First introduced in 2017, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Upgrade Advantage program is as popular as it is confusing to many first-timers. But if you’re hoping to be upgraded from the stateroom you booked to something a little nicer, it’s important to know exactly how this program works. So read on for all the details about Upgrade Advantage… including a few tips on how to get the most out of it and why it might not be right for you.
How Upgrade Advantage Works
While cruisers have long hoped for visits from the “upgrade fairy,” Norwegian’s program makes things at least a bit less random, as it allows passengers to place bids on various stateroom categories.
The hope, of course, is to wind up in a better class of cabin at a substantial discount. In essence, it is a form of gambling… and just like in a casino, the better you understand the game being played, the likelier the odds you’ll come out a winner.
In a nutshell, Upgrade Advantage is a program in which eligible guests are sent an email asking if they would like to place a bid on a stateroom. Anyone wishing to do so is directed to a separate web page which shows them what categories they are eligible to bid on, and a sliding scale which shows the amount of their bid and – via a corresponding color-coded meter – whether that offer is considered poor, fair, good, strong, or excellent.
Sounds simple enough… right? There are, however, some fairly important things you should be aware of, including the following:
- Not everyone receives an invitation to bid – How many offers go out depend entirely on how full the ship is and what stateroom categories are available. If you are traveling in a group and have several staterooms booked, it is entirely possible that you might receive an offer but others in your party – even those traveling in a similar stateroom category – will not.
- Not all bids are accepted – This means that even if your bid is accepted, the family members you booked into a connecting stateroom may not have their bid accepted… even if you place the exact same bid.
- You can bid to upgrade up to two “categories” – Typically, if you have an interior stateroom booked, you won’t be given the opportunity to bid on a suite in the Haven. Instead, you’ll be given an opportunity to bid on an oceanview or balcony stateroom. Likewise, if you are in a balcony cabin, you’ll be given the opportunity to bid on a mini suite or Haven stateroom.
- Your bid amount will be doubled – When placing a bid, the dollar amount is per person, double occupancy. Translation: Whether there are one or four people staying in the stateroom, your bid is for two people. So if your bid to move from an inside cabin to a balcony is $700, you will be charged $1400 if/when the bid is accepted. And obviously, the higher the bid, the better your chance of having it accepted. While middle-of-the-road and even low bids often wind up winning, the odds improve greatly when your bid is more generous.
- Once accepted, you are locked in… period – If your bid isn’t accepted, absolutely nothing changes. You won’t be charged for having placed a bid. And you can modify or cancel your bid at any time, assuming it has not yet been accepted. However, once your bid is accepted, your corresponding credit card will be charged immediately, in full, and it is non-refundable.
- You will NOT receive additional promotions/perks – Norwegian passengers receive “perks” based on the category of room they book. The higher the category, the better the perks. However, when bidding for an upgrade, you retain the perks which come with the stateroom you originally booked, not the one into which you are upgrading. For example, guests who have booked interior rooms generally receive one promotional perk – ranging from free WiFi minutes to the Ultimate Beverage Package – “free” (not including any associated taxes, fees, or gratuities). Those booking a balcony room generally receive two perks. However, if you booked an interior room and then upgraded to a balcony, you would not receive an extra perk.
Why Bidding Isn’t Right For Everyone
The process is fairly simple, and it can result in some pretty sweet – and occasionally suite – deals. Depending on the sailing, it is quite possible to place a minimum bid and win, thus allowing yourself to move into a better stateroom category for a fairly unsubstantial amount of money. This is, however, more the exception than the rule.
So why wouldn’t one take a chance and place a bid? There are a few reasons one might want to think twice, especially if you are the type of cruiser who likes to plan out every detail of their trip in advance. Among them?
- You have no control over where you wind up – While you are bidding on a specific stateroom category, a room within that category is assigned to you once your bid has been accepted. This means that you might wind up in a cabin located above a nightclub or below a bowling alley… and if that happens, you’re basically stuck there. Now, you might wind up in a great stateroom in a fine location… it all depends on what’s available. But if you’re the type of traveler who wants as much control over their environment and location as possible, this isn’t an option you should pursue.
- Your bid may not be accepted until the last minute – Generally speaking, emails soliciting bids do not go out until after the final payment date for the cruise has passed. (Which makes sense, of course, as that is the point at which Norwegian has a pretty good idea of how booked the ship will be and how many staterooms are available in the various categories.) Once you have placed your bid, Norwegian can accept it at any point. This could mean five minutes after you hit “submit”… and it could mean two days before sailing. So again, if you’re someone who tends to spend weeks planning the quickest route from your cabin to the buffet, the Upgrade Advantage program is likely not a good fit.
For many, the Upgrade Advantage program is a roll of the dice worth taking. However, the best advice we can give is that you should never count on an upgrade when booking a stateroom.
Make sure that the cabin you book is one you’ll be happy with if it winds up being the one you set sail in. Having done that, if you’re willing to take a chance on locating to a better cabin which might possibly be in a slightly less desirable location, keep your eyes open for the Upgrade Advantage email… and good luck.