Cruise NewsCarnival Cruise LineBusted! This "Free Upgrade" Cruise Hack is a TOTAL Myth (According to...

Busted! This “Free Upgrade” Cruise Hack is a TOTAL Myth (According to Carnival)

No, this cruise cabin “hack” is not one you should be trying any time soon.   It’s not only deceptive, but also ineffective.

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Carnival Celebration cruise ship docked
Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

It’s not hard to find cruise tips online.  Take a look around a few social media channels and groups. You can easily become overwhelmed with information, most of it void of key details.

Carnival Cruise Line’s Brand Ambassador John Heald recently addressed a social media post claiming a way to score free cabin upgrades.

The post suggested cruisers plead claustrophobia in an inside cabin to get a free balcony upgrade.

One of Heald’s fans wrote in to tell him about the piece of cruise advice that was found in a Facebook group about cruising with Carnival.

Here is what the original post said:

Cruise hack. When you get on the ship go straight to the front desk. Say to them that you are scared because you get claustrophobic and sick in an inside room and and you have to get upgraded. I have been on 4 cruises and only once was told no and on TWO occasions we were given a free upgrade to a balcony.”

Heald replied to the post saying that the Facebook group in question had spread false information before.   In fact, he said the group had posted “false and fabricated comments” just a week prior and this third incident was the “hattrick”.

He emphasized that with Carnival’s high booking rates this year and next, free upgrades are highly unlikely.

We simply cannot do upgrades so standing in line at Guest Services on their busiest day to ask for an upgrade is a waste your time and quite frankly, a waste of the guest services team as well who could be helping other guests on what is their busiest day,” Heald concluded on the matter.

Last-minute upgrades require an empty cabin

Most major cruise lines already have filled up most of their ships for 2024.   An empty cabin is the last thing these companies want, and they do everything they can to fill them. 

The chances of having a few if any empty cabins on a cruise this year are quite slim, particularly during the peak season.

In fact, during Royal Caribbean’s earnings call the CEO said that there was only 12% load factor left for the rest of 2024.  By this time that number has likely dwindled into the single digits.

What if you really want a cabin upgrade?

  • Book a guaranteed upgrade: Some cruise lines offer promotions where you can book a guaranteed upgrade at a discounted price. This is usually done at the time of booking your cruise. If you really want that upgrade, booking it in the first place is the only surefire way to get it.
  • Bid on an upgrade: Many cruise lines allow you to submit a bid for an upgrade to a specific cabin category. The cruise line will then notify you if your bid is accepted.
  • Ask your travel agent: A travel agent, especially one who specializes in cruises, may be able to negotiate an upgrade for you with the cruise line.
  • Ask at the terminal: It doesn’t hurt to ask right?  It’s not as easy as it used to be to snag an upgrade on the day of your cruise, but if there are any openings you can try to take advantage of it.

Just keep in mind that in most cases this will not be free.  And even if it is complimentary, you might have extra fees and gratuity charges to think about if upgrading to a suite category.

Most cruise lines use a bidding system for cabin upgrades, and the more you’re willing to spend the better your chances of landing that upgrade.

Just don’t follow the advice of the individual who posted the above “hack”.

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J. Souza
J. Souza
Jon is the co-founder of Cruise Fever and has been on 50+ cruises since his first in 2009. As an editor, 15-year writer on the cruise industry, and avid cruise enthusiast he has sailed with at least 10 cruise lines and is always looking for a great cruise deal. Jon lives in North Carolina and can be reached at [email protected].
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