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The Upgrade Fairy Has Transferred To Sales

Written by: Kuki

One of the very common threads on all cruise related message boards used to be talk about the affectionately termed “upgrade fairy”.

People used to post fairly often excitedly talking about booking a cabin, and shortly before their cruise dates arrived, they would magically get a call from their travel agents telling them they have received a complimentary upgrade of their cabin. Too often, it seemed the travel agents would claim their clients received the upgrades because they worked hard to get it for their clients, or because of their “special” relationship with the cruise line. Ya, OK (with a dollop of cynicism).

While that may have occasionally contributed to the upgrades, no one really understand the reasons some people would get these complimentary upgrades, and others would not. Thus, the expression of “the upgrade fairy” came into being; suggesting the most logical deduction, that it was a magical occurrence.

The complimentary upgrade actually became a fairly common occurance for passengers who booked “guarantee cabins”, as opposed to specific cabins. The most often occuring upgrades were movements within the same cabin category (same type of cabin – inside, outside, balcony) as the guarantee was booked in. This allowed the cruise lines the flexibility of selling particular cabins, if their was demand for them, by moving previously booked passengers to other locations.

I personally never considered it much of an upgrade to be moved from one deck to another into the same type of cabin. But many do consider those upgrades, and were happy to get them.; perhaps just to be able to say they got a visit from the upgrade fairy.

However, there were enough reported cases of people getting upgraded to categories well above what they booked to keep people interested, and their hopes high enough to generate a lot of discussions on the Internet.  And even the odd mention by people posting about their upgrades from inside cabins to suites would set the message boards abuzz, with people wanting to know how they did that, and who they could call.

Now, only a few years later, things have changed!

These days booking a guaranteed cabin category is still an available choice ( and results in some savings from the fare of booking a specific cabin). And complimentary upgrades still occur, but almost all of those upgrades, are only movement in the identical type of cabin, just perhaps in a different location on the ship.

The more magical upgrade fairy has transferred to the cruise lines sales department, and their job description has changed. The upgrade fairy has turned into the up sell fairy.

I haven’t been able to track back to exactly where this pattern first began, but I remember the first I’d heard about it was just a couple of years back on Norwegian Cruise Line. If they had suites that hadn’t sold for particular sailings they began to contact already booked passengers asking if they would be interested in purchasing upgrades to those suites.

On some sailings where the suites were not selling well, there could be significant savings from the price passengers would have originally paid for those suites, and on others, the savings were less. However, every time the change of cabin type happens the cruise line was getting additional monies from previously booked guests, rather than the speculation; waiting for a new passenger to come along to book those suites.

This practice has and is rapidly spreading to other cruise lines, and I predict those who haven’t will soon be using it as well. The up sell has almost completely replaced any “real” complimentary upgrades (from one category to another category). Originally the up sell calls were mainly used to fill the unoccupied suites, but the practice has spread to include pretty much any cabin category changes. It’s not at all unusual for people booked in any category asking if for “a few dollars more” they might prefer to move up to another category. And they are often told they only have a short window of opportunity to accept this “special offer”.

OK, I have made this sound a bit like the sterotype of buying a car from a “used car salesman”, but the fact is it has become a very effective tool for the cruise lines.

Cruisers have already bought into this practice. The proof of that is you still see posts on the message boards talking about calls from the “upgrade fairy”, not to noitify you of an upgrade, but rather  those are really calls from the “up sell fairy” in the sales department, offering to allow you to pay more. The customer if feeling “ever so special” for being chosen for the call, and the cruise lines are feeling “ever so special” for getting more revenue out of you.

  Everyone ends up happy in a weird sort of way, and isn’t that what we want… everyone to be  happy on a cruise in a weird sort of way.

- A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising -

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Comments

Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time October 10, 2012 at 5:27 am

I personlly do not call an upgrade an “upgrade” when you have booked your cruise, and about a month before sailing date the cruise line has the TA call you and say You can have an uprade – to a honest superior category than you booked – for $199.00 per person. we have never paid it, nor been upgraded for a fee.

Often when you book a certain level, say a balconied cabin, be it firm or gtyd, if the cruise is heavily booked, then you may be upgraded because the cruise needs your cabin at full price, and a booked group may have pricier digs and you may be moved at no more expense. JUST WATCH WHAT THE LOCATION IS AND WHATS ABOVE THE CABIN.

Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time October 10, 2012 at 10:56 am

A clirication on LOCATION

On many ships, and for decades this has held sway, the most underiarable cabins are priced at highr rates to book them. Also, in general, the most expensive and the least exopensive ones book first, the middle or bulk of the cabins is lucrative.

Comment from Mike Mastellar
Time October 10, 2012 at 11:08 am

OK: Let’s see if this works.

I also never considered it an “upgrade” if I was moved from something like a Carnival 8B cabin to an 8C cabin. I also had to laugh a few times when I read that someone “Always received and upgrade” when all they were doing was booking a balcony guarantee and then being assigned a balcony cabin higher than the lowest category.

I actually believe the up sell is a great thing for the cruise line. Why give away what many people will be more than happy to pay for. I also remember some of the great up sell deals that NCL did a few years ago. We had an up sell from BA balcony to an aft Penthouse Suite for less than $200 for both of us. I loved it. It does seem that now the cruise lines, including NCL, have taken some of the luster off the up sell. I have spoke with and read about people who have received an up sell call offering a one category upgrade for the same balcony cabin that was just a few doors down the hall. The most notable were friends who offered a BB to BC upgrade for $350. The cabin was two doors forward.

I will miss the “Upgrade Fairy”. I had dreams of her and she visited me on a couple of occasions. She was very nice to me on a Celebrity Mercury cruise where she upgraded me from the old Cat 2 balcony cabin to one of the Cat 1 (Now Sky Suites) cabins with the HUGE balcony. May the Upgrade Fairy Rest In Peace. Maybe her magical powers will revive her just like in the “Fairy Tales”. :)

Comment from Mike Mastellar
Time October 11, 2012 at 12:09 am

Ya!!!! It worked.

Correction in previous post. BC to BB cabin.

Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time October 11, 2012 at 3:52 am

The best upgrades are earned, as loyal repeater passengers, that can not be denied, regardless of what category is booked initially.

And, there are indeed travel agents that do such volume business with many cruise lines that inded they can provide real upgrades at no additional cost, as well as cresits for on board use, throught their “consortion”, a group they belong to that assures low rates for the agency, it only a wise and honest agent that passes this on to the client, would be passengers.
The fairy wil not goaway – the honesty may.

Comment from Jackie
Time October 16, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Our first upsell was on the NCL Dawn in 2003. We booked a mini suite and we were offered an owner’s suite through our TA at the time. She turned it down the first time NCL contacted her because she thought it was too much $. She called the next week with a lower offer and I jumped on it. We have been offered upsells to the OS twice since then, and have also booked them directly. It’s hard to turn them down now!!! We would rather cruise less often.

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