Cruise TipsThe Reality of Cruise Cabin Upgrades: 7 Biggest Misconceptions

The Reality of Cruise Cabin Upgrades: 7 Biggest Misconceptions

Trying to understand how cruise cabin upgrades work can be a little confusing, especially for people new to cruising.  We’ve selected some of the biggest misconceptions about getting stateroom upgrades to help clear up this confusion.

cabin upgrade bidding

While on a cruise, your cabin is your home away from home, so it is important to choose wisely which type of room is best suited for your travel party.

There are several types of staterooms ranging from interiors, which do not have any windows, to presidential suites with private pools overlooking the ocean. The types of cabins available will depend greatly upon the cruise line you are sailing with, as well as the particular cruise ship you are sailing on, as newer ships often have a wider variety of staterooms available.

The price you pay per person, per night also varies depending upon the stateroom that you choose, and again, your cruise line, so it is important to factor your budget in when making these choices. Prices can also fluctuate depending on the time of year, with holiday and summer sailings typically being more costly.

Related article: Cheapest weeks of the year to book a cruise

As an incentive for booking, cruise lines are known to offer what are called cruise cabin upgrades. These upgrade offers are presented in a number of different ways: offers at discounted rates, re-bookings due to new promotional offers you may be eligible for, the newer implemented email invite to online bidding opportunities, or even the rare surprise complimentary offers.

Sounds like an offer too good to pass up, right? Well, you may be in for a surprise to learn that many seasoned cruisers do pass up on these offers for many reasons. Here are seven of the biggest misconceptions about cruise cabin upgrades.


1. Cruise Cabin Upgrades Will Always Be Available

One of the seven biggest misconceptions about cruise cabin upgrades is that they are always available, which is not true. While cruise lines may occasionally offer upgrades, they are not always available, and it is not always possible to upgrade your cabin.

Suite cabin on MSC cruise ship Meraviglia
Suite balcony on MSC Meraviglia. Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

This may depend on your sailing itinerary, your cruise ship, or your residency. Cruise lines offer special upgrades for certain, less popular itineraries to encourage more guests to book that sailing, which is often advertised on their website. The same applies to older ships, as newer ones have become increasingly popular, and in demand. Additionally, if you sail out of a port within your home state, you are often rewarded with discounts, which may include cabin upgrades that are not available to the general public.


2. Cabin Upgrades Are Free

 A free upgrade to a cabin bigger, and better than the one you originally booked sounds like the dream of a lifetime. However, the sad truth is, while these upgrades were formerly more common, a free cabin upgrade rarely happens anymore.

Cruise lines may decide to compensate a travel party with a free cabin upgrade if something on their reservation was seriously mishandled, but otherwise, your upgrade will most likely be within the same stateroom category (i.e. inside room to another inside room).

Should you choose to upgrade from one category to a higher category level, you will likely have to pay any costs associated, and all fees are typically per person, per night, and are always subject to availability.

Related: What is the true cost difference between a balcony and inside cabin?


3. A Cabin Upgrade Will Guarantee a Better Experience

 While the word ‘upgrade’ knowingly denotes a positive connotation, it may not always be what it seems while on a cruise vacation, especially if you’ve prepaid for specific stateroom requests.

When the cruise line offers you an upgrade, it is essentially the same as booking a ‘guarantee’ cabin – where your cabin category is guaranteed, but your location is not. So, while you can choose the type of stateroom, you are unable to choose the location.

things you should never do in your cruise cabin stateroom

An upgrade may not be for you if, while booking, you never pick “choose my room for me” because you prefer to be on the same deck as the spa, where you spend a tremendous amount of time, or you enjoy a room near the elevators for quicker access to other decks with more entertainment. An upgrade may place you in a more secluded area, which would not be enjoyable for this situation. Additionally, large travel groups who intentionally booked multiple rooms near each other should avoid upgrading for obvious reasons.

If any of these factors are important to you, you may want to think twice, and stick with the room you initially reserved to avoid this misconception about cruise cabin upgrades.

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Related: List of cruise ships with the most square feet of space in balcony cabins


4. Cabin Upgrades Are Always Worth the Extra Cost

 Another one of the seven biggest misconceptions about cruise cabin upgrades when upgrading your stateroom is that the new cabin you upgrade to is guaranteed to have improved amenities, and better perks than you initially secured.

You may be surprised to learn that your initial booking incentive perks probably won’t follow you to your new reservation. Why? That old reservation and any information associated gets cancelled once a new one is created – just like returning an item with a coupon attached.

When you accept the upgrade, you won’t receive the incentives attached to the previous room you had reserved, and it’s possible that the new perks aren’t as enticing as the ones you received two, three months ago when you initially booked your cruise.

For example, if you initially booked a room with a promotion offering free Wi-Fi, and a $100 onboard credit per person, but the current offering is a $50 onboard credit per person, and no Wi-Fi package, you lose the free internet when you re-book your cabin.

It may be important to weigh the costs associated beyond the dollar signs when deciding if an upgrade is right for your party.


5. A Cabin Upgrade Can Be Requested at Any Time

 Another one of the seven biggest misconceptions about cruise cabin upgrades is that upgrades can be requested at any time before, or even during your sailing.

While each cruise line sets their own rules, and guidelines regarding deadlines for upgrades on cabins, most are typically completed 1-2 days prior to sailing to ensure the online check-in process is completed. However, some cruise lines will let guests upgrade on embarkation day by visiting the Guest Services Desk. This upgrade method is subject to stateroom availability.

If you are confident that you’d like to attempt to upgrade your cabin, it is always recommended to take advantage of any offers your cruise line presents to you within the dates that it is active.


6. You’ll Get the Same Deck Location of Cabin You Originally Booked

 As discussed earlier, cruise lines divide staterooms into categories (interior, porthole, veranda, etc.), and those cabins by deck location: midship, aft, and stern.

If you prefer to sail midship to ease seasickness, most knowingly book a midship category stateroom ahead of time to avoid this inconvenience. Upgrading your cabin may eliminate the room location you originally secured, which could put a wrench in your entire vacation plans.

Keep in mind, that once you upgrade, there is no guarantee you can switch back to the room location, or category you initially had, as it may be unavailable. It is almost impossible to move back to the exact room number you initially booked.

Related: What cruise cabins to avoid on the ship


7. If You Need an Accessible Cabin, you are Guaranteed One

All cruise lines welcome and encourage all individuals to sail with them regardless of physical limitations. In fact, cruise lines are now required to have accessible/wheelchair-friendly cabins on all their ships.

Being that most individuals are not physically handicapped, these cabins are not the majority, and there is a limited amount on board. If you need an accessible cabin, it is in your best interest to book ahead of time, and to say no to potential upgrades to avoid ending up with a stateroom that is not suitable to your needs.

There are terms and agreements proposed by the cruise line that you adhere to when agreeing to an upgrade, and the risk of losing the type of room you had initially secured is one of them, so unfortunately, there is no recourse here.


Final Thoughts

 The bottom line here is that sometimes an upgrade is not particularly suitable when assessing your individual situation.

If you maintain strong preferences about a cabin in a certain location, or within a general proximity from entertainment, and activities, it may be in your best interest to prepay for that desirable stateroom. Additionally, if you’re traveling in a large group, for example, a family reunion, it’s always best to secure a particular wing of rooms adjacent to each other.

What a cruise line deems as a desirable location, or cabin eligible for a flashy promotion, may not be all that it seems, and may be where you disagree on the value of the room.

The best thing you can do to avoid regrets when it comes to your choices for your vacations is to do your research. There is a plethora of online cruise information boards where you can oftentimes even create an account, and ask very specific questions pertaining to your itinerary, or travel plans.

Hearing from others without a bias, and who have ‘been there, done that’ may help you make the best decisions moving forward. You’re even welcome to call your cruise line’s customer service number, and they’ll always be glad to assist you.

Related: Cruise cabin check: 11 things to do before you unpack your suitcase

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J. Souza
J. Souza
Jon is the co-founder of Cruise Fever and has been on dozens of cruises since his first in 2009. As an editor and avid cruise enthusiast he has sailed with at least 9 cruise lines and is always looking for a great cruise deal. Jon lives in North Carolina and can be reached at [email protected].
Cruise TipsThe Reality of Cruise Cabin Upgrades: 7 Biggest Misconceptions

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