How To Get an Upgrade On a Cruise?

Are you wondering how to get an upgrade on a cruise?  If so, you’re not alone.

As a travel professional myself, I get asked this question all the time!  My answer is always, yes, it is possible. And, it’s relatively common – if you know how to do it.

The key in getting an upgrade on a cruise ship cabin is to let your travel professional (or the reservation agent with the cruise line) know that you are open to upgrades. Importantly, let your travel professional know that you are open to upgrade ONLY to the next category.  By doing so, this will prevent you from being moved to a different location, with the same type of cabin.

There are three main types of upgrades available for cruise ship cabins.  So, let’s see the differences, along with the pros and cons of each one.

sunset from a cruise cabin, balcony cabin, cruising in a balcony cabin
Sunset from the Balcony

Most Often: Paid Upgrade (The Upsell)

The Upsell upgrade is, in my experience, the most common cruise ship upgrade.  The upsell is usually offered about a week or two before departure.

How it works: Either you or your travel agent receive an email from the cruise line advising you of an upgrade offer to a balcony, mini-suite or suite, for a specific per-person price.  Naturally, the upgrade price is often significantly less than the cost of the new cabin.

What To Do If You Get The Upsell / Upgrade Offer

If you decide to take the offer, you or your travel agent must respond by calling the cruise line and accepting the upgrade.  As these offers are on a first-come, first-served basis, its essential to call as soon as possible as they go fast!

For this type of upgrade, you may even be able to choose your new cabin.  However, be aware that choice can be limited. For this reason, I think it’s crucial to have the deck plan handy (Online or on the cruise line brochure) when you call to accept the offer. This will allow you to pick the best cabin available and avoid surprises.

Rick Having Pizza and Beer - On an upgraded Balcony Cabin
Our Upgrade to a Balcony on a Cruise Ship

Pros of The Upsell Offer are:

  1. You can choose if you want to take the offer or not.
  2. It may be possible to pick the new cabin (Note: cabin choices are usually quite limited).
  3. The cost of the upgrade is likely heavily discounted


  1. You’ll have to pay for this offer.
  2. The offer is on a first-come, first-served basis. So, by the time you call, the offer could have been sold out.

Less Often: Free / Automatic Cruise Ship Cabin Upgrade 

Automatic upgrades happen but are less common.  For example, you’ve booked an inside cabin, and a week or two before your cruise, you receive a lovely message from the cruise line telling you your cabin now is an ocean view.  Or better yet, a balcony!  While it doesn’t happen, upgrades often occur when the cruise ship is not sold out. Two things to keep in mind about this kind of upgrade are:

  1. You can not choose the new cabin you have been upgraded. So, if you are very specific about a particular cabin, cabin location or closeness to your friend or family, etc. you have no choice. If this is the case, ask your travel agent to notify the cruise line you do not want to change your cabin.
  2. Usually, the upgrade is to the next category of cabin (For example Oceanview to a balcony, balcony to mini-suite, mini-suite to a standard suite, etc.).
  3. If you book a “To be assigned” cabin, it is not unusual to be assigned to the next available category (up). The risk is that in case of a sold-out cruise, you might end up in a less than desirable location.
  4. Sometimes the cabin you get “upgraded” is the same kind of cabin just in a different location of the ship (very rare). Again, if you do not want to change the cabin, ask your travel agent to notify the cruise line with your request.

The Pros of This Type of Upgrade Offer

  1. You get a better cabin
  2. You don’t pay anything

The cons of This Type of Upgrade Offer

  1. You are not able to choose the cabin or the location on the ship.
  2. The offer is final. You can not choose if you want to take it or not.

Upgrade Onboard

The second least likely scenario. To begin with, you can go to the front desk and request an upgrade – after boarding.  Ordinarily, I understand that the front desk agent may take note of your request.  Further, I’ve heard rumors that upgrades in this way happen, but I’ve never met anybody that was able to do it!

Move Over Offers: The Holy Grail of Cruise Ship Upgrades

These are very different kind of offers.  In rare cases, the cruise lines are oversold.  Further, they offer passengers compensation if they accept to change their cabin or the departure date. Lastly, the passenger decides if they want to take the offer or not.

Here are some examples:

  1. Downgrade: Move from a Balcony to an Inside cabin and as much as 100% original fare as a refundable onboard credit.  This makes it a free cruise!
  2. Different date: Change the departure date, with the same type or cabin or a different one. Like the downgrade, this type of offer often comes with as much as 100% Original Fare as Refundable On Board Credit.  This also makes it a free cruise!

How to Increase Your Chances of Getting an Upgrade on your Cruise

Here are some things you can do to increase your chances of getting an upgrade on your cruise.  In short, it’s the luck of the draw and the cruise lines’ decision.

Here’s what you can do to increase your chances of getting upgraded:

  1. When you book the cruise, tell your travel agent to select the “Only Upgrade to the Next Stateroom Type” box in your reservation.  By doing so, the cruise line knows that you are willing to take the upgrade only if it is a better type of cabin.
  2. Be loyal to your cruise line. The higher you are in the loyalty program, you will get likely more chances to be upgraded.
  3. Consider a TBA (To be assigned) cabin. Often, the cruise line runs out of the type of cabin you were supposed to get, and subsequently, get upgraded to a better cabin.
  4. Book a cruise offseason. If the ship is not sold out chances of getting upgraded are mildly higher.

In our experience, and at the time of this writing, we get offered upgrades about 60% of the time.  So far, we have booked a total of 18 cruises.  As a result, we were offered upgrades 11 times.  Notably, we got a free upgrade (from Inside to Balcony) twice, and a coveted move over for a 3-week cruise!

Happy cruising!


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