We wish there were a magic elixir you could whip up to get a free or low-cost cabin upgrade on a cruise ship. We'd be chugging it all the time. But sorry -- no can do.
Before you sit by the phone, waiting for the upgrade fairy to call, there are a few basic things to know about cruise ship cabin upgrades. First off, understand that cruise lines deem certain cabins better than others, even within the same cabin type (inside, outside, balcony, suite). An upgrade means you're moved to a cabin in a better category than the one you originally booked. Does that mean you will relocate from the lowest inside cabin on the ship to a balcony suite? More likely, you'd be moved to a cabin that's very similar to the one you booked but is somehow better in the eyes of the cruise line (on a higher deck, in a more convenient mid-ship location, etc.). You might not notice a difference, but you can brag about being upgraded later.
Second, free upgrades -- where your cabin is relocated to a better one at no additional cost -- are fairly rare. More common are "upsells," or upgrades for a reduced cost.
But if you're still yearning for that upgrade, how do you get one? "I have cruised more than 50 times on a variety of lines and itineraries and have only received one upgrade, so I really do think it is luck of the draw," CRUISERTN wrote on our message boards. That being said, Cruise Critic members do report some strategies that have increased their odds of getting offered a cabin upgrade. Their best recommendations include these five tips -- and one warning why a free upgrade isn't always what it's cracked up to be.