Elevate Your Adventure: 30 Ways to Upgrade Your Next Cruise

If you’re clever, you’ll discover it’s not hard to get an upgrade to your cabin on a cruise ship. But why stop there? With some guidance, you can elevate your entire adventure. Cruises usually are packed with inclusive services, but there are plenty of additional perks you can obtain onboard if you know what to ask.

Learn how you can get a first-class cruise for next to nothing.

What Types of Upgrades are Available on Your Cruise?

Cabins are the first place you’ll want to work your magic. If you book early, you may be able to turn your ocean-view stateroom into a balcony or mini-suite. Other options for upgrading your sea voyage include spa services, obtaining onboard credits, dining and beverage upgrades and even winning prizes. Here’s how to make it happen.

How to Get That Room with a View

  1. Book your cruise during the off-season and focus on the busy ports. A half-full ship will allow cabin upgrades, while a ship at maximum capacity won’t.
  2. Give yourself a window. A week on either side of your preferred travel time can save you $100s or even $1000s in fees and make upgrading much more likely.
  3. Check rates at other cruise lines. Better perks may pop up if you search your favorite cruise line’s competitors.
  4. Agree to an auto upgrade and book a guaranteed cabin. You’ll never get down-graded, and you could end up with an even better stateroom.
  5. Book with a trusted AAA Travel agent who specializes in cruises and has access to member-only promotions such as upgrades and onboard credits.
  6. Check for any price drops before you make your final payment. If your cabin’s price decreases, you can ask for an upgrade. You might be able to turn your ocean view into a balcony cabin.
  7. Monitor prices after your final payment. If the price goes down again, inquire about the next higher category of cabin upgrades.
  8. Many cruise lines have auctions to bid for that upgraded cabin, and you may win with a minimum bid. Just note that if you win, the charges are applied automatically.

Two beds in a cruise balcony suite with light shining through the sliding doors.

First Day Discounts

  1. Check with guest services on that first or second day. If you’re not sailing at maximum capacity, sometimes you can snag a better stateroom simply by kindly asking a guest services representative if an upgrade is available for a reduced cost.
  2. Spas typically offer a tour on embarkation day and a raffle for attendees. You may win a spa treatment, and sometimes the spa will offer discounts to everyone who takes a tour. You can also attend a spa seminar where you might get a free mini spa service.
  3. Food is included on cruises, but some cruise lines offer specialty restaurants at an additional cost. Take advantage of these more sophisticated culinary experiences by checking for first-day dining specials.
  4. Some cruises include a comped glass of bubbly and some canapés at their official Captain or Sailaway parties, while others offer drink specials.

Food and Beverage Upgrades

  1. Many bars host drink-of-the-day specials, and don’t forget happy hour 2-for-1 drinks. Some cruises also allow you to receive a discount — sometimes $2 —by choosing a regular glass instead of a souvenir cup.
  2. Many cruise passengers do not realize all food in the main dining room is included — meaning you may order as many appetizers and main dishes as you’d like.
  3. Visit a specialty restaurant during the day. Some serve lunch, and you’ll find the evening’s more expensive menu at lunch prices.
  4. Check your beverage package for included service charges. You’ll want to give your favorite bartender an extra $20, but your package might include the bulk of your gratuities.
  5. Attend the ship’s art auction. You’ll get a complimentary glass of sparkling wine and an evening to view impressive paintings.
  6. Did you know many cruises include made-to-order pizza and ice cream?


  1. Check the daily program for sales in the shops. And don’t forget liquidation sales just before the end of the cruise.
  2. Consider booking your next cruise while on your cruise. You’ll get onboard credit or additional savings on your future cruise.

Guest Service Requests

  1. Some cruise lines include free room service for their continental breakfast. Princess, Carnival and Celebrity have free room service for some menu items throughout the day.
  2. Refer-a-friend bonuses on cruises like Princess may include $25 onboard credit for you and the friend referred.
  3. Military veterans cruising on Princess receive $50 to $250 onboard credit, and several other lines offer discounts on select sailings.
  4. If you own 100 shares of a cruise line’s stock, you can get $50 to $250 in onboard credit. Talk to your financial advisor before investing.
  5. Just married? Make sure you let guest services know. Often, they’ll send up some sparkling wine or a special dessert. Celebrating a special occasion could even get you a cabin upgrade.

A couple walking and holding hands on a cruise deck past a table and chairs.

Extra Cost-Saving Upgrades

  1. If you stay on the ship during shore days, you could enjoy some sweet deals on dining, activities and spa services.
  2. If you’ve cruised before and plan to go again, join the cruise line’s loyalty program. As a member, you can get discounts, access to member-only events and parties, and complimentary alcoholic beverages and meals in specialty dining restaurants based on your membership level. Some cruise lines offer cabin upgrades and free cruises to their most frequent passengers.
  3. Participating in the deck games or trivia contests might only win you a keychain or a medal, but why not fill out the raffle tickets in the art auction and jewelry stores? You just might win.
  4. There are plenty of free classes onboard. Why not try out learning to salsa dance?
  5. Have an adventurous spirit? Many cruise lines include zip lines, ropes courses, rock climbing walls, waterslides and mini golf for free.

Book Your Next Cruise with AAA

AAA has teamed up with some of the industry’s best cruise lines to provide you with added amenities and member-exclusive savings. Talk to your local AAA Travel agent or book your cruise with AAA now.

Article was provided and written by Michelle Palmer and Trip Canvas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.