Cruising – What are “guaranteed” cabins?

UPDATE: It is important to be aware of the downsides of booking a guaranteed cabin: one of these is the risk of being bumped from an overbooked cruise. While not extremely common, it is a possibility. Anecdotal reports of guests being bumped have increased going into 2024 as the cruising industry returns to pre-pandemic levels. Another development is the increased prevalence of cabin upgrade bidding systems. Many cruise lines now offer guests the option to bid to upgrade their stateroom category. This system makes it even less likely that guests in guarantee cabins will be assigned a category above the one originally booked. These are important considerations to make when weighing the pros of a guaranteed cabin. For travelers with a lot of flexibility, it may still make sense. For others, the security of an assigned cabin may well be the best option.

In most cases, when booking a cruise, you will select a specific stateroom and have an assigned cabin number. However, you may encounter a situation where you are offered a “guarantee” instead. What does that mean?

A “guarantee” means you are booking a category vs a specific stateroom. In return, the cruise line guarantees that you will be assigned a cabin in the category you purchased, or better. The cruise line has discretion to assign you to any cabin within that category. If your category fills up, they will bump you up until they find a category with availability. It’s important to understand that categories are defined more narrowly than “Inside”, “Oceanview,” or “Balcony.” For example, if you purchased a V2 Veranda cabin with Celebrity and that category filled up, you would first be upgraded to a V1 Prime Veranda – which differs only in terms of location. If that was completely full as well you would move into the next category, DV Deluxe Veranda. You would have to be upgraded through at least 11 categories to be in a suite. These are big IFs and it’s most likely that you will be assigned a cabin in the category you originally booked.

Celebrity Eclipse, Deck 6

Celebrity Eclipse, Deck 6

This is all at the discretion of the cruise line. Please note that guests have no say in what specific cabin they are assigned – it could be near the front or back of the ship, under the bowling alley, have an obstructed view, etc. It isn’t recommended to purchase a guarantee only for the potential of an upgrade; you should be happy if you end up with the original category of stateroom that you paid for.

Guarantees give the cruise line more flexibility and the ability to sail nearer full capacity. As sailing dates get nearer and ships fill up, it may be the case that a desired category only has guaranteed cabins left. If guests cancel, you will get the category you purchased. Conversely, if your category fills up, they will upgrade you to fill out higher categories. In return for giving the cruise line this option, sailors will find that guarantee cabins are typically cheaper.

– discounted compared to regular fares
– possible upgrade to higher cabin category
– ability to get a cabin on a sailing that is almost sold out

– no say in cabin assignment (can’t request a midship cabin, for example)
– may not know assigned stateroom until very close to sailing
– cabin upgrades are completely at the cruise line’s discretion
– if traveling with other people, you may be assigned rooms on different ends of the ship or even different decks

Are guarantees a good option? This depends on the person traveling. For flexible travelers who are not as selective about the location or category of their cabin, it can be a great option to save money and book an almost sold-out sailing. For travelers who prefer a specific location (maybe they are prone to seasickness and like midship cabins) it may be better to stick to assigned staterooms.

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