How Smart Cruisers Are Landing Cruise Cabin Upgrades in 2024

How Smart Cruisers Are Landing Cruise Cabin Upgrades in 2024

How Smart Cruisers Are Landing Cruise Cabin Upgrades in 2024

With ships sailing full, and all the major cruise lines saying that on average they’re sailing at 104% capacity, the techniques that I used to use and spoke about in the past to get cruise cabin upgrades no longer work. But after some rethinking, I’ve successfully cracked how to still get upgrades today.

In the past, I found one of the easiest ways to get an upgrade was to wait until I was on board the ship and ask Guest Services what better cabins were available, pay a small token fee and upgrade. But now, every cruise I go on has a sign at Guest Services saying, “There can be no cabin changes because the ship is sailing full.” These days instead of leaving it late, I start early, in fact when booking.

Cruise Cabin Upgrades – Upgrade At Time Of Booking

This year I see cruise lines, especially during key sales periods, offering promotions where I book one grade but get given a grade or two higher. So, I can lock in an upgrade when I book to get more bang for my buck. This is now one of my main tools for getting upgrades.

For example, a few weeks before I made this, by waiting for one of those sales I booked one of my bucket list cruises and got a bigger cabin two grades above at the price of a standard entry level balcony cabin.

The cruise is down the west coast of Africa from Barcelona to Cape Town. As it’s a long cruise (25 days) it was a big budget stretch anyway, and I didn’t want to be in a small cabin cruising for that time. So, the upgrade got me what the line calls a “Concierge Grade Cabin”, not only is it bigger, but comes with perks like a pre-cruise hotel stay, transfers, coffee machine in the cabin and laundry.

So, for the same price as an entry level balcony cabin at any other time, I was able to upgrade this way.

Wave Season

The key sales periods to look out for these include the “Wave season” at start of every year when many people are looking to book cruises and the lines have to offer appealing promotions, at the end of the quarter when I see them doing flash sales as I assume they want to hit some sales targets, and Black Friday. I’ve already seen these upgrade deal this past year from cruise lines of all categories including Carnival, Norwegian, MSC Cruises, Celebrity Princess Cruises and Virgin Voyages.

I also see these often when cruise lines launch new itineraries, as they want to lock us into future cruises way ahead of time.

So how do you make sure you know when they are offered? Well, I get my agent to watch out for them, but I also am signed up to receive email newsletters from all the cruise lines that I’m interested, and I follow them on social media as this is where they often announce them. As many of these are run as flash sales lasting 8 hours you need to be on top of it.

This tip is how I have upgraded several of my cruisers that I’ve booked for this and into next year, including that Africa one I mentioned.

The second tip is one I used to be more wary of, but these days plays more of a role in upgrades, particularly when booking an Inside, Oceanview or one of the lower grade balcony cabins.

How Smart Cruisers Are Landing Cruise Cabin Upgrades in 2024

Cruise Cabin Upgrades – Upgrade Bidding

This is bidding for upgrades. The opportunity to do these kicks in the run-up to cruise, usually roughly a month before.

Only a few lines used to offer this but now it seems this year most are offering it. Even the staider premium line Cunard has ditched offering free upgrades to cruisers like me with high loyalty status, inviting me instead to bid for an upgrade in the run up to my recent Queen Anne cruise.

In the weeks before other cruises in did in the last year (Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, and MSC Cruises), every one of them sent emails offering the chance to bid to be upgraded.

With free upgrades more a thing of the past, bidding is now more of a way to get them than ever before.

A couple of things about bidding to watch out for.

Don’t Bid Too High!

First, I always make sure that I don’t bid too high and check how much it would cost me to just upgrade. I have met several people on board cruises who admit they got carried away and found out they bid more to upgrade than if they’ve just done it themselves.

Next,  I check the cabin grades I’m being invited to bid on to see if there is any availability. If there are several that suggests a good chance if I bid.

On that Cunard trip as we are going to celebrate my partner and my birthdays, we had splashed out on a higher-grade cabin and all the grades above were sold out so knew there was no or little chance anyway.

And thirdly, linked to that, bidding usually works best when booked in lower grades like Inside, Ocean view or entry level balcony cabins, as those are the ones cruise lines are most trying to get us to shift up from.

First, they make more money if we do, but also, it’s easier to resell and clear any leftover cabins in the run up to a cruise to people looking for a last-minute cruise bargain.

Another big watch-out if planning to bid for an upgrade is if you are, like me often, cruising solo the bid is a price per person based on double occupancy, so you I usually do not bid as it is double.

This leads me to what is going to sound a slightly unusual tip for upgrading, but one that can work enormously well. It’s one many of my friends use to upgrade these days.

How Smart Cruisers Are Landing Cruise Cabin Upgrades in 2024

Cruise Cabin Upgrades – Upgrade By Changing Cruise

And this is to cruise on repositioning cruises or to sail out of season as you can get on a better cruise line, or into a bigger cabin than any other time for much less money.

Repositioning cruises are when cruise lines move their ships from one region at the end of a season to another region that is coming into season. The main repositioning cruises are between the Mediterranean and Alaska to and from the Caribbean in April and October. But also happen to and from Asia and Australia, but in smaller numbers.

The prices for cabins are usually much lower on repositioning cruises as they have many sea days and are longer cruises, so appeal to fewer people.

Friends of mine are big fans of the small ship luxury Viking cruise line but can’t afford to cruise Viking on their regular cruises but every year they book on a Viking repositioning cruise between the Caribbean and Europe because they’re able to get onto a Viking ship and one of the higher-grade cabins for what it costs them on a premium line like a Holland America the rest of the year.

Others I meet use repositioning cruises to able to cruise in a suite on a ship versus the normal balcony cabin their budget stretches to.

Two years ago, I sailed out of season on Viking in March in the Mediterranean and could afford to upgrade to a higher-grade Penthouse Verandah Suite for the price of a regular verandah in season.

So, out of season sailings are another way of upgrading your cabin within your budget.

How Smart Cruisers Are Landing Cruise Cabin Upgrades in 2024

Cruise Cabin Upgrades – Upgrade Tips Worth Trying

Although these next two tips used to be very successful at getting upgrades, they are proving less so right now. But you should still try them but be aware I am seeing less frequent success. Though that may change.


As cruise lines now get us to bid for upgrades and ships are sailing so full, auto-upgrades are less common it seems.  But, still on most cruise lines when you book, you can either opt-in or opt-out of being considered for an auto-upgrade. This means if there are higher cabin cabins free, there is a chance that you’ll be upgraded.

I tend not to do this because I don’t get any say on the cabin I get upgraded to. They just move you with no chance to refuse or to keep the cabin originally booked. I don’t like that as I’m fussy about my cabin location.

Importantly many lines require you to actively opt out of auto-upgrades when booking if you don’t want to be considered for one.

Fare Tracking

Another technique which used to be very successful for me was fare tracking. I would input my cruise into sites like Cruise Watch and other sites, you can find them and how to do this on this post on my blog at

If I you saw fares go down, I would contact the cruise line and basically negotiate to get a refund, extra onboard credit, or in most cases, get upgraded to the cabin that the fare I was paying had now moved to.

This had been my most effective way of getting upgrades. But cruise lines are not really playing ball anymore, first, because the ships are full, so they don’t feel the need to, and secondly, they were seeing it too much and are arguing nowadays that when I book, the price is locked in, and they will not match.

Is it still worth tracking and asking the line to upgrade your cabin to match the new fare? Yes, and still try – but expect it to be less effective. But if you see the fare move down, contact the cruise line, and see if they will budge.

Another amazing upgrade trick that I want to talk about that I discovered, is one specific to Holland America.

How Smart Cruisers Are Landing Cruise Cabin Upgrades in 2024

Cruise Cabin Upgrades – Upgrade on Holland America

Holland America has something called Club Orange, which anybody can buy, from Inside cabin upwards. Club Orange costs around about US $15 a day per person. And one of the key perks is a guaranteed stateroom upgrade to the next available grade.

I am arranging a Group Cruise in 2026 on Holland America and the Travel Agent I am working with to do the bookings discovered if people booked Club Orange and the lowest grade of balcony Cabin, not only were they upgraded to the higher available grade but into a grade that would have cost them more to book directly than the combined cost of the lower grade and Club Orange. They saved a nice bit of money.

Plus, Club Orange came with other perks such a bigger room service breakfast menu, priority seating, area in the dining room, concierge service, tote bags, priority embarkation and disembarkation and more. So added upgrades there too.

We managed to get many people upgraded on my future group cruise and save them money.


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