upgrade. Please be courteous and understanding, upgrades are not a certainty and sometimes employees cannot do anything about it.

If they tell you that unfortunately there is no chance, you might try saying that you are willing to pay for it. In some cases, the amount they ask for is smaller than normal and you might still be okay with it.

If, on the other hand, they say there are no cabins available or the asking price is too high you can always turn it down and use the cabin that was already assigned to you.

Conclusion and considerations

As I told you, although some strategies and techniques can help, receiving a free upgrade is not guaranteed and is not easy.

In some cases, you may receive an upgrade when you don’t even expect it. For example, a while back I had booked a window cabin on MSC and when I received my tickets I was even assigned a suite.

It was November so in the middle of the low season in Europe. I think that had a big influence.

Anyway, let me know if you have any other recommendations in the comments, and of course let me know if you get an upgrade.

Love you and thank you for reading my blog,
Leo.

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