How Can I Get A Free Upgrade On A Cruise?

I’m Svetlana want to share with you eight proven and tested ways that you can get a upgrade on your next cruise. These are all things that I have done myself, and have consistently worked for me. So let’s start by taking a look at the very first tip: persistence, persistence, persistence.

There are three key times when you can angle to get yourself an upgrade, and every single time you’re going to cruise, make sure that you’re working it at each of these three times.

First of all, when you book, secondly after you’ve booked, and thirdly once you’re onboard - and I’ll share with you specific things to do at each of those times. It’s also really important to understand that no matter whether you sail at the quiet time of the year, or a busy time of the year, many of these tips will work and I’ll point out which ones work better depending on the time of year that you’re cruising. So persistence is the absolute key, keep working it at each of these three times.

The second way of getting an upgrade, and probably the easiest way of all of the tips of getting upgrade, is to only book when there are upgrade promotions. Your favourite Cruise Lines run promotions where they’re offering you an upgrade to the next level.

These happen a couple of times during the year. One of the big times that they happen is when cruises are launched for the very first time.

Cruise companies normally launch twelve to eighteen months, or sometimes even longer, new voyages and they’ll often do promotions because they obviously want to get as many bookings in as possible.

So they incentivise people and cruise agents, and they’ll offer upgrade promotions very often. So keep a look out for when itineraries are launched. A key way of doing that, is sign up for email newsletters with all of the cruise lines and ensure that your agent lets you know. Second key time of the year is what’s known as the Wave period.

Many countries have a Wave period, this normally happens at the beginning of the year when cruise lines look to sell a lot of the itineraries for the coming year, because they know at the beginning of the year is when many people start to plan vacations. So the Wave period is a very competitive time, and so the cruise lines will often offer upgrade promotions.

The third really good time to get upgrade promotions is 60 to 90 days before a cruise goes. So if you’re booking last-minute, you have a really good chance of finding one of these promotions. What happens is most cruise lines require people to pay 90 to 60 days before a cruise, they then know how busy the ship is, full and or not full, and they want to fill the ship as much as they can, so they’ll often offer promotions which involve upgrades to get people to book.

The third great way of getting upgraded, and this is something that has worked for me many times is, once you’ve booked keep a track of the price of that cruise, and if the cruise price starts to come down (or certainly the grade above you comes down much closer to what you paid for the cruise), this is a great time to ask for an upgrade, and you will normally be able to get one. So how do you actually track prices ? There’s obviously you can just keep looking yourself, and that’s quite time-consuming, or you can ask your agent to keep an eye on it or ,what I actually do, is I use a site called Cruisewatch.com or sometimes I also use Cruise Critic.

What you do is you put in your specific cruise, you set up an alert and it will tell you when prices are going down. As I mentioned there have been a number of times when I have seen prices go down, contacted the cruise line and got some fantastic upgrades. The good news about this is you often also get to choose your very specific cabin when you go for an upgrade. This is a very important thing, and many people don’t do this, track prices and when prices come down chase and demand and ask for an upgrade.

Another simple way, which doesn’t require a lot of effort, of getting an upgrade is make sure you select the auto upgrade option when you book. Many cruise lines offer the auto upgrade when you book, so normally is just a box you need to tick or you just need to tell your travel agent and the cruise line may contact you close to the cruise. You normally only find out close to the cruise, and they let you know that you’ve got an upgrade.

If you are looking to go the auto upgrade option, there’s a couple of tips or things that you need to think about if you want to go this route as a way of getting an upgrade, because again it doesn’t involve much work from you.

First of all, what you’ll generally find is the lower grade of cabin you’ve got, the more chance you have of getting an upgrade - simply because there are obviously more cabins above you. So if you book an ocean view or an inside, you’re more likely to get an auto upgrade. The reason for that is very simple, partly as I mentioned because there are more cabins often available in that higher grade ( balcony cabins) but also importantly if the ship isn’t full the easiest cabins for the cruise to discount and sell are inside and oceanview cabins.

They are a lower price point and they’re just simply easy to sell. Also if they discount those cabins, they’re not going to have the problem that I mentioned earlier with lots of people then asking for upgrades because they’ve seen the prices come down! So normally what they’ll do is they’ll move people up to be able to sell the cheaper cabins. So that’s definitely one thing to think about if you’re going for the auto grade option.

Another thing that I’ve also seen happen quite a lot is if you’ve booked a guaranteed fare level, so guaranteed fare is one where you buy a category not a specific cabin and you don’t choose your cabin and the cruise line allocates the cabin, what you’ll find is if a particular grade is really busy, so say for example you’ve booked a guaranteed cabin in an ocean view but lots of people come in and they have booked the option where they choose their cabin, as they sell out more and more of those, they have a whole bunch of guaranteed cabin people that they’ll need to do something with. So often what they’ll do is they’ll offer them the upgrade.

So that’s something important to know about. So definitely lower the grade and guaranteed cabin fares can be an advantage with the auto upgrade. Big watch out with Auto upgrade is you normally do not get to choose your cabin, so even if you get Auto upgraded you’re probably going to be allocated cabin. So it might not be a fantastic cabin, but just bear that in mind as a potential watch out.

The fifth and really basic way of getting out grade is pay! Now you don’t really have to pay a huge amount, but paying is an option. To pay where to ask? First of all if you’re working with an agent, make it clear to your agent that if any deals and offers come up offering upgrades for a small fee that you’re very interested.

This really works to your advantage if the ship is not sailing full, and the cruise line has a bunch of cabins at a particular grade that they want to get rid of, but they don’t want to go out and advertise those, because again as I mentioned, people are tracking prices and they put a lot of pressure on pricing for people demanding upgrades, so what they often do is they’ll offer those cabin upgrades at special prices to agents.

They don’t advertise them more broadly, so if you’ve got a good relationship with your agent and they know that you’re happy to pay a small fee to upgrade, they could be a great source of upgrades without having to pay a huge amount of money. The second time to ask and you may have an opportunity to pay to upgrade is at the ship.

There’s two very important points here, first of all when you check-in ask if there are any upgrade deals available, and if the ship isn’t sailing full and they haven’t sold them, there’s a very strong possibility that they are available. But a tip that I like to use, and has worked quite well, is on the morning of the second day of the cruise and you’ve had your first overnight after you’ve set sail, is go to reception / guest services in the morning and ask them if there’s any upgrades available, because it has been no any no-shows.

For example there may actually be cabins available to do upgrades, and I’ve actually managed to get upgrades by going in the morning of that very first next day of the cruise. So that’s a really good little tip to watch out for.

My sixth tip is one that also can work pretty well but also involves paying, and that’s bidding. Some of the cruise lines have introduced a system where you can bid for an upgrade, so for example on recent cruises I had booked with Norwegian Cruise Line, I had an opportunity where I could bid an amount to upgrade and they give a suggested range. They’re obviously trying to encourage people to bid higher, but if your cruise line offers bidding and you do have a bit of money you’re happy to spend, even if you bid low, there’s a chance you may get it depending on how many people bid. So bidding is something to watch out for.

I think we starting to see more and more cruise lines starting to look at that, as we’ve seen with Airlines as well, so bidding is something to keep an eye on as a way of getting an upgrade without having to pay a huge amount of money. Another way of getting upgraded, and this is one that has worked for me really really successfully, is if you have a special event - so if you’re getting married you perhaps going on your honeymoon or you’ve got a big 50th or 60th wedding anniversary or it’s a big significant birthday or 50th 60th 40 is the 80th whatever - is make sure the cruise line knows. You can either do that via your agent or just when you’re on board let it get known. We once had a phenomenal upgrade on Queen Mary 2 crossing just after I got married, it was like a honeymoon trip, and our agent who had a good relationship with Cunard let them know and we were upgraded into a phenomenal penthouse suite. It really was quite magnificent and they laid on all sorts of champagne and all sorts of things as well.

So there is definitely opportunity to get an upgrade and particularly cruises not sailing massively full, this is a good time to let them know.

One area does seem to work particularly well is if you’re going on a honeymoon, so that tends to work better than special anniversary and a special birthday, because often a lot of people are cruising for that reason. My next tip is the one that is actually of all of these tips has been the most successful for me for getting upgrades, and it is around complaining - but complaining in a very measured and specific way. But this has worked for me phenomenally successful on a wide range of cruising is by letting the cruise company know that there is an issue with your cabin.

Obviously there needs to be an issue with it, and there’s a couple of key times you should do this and in a couple of very important ways that you should manage this process. To get the greatest chance of success when going through the whole complaining process, it’s very important to work with your cabin steward, or if you’re in a suite with your Butler, to let them know about the problem. And what I’ve discovered is, if you involve them in the problem and explain what the problem is or the issue is, often they know it’s an ongoing issue because that cabin may have an ongoing issue, they can escalate it to their supervisor who can often escalate it in to the front desk or the hotel manager. And that’s very important, whenever I’ve made complaints I’ve done it that way.

So first of all when you get onboard a ship and you go to your cabin check it out really carefully, so often you get very excited head in and you dump your stuff and head out, but what I do when I go into my cabin is check everything’s working, and that it is all okay or if there any issues.

If there’s an issue get your cabin steward, they’ll come and see you when you check in, let them know about the issue - is it a noise issue, is it some problem with the cabin, so let them know there’s an issue, then when you set sail and you see problems arising, let them know. So for example I’ve had cabins which have had some noise problems or something hasn’t really worked particularly well, there’s been a problem with the shower or whatever, and I have been upgraded into better cabins.

Probably the most successful of all of the complaining opportunities to get an upgrade is on cruise lines where they do an interim survey. So I’ve been for example on Silversea and I’ve been on some other cruise lines like Costa where they were doing a survey, which came from the hotel manager or hotel director, which asks you how the cruise is going.

And I’ve laid down in very careful detail some issues I had with the cabin, which were often noise related, and both of those times I got upgraded to a fantastic cabin within hours by the hotel director, because they read these things and contacted me, understood the issue, checked in with the cabin steward and I have been moved to better cabins.

So definitely it’s about complaining in a considered careful way, and involving the key crew in that. Getting a cabin upgrade can look quite complex, but these are things that have proven to work for me and I’ve been able to get upgrades through those. So hopefully this will help you on your next cruise to get a great cabin upgrade.

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Svetlana

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