Thursday, October 25, 2007

How Do You Get a Free Cabin Upgrade on a Cruise?

You've probably heard that it's sometimes possible to get a free or deeply discounted cabin upgrade on a cruise.

This is true, though it isn't quite the sure thing some travel agents or websites would have you believe. Today's cruise ships are often sailing at 100% capacity and it can be hard to get cabin upgrade deals, especially during peak season. That said, there are some tricks you can try to get a deal on an outside cabin or a suite with a balcony without paying the full price:

1. Look for advertised (or unadvertised) specials

On specific sailings, cruise lines will have specials that include free or cheap cabin upgrades. These are often only advertised to travel agents though (which is why it often pays to book with a travel agent).

These specials allow you to buy the cheapest fare and be upgraded from one to five cabin levels.

2. Find "soft sailing' upgrades

During the off-season and on cruises to less popular destinations, a ship is sometimes expected to sail with less than full capacity. When you book early and choose the least expensive cabin during the low- or shoulder-season, you may be able to get an upgrade if the more expensive cabins fill up.

For a better shot, book early and choose a ship with relatively few inside cabins (you can study ship deck plans online). However, with today's high occupancy rates, it can be hard to get these kind of upgrades even during the low season.

3. Look for guarantees on sold-out cabins

If you request a sold-out cabin category when you book your cruise, the line will offer a guarantee, promising you the category you wanted or better. Since these guarantees are only offered when then cruise is sold-out or over-sold in the requested category, odds are in your favor for getting an upgrade at no additional cost.

4. Look for inexpensive paid upgrades

You may not always be able to find a free cabin upgrade, but you improve your odds of getting a deal by also looking for paid upgrades that don't cost much.

A number of cruise lines sell upgrades for as little as $15 per person, especially for soft sailings.

Source: The Unofficial Guide to Cruises

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