If you’ve ever checked prices for a cruise, you’ve probably noticed that there’s often a “guarantee stateroom” or “sailaway” rate available. It’s usually the cheapest rate in any category. But you might be wondering what these guarantee staterooms are and if it’s a good idea to book one.
A guarantee stateroom is a cabin on a cruise ship that the cruise line chooses for you. You pick the category of stateroom, and you’re guaranteed a room in that category or higher.
Guarantee cabins are popular with budget-conscious cruisers. They’re often less expensive than a stateroom that you choose yourself. But opting for a guarantee stateroom does come with some risk. Knowing how guarantee staterooms work (and how they don’t) can help you decide if this type of cabin is the right choice for you.
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How do guarantee staterooms work?
Cruise lines obviously want to fill as many cabins as they can on each sailing to maximize profits. To make sure they can fill the ship, companies offer guarantee cabins at reduced rates to encourage passengers to book. With a guarantee stateroom, you can book a discounted cabin in the lowest stateroom category you’d be willing to take, but you can’t choose your room. It could be anywhere on the ship!
Many cruise lines offer guarantee staterooms for any category, from inside cabins all the way up to suites.
When the sailing date nears, cruise lines have a bank of paid passengers without a room allocation. They then assign available staterooms to passengers who booked a guarantee. You’ll usually receive your room assignment at least a couple of days before you sail. Sometimes you won’t have a room allocated until embarkation day, but that’s pretty rare.
Can you save money with a guarantee stateroom?
Guarantee staterooms are often less expensive than other stateroom options in the same category. Sometimes the savings is miniscule, but sometimes it’s pretty significant. Some cruise lines like Disney and Holland America offer guarantee cabins at the same price as a cabin that you choose.
Occasionally you’ll see that a guarantee stateroom is more expensive than the cheapest regular stateroom in the same overall category, but that’s rare. It is something to watch out for, though, if you want to get the best price.
If you’re planning on purchasing some extras for your cruise, like a drink package, specialty dining, or a WiFi package, the cruise line might be running a special that includes one or all of these perks in your cruise fare – but not for guarantee staterooms.
You might end up paying less overall if you spend a little more money to choose your stateroom! Keep in mind the sticker price of the extras that you want, and see if the difference in room price actually makes sense in your situation.
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How often do cruise lines upgrade guarantee staterooms?
Cruise lines actually tend to upgrade guarantee stateroom passengers more often than those who booked a specific room. You’re even more likely to get an upgrade the higher up you are in the cruise line’s loyalty program.
Not every passenger who books a cruise actually takes that cruise. There are always cancellations that open up staterooms. Also, certain cabin categories tend to be better sellers on a specific itinerary. Inside and Oceanview cabins might sell better on a colder route, and balconies might sell better on a tropical sailing.
Booking a cruise during a less-popular time of year can also increase your chances of an upgrade. Look for cruises in the shoulder season (the beginning or end of the cruise season in that area), and cruises when schools are in session.
Booking a repositioning cruise is also a good way to up the odds. When a cruise line needs to move a ship from its summer home to its winter one (or vice-versa), these cruises can be difficult to fill.
If you’re lucky enough to score an upgrade, keep in mind that it’s probably going to be just a single-category upgrade. The odds of booking an inside guarantee and being upgraded to a suite are slim-to-none.
If there’s an available balcony cabin, and the cruise line has passengers with inside guarantees and oceanview guarantees, the balcony upgrade is probably going to passengers with an oceanview guarantee.
Although, I did once book an inside guarantee and was upgraded to a deluxe balcony well before the sail date. I have the second-highest tier in the loyalty program on that cruise line and it wasn’t a warm-weather sailing so my odds of an upgrade were fairly good. But let me tell you, I was shocked to get such a huge upgrade!
Before you start feeling jealous of my holy grail of upgrades, the cruise was canceled because of the pandemic. But it does prove that major upgrades can happen!
What are the pros and cons of a guarantee stateroom?
The main reasons why people book guarantee staterooms is to save money and to increase the odds of an upgrade. But there are some drawbacks to guarantee cabins.
If you’re booking multiple rooms for your family or a group of friends, you’ll probably want your rooms to be adjacent or at least close to one another. Even if you book several guarantee cabins under the same reservation, there’s no guarantee that the rooms will be close together.
If you’re allocated a room that you don’t like just before your cruise sails, you probably won’t be able to change it. In recent years, the popularity of cruising meant that ships generally sailed at capacity, and they don’t save extra rooms.
However, due to the pandemic, cruises likely won’t be sailing full for some time. Will this mean that there’s going to be a better chance of switching rooms if you end up with a truly awful one? Or that guarantee staterooms will have a better chance of upgrades?
That remains to be seen, so watch this space for updates!
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Is it a good idea to book a guarantee stateroom?
If it’s your very first cruise, I wouldn’t recommend booking a guarantee cabin. You won’t be sure if a stateroom’s location will bother you until you’ve cruised a couple of times! Remember, they can assign you a room anywhere on the ship.
You might be a light sleeper who ends up with a room just above the nightclub. Or you might not know that you get seasick, and they put you on a high deck all the way forward. You might be looking forward to gazing out at the sea from a balcony or oceanview room, and you end up with an obstructed view.
For your first cruise, look at the deck plans and book a stateroom in a spot that you know you’ll be happy with. A good cruise travel agent can help you pick a stateroom that meets your needs.
Be sure that you book your guarantee in a category that you’d be happy staying in. If you can’t stand inside staterooms, don’t book one and assume you’ll get an upgrade.
But if you’ve cruised before and you know you’re not picky about room location, go for it! A guarantee stateroom can often save you some money and up your chances of that coveted upgrade.
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Have you ever booked a guarantee stateroom on a cruise? Would you consider it? Let me know in the comments below!
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