pay more than your tablemates...
makes it easy to let
independent agents compete to offer you the best deal.
Have a question or a review to submit? Write Cruise
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
content is protected by United States Copyright Laws.
Violators of our copyright, as well as bandwidth theft by "direct linking" of
images, will be pursued by all means necessary. Find
out more in
the "Upgrade Fairy" Myth
George Leppla of CruiseMaster.com
of the most appreciated and least understood parts of the cruise
industry is the process whereby some people get upgraded into a
better cabin than they paid for. While there are many reasons that
upgrades occur, keep in mind that the cruise lines' main motivation
is profit. You might be a great person, but the cruise line didn't
give you that upgrade on your last cruise just because they like
you. They did it because it is economically profitable for them to
Let's take a look at the many kinds of upgrades and how people get
The "Buy Now and Get A Free 2 Category Upgrade" upgrade.
This is a case where you are offered an upgrade at the time of
booking. There are a couple of ways this can happen.
the agency you are booking with may belong to a buying group or
consortium that is having a special promotion for the cruise
line. In exchange for the consortium members promoting a cruise
line during a specific time, the cruise line offers an upgrade
on most bookings made during the promotion. The cruise lines
hope that the extra promotion will give them more sales. The
travel agencies use the extra value of an upgrade hoping for the
same thing. There are a couple of drawbacks, however. You will
seldom see this kind of promotion during the first three months
of the year when bookings are very heavy, and you will find that
the most popular ships or itineraries may be excluded. All
in all, the customer usually ends up getting a good deal.
the cruise lines may offer "free" upgrades at the time
of booking in order to stimulate sales on a specific ship, sail
date or itinerary. If the sales on the MS Cruise-O-Rama are slow
for December sail dates, the cruise line may offer free upgrades
to ALL travel agencies. Again, the hope is that the promotion
will increase sales. When sales are back to normal levels,
the free upgrades are stopped.
we have the "Guaranteed Rate, or TBA (To Be Assigned)"
upgrade. This type of upgrade is the cruise lines' method of always
having an inexpensive cabin to promote. The first cabins to sell on
many ships are the most and least expensive. When the least
expensive cabins are sold out, the cruise line is left with trying
to promote the mid-range priced cabins, and they may be doing this
against other cruise lines lowest prices.
a good way to catch the consumer's eye, so they came up with the TBA
cabin. In this reservation, you pay for an inexpensive cabin but you
are not assigned a cabin until very close to the sail date. The
cruise line "guarantees" you that you will get the
category that you paid for... or better! This gives the cruise
line the chance to sell the same inexpensive cabins over and over,
moving previous purchasers up into higher cabins. Indeed, some ships
are built with this process in mind. Carnival ships have very few
category 1A cabins. Princess ships sometimes have low categories
that have only 3, 4 or 5 cabins in them. You know that they
are going to sell more than this and they do. They just move the
first purchaser up into the next category and so on. This deal can
be sold on minimum inside or minimum outside categories.
If you are the type of person who doesn't mind what kind of cabin
you have or where it is on the ship, this is one of the best ways
for you to purchase a cruise. You get a great price but you give up
all control over what kind of cabin you get or where it will be
located. One word of caution: I have seen many people buy an
inexpensive TBA with the expectations that they will be upgraded...
and then it doesn't happen and they are stuck with a cabin that they
don't like. I advise my customers to take this kind of deal ONLY if
they would be happy in the kind of cabin that they are purchasing.
That way, if they don't get upgraded, they still have a cabin they
can live with--and in.
The "Right Place at the Right Time" upgrade. This kind of
upgrade can happen for a number of reasons and all of them have to
do with luck. Let's pretend that it is 2 weeks prior to sailing and
someone calls the cruise line and cancels. They have a mid-priced
cabin and the cruise line has already figured out the TBA
assignments. If possible, the cruise line may do a "chain
reaction" upgrade. Category "B" cancels, so they move
up someone from category "C", then move someone up to the
now empty "C" from category "D" and so on. This
accomplishes a couple of things: 4 or 5 couples may be very happy
that the cruise line likes them so much that they were offered a
free upgrade and, more importantly, the cruise line ends up with an
inexpensive cabin to sell at the last minute. If they were to keep
the category "B" cabin and sell it at a discount, they
would be violating their own stated policy of having the best
discounts on cabins sold months ahead of time. Soon, no one would
buy ahead of time, instead waiting until the last minute to
see what kind of deal they would get.
The urban legend is that you can walk up to the ship on the day of
sailing and get on for next to nothing. The reality is that if you
get on at all, you will probably pay a very low price for a very
inexpensive cabin. I know, your brother's friend's mother-in-law's
uncle once went on a cruise for $3.98 and had the owner's suite.
I've heard it before... but it seldom happens. Remember, the cruise
lines promise that if the price of the cabin you buy goes down, you
can rebook your cabin at the new price. Technically, if they sell
you a category "ABC" cabin at a price that is less than
the rest of the people paid, they could be hit with all kinds of
requests for refunds. If they upgrade people so the only thing they
have to sell on the date of sailing is the lowest price cabins,
discounting doesn't come into play as much.
The "Now That I'm On The Ship, I'll Get A Great Deal On A
Better Cabin" upgrade. Some people buy an inexpensive cabin
hoping that someone on the ship will cancel or not show up at the
last minute and they can pay a small premium to be moved up into a
better, empty cabin. It does happen sometimes, but the amount you
pay will be about the same as you would have paid if you had
reserved that cabin in the first place. The problem is that if Mr.
Smith misses the ship, the cruise line may not know that he is
flying ahead to meet the ship at the first port of call. Wouldn't be
very nice if he was there waiting and the cruise line had sold his
cabin. If Mr. Smith cancelled within the three days prior to
sailing or just missed the boat, the cruise line does NOT have to
refund his money. If Mr. Smith had insurance, THEY refund him his
money. That cabin can stay empty all week and the cruise line
doesn't lose a dime except in onboard revenue. Of course, if they
know for sure that Mr. Smith is not coming, they'll be glad to move
you into that empty cabin... for a fee.
The "Welcome Back" upgrade. Most cruise lines have a
frequent cruisers club of one kind or another. One of the perks of
these clubs is that you may get offered a free upgrade on your next
sailing. You get notified through a direct mailing, or your travel
agent can check and see if you are eligible for any additional
upgrades or discounts.
The "We Screwed Up" upgrade happens when you write to the
cruise line with a legitimate complaint and they offer you an
upgrade on your next cruise as a form of apology or compensation.
This type of upgrade can also be offered when there is a change in
ship or itinerary. Because you may have to change your travel plans,
the cruise lines may offer you some inducements to accept any
changes and these may include cabin upgrades.
When there is an upgrade to be given out, who gets it? You stand a
better chance of getting an upgrade if you are a past customer. You
stand a better chance of getting an upgrade the earlier you make
your reservation. Will it help if your travel agent asks? It
wouldn't hurt, but it probably won't do you much good either. For
the most part, upgrades happen or don't happen. I have had times
when I begged for an upgrade and got nothing. I have had times when
a customer got a great upgrade and I didn't expect one. You never
Don't take a chance on ruining your vacation by buying an
inexpensive cabin and hoping for an upgrade. Buy the cabin you would
like to have, then if you get upgraded, you are that much ahead. If
you don't, you'll still be comfortable.
By the way, run like hell from any travel agent who promises you an
upgrade while booking you into a lower category. If they can deliver
it, have them put it in writing. Any travel agent who tells you they
can positively arrange for an upgrade "later" is not
telling the truth.
Guide & Cruise
Back to the top of