Unsold Cabins, Free Cruise Upgrades

   November 23, 2015 ,   Tips & Tricks

Tips on how to get unsold cruise cabins at a huge discount, why stateroom upgrades are so very special deals, and how to get a free upgrade on a cruise - all these secrets are revealed here.

Cruise upgrades deals = unsold staterooms at a huge discount

All cruise upgrades are discount deals - simply because you get more for less. Great prices are not all you can get from travel deals. To travel by a cruise ship means exotic adventures to most interesting places, gourmet cuisine, huge variety of onboard activities, accommodations (as categories, types, and amenities), unique experiences on city tours, exciting shore excursions, meeting new people, making new friends. For many travelers, it's the overall value that counts, and not the price alone. For many, but definitely not for all.

Unsold Cabins, Free Cruise Upgrades - CruiseMapper

The main reasons for free cruise upgrades to be offered are two - the worldwide recession and huge overcapacity in the travel industry. With late deals, you can book a cabin for up to 80% off list prices. But if you're booked already, there's a real chance for you to get a cabin upgrade for absolutely free or at a hugely discounted price - because there are still some unsold cabins on your ship.

Unsold cruise cabins on big-cheap shipping companies

The "really big players" on the travel market are large travel agency from the category of "wholeseller - megaseller". They buy more cabins - to buy cheap cabins and resell them at a huge profit. Advance booking, volume discounts and not paying commissions means getting the cheapest prices possible. In most cases, travel agencies have the option to return unsold staterooms to the line/operator by a certain date. However, some of the cabins are bought in bulk - and are non-refundable. These deals offer the biggest discounts from the cruise lines. Generally, whole-sellers sell cabins to travel agencies/agents. But often they also sell to end consumers - thus avoiding paying a commission to the travel agency.

The free cabin upgrade is often more luck than anything else - meaning to be at the right voyage at the right time. But several tips can significantly improve the chances of getting an upgrade - for free or at a huge discount. Some of the best promo specials offer bonuses and perks, but free cabin upgrades are probably the best gift you can get from them. Cheap prices for luxury and style is a great perk! The place that you use mainly for sleeping isn't the Achilles' heel of your sea vacation. However, if you insist on both paying like Cinderella and sailing like the prince, a cabin upgrade is the option you should definitely look for.

10 tips on how to get a free upgrade on a cruise

The world's best passenger ships have accommodations in many categories (the main types are Inside-Oceanview-Balcony-Suite) featuring different interiors, amenities, locations - and booking prices. A cabin upgrade for free is only a chance, but several tips may push your luck in the right direction:

  1. To get a free cabin upgrade means you're relocated to a stateroom in a better category/deck location than the one you booked. Generally, it offers a room with a better location (on a higher deck, mid-ship, replacing your "obstructed view" cabin, etc). An upgrade at absolutely no additional cost is more like a happy dream - the better word for this kind of deal is "upsell" - an upgrade for a reduced cost.
  2. Early booking - lines sell both the cheapest and the most expensive accommodations first. If later on there's high demand for your category, a chance for a tempting cabin upgrade may appear.
  3. Last-minute offers - do not include cabin upgrades, but are a great discount option. For a sea voyage with less time at sea, and more ports of call and/or land tours, the importance of the stateroom category is rather lesser.
  4. Lower rates by loyalty programs, i.e. - for regular customers of a particular brand/company. In such a case, a cabin upgrade may be one of the bonus amenities (depending on the number of days you've sailed with the line).
  5. Book a free cabin upgrade promotion - lines occasionally offer special promos in which 2 different grades are priced equally - so if you book the usually more expensive room at the lower-room cost, you're basically getting a free upgrade (as an example - an oceanview at inside cabin rates or a balcony for oceanview prices).
  6. Cabin upgrade deals may be used as a hook-tactic to improve your first impressions - either of the particular line or for the ship experience in general.
  7. Skilled travel agent - a travel agency, as a rule, book whole blocks of cabins, and if a higher category is left unsold they may offer you a free upgrade. Be careful with the "new cabin" location - an upgrade that puts you right under the Main Dining Room, or near the disco, lifts and other noisy places on the ship is actually a downgrade.
  8. Cheap deals by added value - book not a cabin with a specific location on the ship, but a stateroom category (the so-called "guaranteed cabins"). This option promises accommodation in the desired category OR HIGHER - great chances for a free upgrade.
  9. Pick the right destination - in its low season. Alaska, Caribbean, and other popular sea ship vacation destinations offer good chances for free cabin upgrades and hugely discounted rates during their low and off-seasons. If your off-peak sailing isn't full and the line decreases fares to boost bookings, that's a very good time for a free upgrade. Note: for some destinations, low seasons include the months of May and September (Alaska), September through November (Caribbean), early January and May (Mexico Riviera).
  10. Always ask about it - it's a gambling chance, but what do you have to lose?

If the size of your stateroom affects seriously your sailing style, you should consider the option of booking a "serious" category and lowering the overall expenses by walking some of the trudged paths: group booking, relocation deals, member discount programs, less onboard spending, less attractive itineraries, limited or no land tours/shore excursions, and/or the solo traveling option.

NCL cabin upgrades

In February 2017, NCL-Norwegian started a new (industry's first) cabin upgrade program that allows already booked passengers to bid for upgrades to higher-category staterooms.

  • "Norwegian Upgrade Advantage" program was tested and approved by top travel agencies. The entire system is automated and doesn't require travel agent intervention and pays commissions on the enhanced fare.
  • After final payment, NCL's customers could bid on an upgrade and there was a little dial that would show them in red, yellow or green the likelihood their bid was going to be accepted. When NCL offered the cabin upgrade to the guest, they emailed the travel agency of record, so they saw the guest had been offered the ability to upgrade. If the bid was accepted NCL notified the agency. The agency had to do absolutely nothing.

Once the passengers' bids are accepted, they are assigned to an available higher-level stateroom - interior to oceanview, oceanview to a balcony, balcony to a suite or to The Haven accommodation. However, they can't choose the exact stateroom (number) to which they are assigned.

Royal Caribbean cabin upgrades

Since November 2018, RCI-Royal Caribbean International offers a bid-based cabin upgrade program called "RoyalUp". Booked customers receive an email if their voyage is eligible. They can browse through available for booking higher-grade staterooms on that voyage. Then select their bidding price for a particular cabin upgrade and submit the bid.

RoyalUp upgrades are offered fleetwide, priced per person, for the entire voyage, based on twin share. Only the first and second passengers in the cabin are charged the extra - regardless of the room's grade and max occupancy. These upgrades are based on availability. The cabin location can't be specified.

Group bookings are also included for bidding, but without a guarantee that all reservations will be upgraded. If all reservations are upgraded, RCI doesn't guarantee that all upgraded staterooms will be located close together.

Booked customers are allowed to bid on multiple cabin categories. Travel agents are also allowed to bid for their clients. Upgrade bids are accepted until 2 days prior departure. Passengers with accepted RoyalUp biddings are notified via email. They are allowed also to modify or cancel the upgrade (until 2 days prior departure) if the offer is not been accepted by RCI and their credit card is not been charged.