Cruise Lifestyle

Cruise Lifestyle: How to get a free cabin upgrade

The cabin upgrade, like getting an upgrade on an airline, this is the holy grail of bragging rights in the cruise experience and regular cruise passengers have a number of theories of how it can be done, but during a recent ship visit to Quantum of the Seas in Dubai, a guest relations executive spilled the beans for Cruise Arabia & Africa.


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It turns out there isn’t much of a strategy to it at all, and it has nothing to do with whether you’re super nice to the person behind the check-in desk at the terminal, or whether you make up a story about why you should be given a cabin upgrade on your cruise (honeymoon, birthday cruise etc).

According to the guest relations officer we spoke to, who preferred to remain anonymous, Royal Caribbean International follows a revenue maximisation strategy that is widely adopted by mainstream cruise lines around the world, so it doesn’t matter which port you’re boarding the ship in.


Quantum of the Seas is the most advanced cruise ship in the industry, but luckily it follows the same upgrade tricks as all other cruise ships

It comes down to this: cruise lines want to make as much money as they can off every cruise departure, so they prefer to sell tickets earlier at a generally higher price (with ‘value added’ bonuses thrown in, such as drinks vouchers and the ability to qualify for an ‘automatic’ upgrade).

However, a few weeks before the departure date, with the ship only 70% or 80% full, they drop prices significantly to sell those extra cabins (see

But, how does this help them maximise revenue? According to Royal Caribbean’s guest relations officer aboard Quantum of the Seas, the middle grade cabins (outside superior, balcony, deluxe balcony and mini suite) are always the last to sell. Conversely, the inside, outside and premium cabins such as the owner’s suite, deluxe suite and so on, are always the first to sell.

So if you book a lower grade cabin early, such as a superior outside, you dramatically increase your chances of getting upgraded to a balcony cabin, or from a balcony cabin to a balcony suite, because the cruise line prefer to bump you up and then sell your cabin at a reduced price to fill the ship, rather than having empty higher-grade cabins that bring in no revenue for that particular sailing.

Cruise departures such as Quantum of the Seas’ cruise from Dubai are incidentally the best kinds of cruises to get an upgrade on, according to our ‘source’. This is because a longer cruise (two weeks to Singapore in this case) are more expensive than a mini cruise, squeezing the budgets of ‘middle class’ cruisers and prompting them to opt for a lower grade and therefore cheaper cabin, while wealthy cruise passengers prefer to splurge on a premium cabin because of the length of the cruise.


Higher cabin categories, such as the Princess Grill suites aboard Queen Victoria, sell fastest, along with low-grade inside cabins

Being a member of the cruise line’s loyalty program is also a sure-fire way to get an upgrade, because these passengers are prioritised, as are passengers who haven’t pre-selected their cabin number (many people like to do this to get the best location on the ship within a particular cabin grade), but if you do that, it makes it more difficult for the cruise line to bump you up.

So, there you have it, in order to maximise your chances of a cabin upgrade: book a lower-grade cabin far in advance of your cruise, book a cruise longer than 7-days, join the loyalty program and don’t pre-select your cabin number. It is a gamble, but when you’re sipping a cocktail on your balcony you didn’t pay for, watching the coast slide idly by, it will seem worth it.

Categories: Cruise Lifestyle

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