A free upgrade… It must be the Holy Grail of cruising! If you speak to some people they’ll try to convince you it’s an urban ‘cruise’ legend and doesn’t happen in real life, but there’ll always be ‘that’ person on your dinner table bragging about how they’ve been upgraded…again!
The truth of the matter is that it does happen and it happens a lot more than you might think.
A lot of the time it will be down to nothing more than luck, but over the years the www.CRUISE.co.uk team have picked up a few tricks that might help (which we’re obviously happy to share with you)…
There’s two schools of thought about who’s most likely to get an upgrade: first time cruisers (whom the cruise line will want to impress so they come back), or regular cruisers (whose loyalty the cruise lines will want to reward).
Most people think it’s the former, with new cruisers getting the lion’s share of upgrades – don’t despair if you’ve already done a cruise though! All you need to do is book a cruise with a line you’ve not sailed with before and voilà…. You’re a first time cruiser again!
Our Specialist cruise consultant Rosie agreed, stating:
“If it’s your 1st cruise with a particular cruise line and you book early there is much more of a chance of an upgrade because the cruise line will want them to become a regular customer! Book a guaranteed cabin and there is even more of a chance!”
Rack Up Those Frequent Cruiser Miles!
That being said, there’s plenty of people in the other camp convinced that the only way to get upgraded is to stick with the same cruise line. The www.CRUISE.co.uk team have always been a bit sceptical of this one, but you’ll have to put it to the test yourself…
However, our specialist cruise consultant, Camilla, responded to say that she has an Azamara passenger, a solo traveler…
“and she ALWAYS gets an upgrade! My theory is: the more you cruise with one cruise line, the better your chances!”
We’re On Our ‘Honeymoon’
Ah, that old chestnut. We guarantee you the cruise line will have heard ‘it’s our honeymoon/anniversary/birthday/we’re celebrating the four month anniversary of getting our pet terrapin’ a thousand times before, so the temptation might be to just not mention it.
Wrong! It may not get you an upgrade, but then again it may… It’s a case of ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’ and even if you don’t get an upgrade you may get something else free (like a bottle of bubbly delivered to your room!)
Although, if you’re actually considering a cruise as your honeymoon, check out the most romantic cruise lines in the world here!
‘Why Certainly, We’ll Upgrade You Dr/Sir/Lord/Lady Smith….’
We’ve heard a lot of anecdotal evidence over the years about people being upgraded after letting it be known they’re a sir, lord, lady or doctor. Obviously for this to work, you need to let the cruise line know when you first book (or if you’re booking online make sure you select the right title from the drop down menu).
This works even better if you happen to be a celebrity (but again you need to let the cruise line or your travel agent know up front).
Just be careful though – Your booking needs to match your passport exactly, so don’t make up a title as some countries will refuse you access if you do.
It’s Always Best To Say It With A Smile
You’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar (or at least more cabin upgrades), as the old saying goes. It’s like we’ve already said – if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
This doesn’t mean you should abruptly demand your upgrade though. Ask nicely otherwise the most that will probably happen is the cruise line ‘noting’ your request, then promptly forgetting it.
A friendly approach is the winner!
It’s Not What But Who You Know
It may seem unfair but sometimes the best way to get an upgrade is to call in a favour with someone that works at the cruise line.
Now obviously you may not know anyone working for a cruise line, but pick your specialist cruise consultant right and they just might….
After all, it’s what they’re paid to do!
Book A Guaranteed Cabin
One of the best tips we’ve found for blagging yourself a free upgrade is to book a guaranteed cabin.
A ‘guaranteed cabin’ is a cheap offer from a cruise line that guarantees you a particular grade, so you can get a guaranteed inside, outside or balcony cabin etc. Your cabin will then be assigned just before you board.
However, the cruise lines are always under pressure to make sure their ships sail full, so if you book yourself a guaranteed inside cabin and subsequently all the insides are sold, to continue offering a cheap price to people they may bump you up to an outside (or even balcony grade) so they can re-sell the insides.
It’s not a fool-proof plan, but we’ve seen it work time and time again.
Disclaimer: there’s certain cruise ship cabins you should never book! We reveal them here…
Make Sure You Count The Inside Cabins
As with the guaranteed cabin tip, cruise lines like to be able to offer a cheap ‘from’ price and these will almost always be made up of their inside cabins. A good trick to get yourself an upgrade is to find a ship with relatively few inside cabins and book one (it’s even better if you can get this on a guarantee).
To keep offering that cheap ‘from’ price they’ll have no choice but to upgrade you.
The Early Bird Catches The Worm
Remember that ‘from’ price we mentioned? The more opportunity you give the cruise line to upgrade you, the more likely they will. Booking early means that every time they upgrade people out of inside cabins to re-sell them, you get a chance to get upgraded!
Don’t Waste Your Time Trying To Blag A Mini-cruise
Bottom line is: the cruise line can only upgrade you if there’s empty cabins to upgrade you to. If the ship’s full there’s nothing they can do, even if they want to. As mini-cruises (and other short voyages) tend to sell out so quickly these are bad choices for looking at free upgrades.
Take what you’re given on the shorter voyages and spend your time getting your cabin upgraded on that grand voyage you’ve got booked; you’ll have longer to enjoy the cabin anyway!
Don’t Cruise At Peak Times
Again, just like with the mini cruises tip, the cruise lines can’t upgrade you on a full ship. By all means, book a cruise over the summer holidays or Christmas; they’re great times to cruise!
Remember though, the ship will be full and you’ll have almost zero chance of an upgrade.
Throw Some Cash At The Problem
No, we don’t mean bribe someone (although….)!
No, we definitely don’t mean bribe someone. Instead what we mean is that when you finally get on-board make sure the first thing you do is head to reception and ask for an upgrade.
If there are any upgrades to have you may be lucky and have it offered for free or at the very least at a heavily discounted cost!
Got A Problem? Don’t Suffer In Silence!
Making up problems about your cabin (or worse, breaking something on purpose) is a quick way to getting yourself a bad reputation on the ship (or worse yet being thrown overboard!) But if there genuinely is a problem with your cabin, let the pursers desk know ASAP.
If they can put you in a different (better) cabin, then they will.
Be Careful What You Wish For…
Don’t forget – If you ask for an upgrade and you get one, you won’t be able to switch back!
You may be put in a cabin the cruise line considers better (it might be bigger, say), but you could find yourself right above the theatre or next to a noisy bar.
If you value cruising tips as much as we do, take a look at the pick of the best below!
Have you ever been upgraded? How did you manage it? Do you just think it’s pure luck or do you have your own tips? Why not let everyone know in the comments below…