It's a cruiser's dream scenario: you pay for a cheap (read: cramped interior) cabin and get bumped up to a spacious balcony suite on arrival. A cabin upgrade like this is rare but, with a little research, persistence, and our insider tips, you can increase your chance of landing a better room than the one you booked. Read on for the best ways to game the system to get a better cruise ship cabin.
Watch for price drops after booking.
Book your stateroom months in advance and monitor the fare every day for lower prices. If you find a price drop within 48 hours and fill out a claim on a variety of lines (including Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line) you'll get 110 percent of the difference in onboard credit or a room upgrade. On Carnival, for example, this is called the Early Saver Program — you have from the time you book your cruise to the time you set sail to find a lower advertised price and if you find one, you can request a price adjustment or room upgrade.
Book a "Guaranteed Cabin."
Look for the abbreviation "GTY" when booking through your cruise line. You'll pay a set price for a specific stateroom level and are guaranteed at least that category. But rather than having a room assigned, the cruise line chooses one for you, anywhere on the ship — and which you won’t know until you board. The pay off comes if you’re promoted to a higher category. Just note that you could also get stuck with an undesirable location... like right next to the night club.
Use credit card reward points.
Many mainstream cruise lines have credit cards that issue reward points every time you spend — such as Disney Rewards Visa, Carnival World Mastercard, Royal Caribbean Visa Signature, Princess Cruises Rewards Visa, and Norwegian’s Worldpoints Rewards card. You can redeem the points for onboard credit, flights, hotels, or — you guessed it — stateroom upgrades. (We wouldn't open a credit card just for a stateroom upgrade, but it can be a great perk if you need a credit card anyway.)
Wait until you're at sea to ask.
Don’t make a bee line to the guest services desk as soon as you board — it’s only after your cruise ship passes the first port stop that the line will know the availability of empty rooms for those passengers who didn’t show up or missed embarkation. These rooms are usually held for passengers until the first port, so if they’re not able to make it after that time, you may be able to swoop in and score a deluxe cabin. True, it helps if you're a frequent cruiser with the line but, hey, it never hurts to ask!