You’re getting ready to unpack in your low-cost cabin, when suddenly a crew member advises you that you’ve received an upgrade to a balcony class suite.

That’s the dream.

Now here’s the reality.

They’re a thing of the past, says a cruise specialist, Melissa Gower.

But for those still crossing their fingers that they’ll receive a free upgrade next time they board a ship, here a few CruiseCritic tips to help you out:

  1. Be loyal to a cruise line: similarly to airlines and hotels, cruise lines have loyalty programmes to remember and reward their frequent cruisers. Joining doesn’t necessarily mean you will get an upgrade, but continuously booking with the same line and climbing up their programme levels could get you closer to a complimentary upgrade.
  2. Book a guarantee cabin: a guarantee cabin is when you are assured you’ll receive a cabin in the category you’ve requested, but are not assigned a room until a few weeks before the cruise. In some instances, the category you’ve requested may be full, so you may receive a free upgrade. However, this may not work, so don’t book a guarantee cabin unless you’re happy to travel in any category.
  3. Try sailing during off-peak seasons: ship bookings can sometimes slow down during the off-seasons and ships may sail with some empty cabins. This could create an opportunity for you to score an upgrade.
  4. Book a free upgrade promotion: occasionally cruise lines offer two different cabins at the same price. So if you book a pricier cabin for the lower cost then technically you’ve received a free upgrade.
  5. Try asking: it could be your lucky day, someone behind the counter could be feeling nice and you’ve just scored yourself a free upgrade.