What is a Guarantee Cabin? And Should You Book One?

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Balcony Cabin on Princess Cruise ship with upscale, modern decor

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Guarantee cabins are one of the best and easiest ways to save money on a cruise. With a guarantee cabin, you pick your cabin category and allow the cruise line to select your room number.

These staterooms have lower cruise fares than choosing your cabin number, but it often means you’ll have one of the worst cabins on a cruise ship.

Keep reading to learn the pros and cons of booking a guarantee cabin.

What is a Guarantee Cabin?

Balcony Cabin on Princess Cruise ship with upscale, modern decorPin
(Photo Credit: Princess Cruises)

A guarantee cabin is when a passenger selects a cabin category but allows the cruise line to choose the specific cabin number.

Essentially, it allows you to book an unassigned cabin in a specific cabin category. You’ll receive a discount on your cabin category, but you lose the ability to choose your exact room.

Guarantee cabins have lower cruise fares than if you were to book a specific cabin and are a great way to save money on a cruise. The cruise line guarantees you’ll receive a stateroom in the same category you booked, but they select the room number.

Cruise Ship Cabin With Balcony viewPin

Because the cabin choice is left to the cruise line, you’ll have the last choice at cabin selection.

In other words, you’ll often receive one of the worst staterooms on a cruise ship when you book a guaranteed cabin.

Still, the discount makes it worth it to most people.

And if the cruise line can’t accommodate you in your selected cabin category, they’ll upgrade your cabin at no extra cost.

That’s because when you choose your cabin category, it is the lowest category that you could be assigned. You may receive a free upgrade if there’s space in a higher cabin category.

Benefits of Booking a Guarantee Cabin

  1. Discounted cruise fare: Guarantee cabins have a discounted rate of anywhere between 10% to 30% per person.
  2. Upgrade: The cruise line may upgrade you to a higher cabin category.
  3. Getting a cabin: When a ship is close to sailing at full capacity, a guarantee cabin may be your only choice.

The discounted cruise fare is the most significant benefit of booking a guaranteed cabin. Guarantee cabins usually have discounted prices, which can mean savings of $100-$300 or more per person.

If you aren’t picky about cabin location, it’s easy to save money on your cruise.

I often recommend guarantee cabins for interior cabin bookings because the cabin location isn’t as important as it is with ocean view or balcony cabins. Because you don’t need to worry about obstructed views, there’s very little difference in cabin assignments.

And there’s always the possibility of an upgrade. You won’t always receive an upgrade, but the cruise line may upgrade your cabin category if there’s space.

Disadvantages of Guarantee Cabins

  1. Cabin location: You can’t control where your cabin is located on the cruise ship.
  2. Cabin choice: The cabin choice is left to the cruise line from what’s left over by regular cabin bookings. If you book an ocean view or balcony stateroom, there’s a good chance it will be partially or fully obstructed.
  3. Cabin assignment: You might not know your cabin assignment until the morning of embarkation. Cruise lines usually assign cabins several days or weeks in advance, but you might not receive the assignment until you’re boarding the cruise ship.

The biggest downside of guarantee cabins is that you have no control over the cabin location. There are several reasons why cabin location is essential; you want to avoid seasickness on a cruise, need a cabin close to the elevators, or prefer a stateroom away from noisy venues like the pool deck, casino, theatre, and nightclubs.

The lower cruise fare means you’ll save money, but you won’t have any control over your cabin choice other than the category you book.

Guarantee cabins are allocated after regular bookings select their staterooms. Often, these cabins are the worst staterooms on the ship.

If you have an ocean view or balcony accommodation, there’s a good chance you’ll have an obstructed view. And you’ll usually receive a cabin on the lowest decks of the cruise ship or near the bow or stern, where you’ll feel more movement while sailing.

Should I Book a Guarantee Cabin on a Cruise?

Junior Suite on Harmony of the SeasPin
Junior Suite on Harmony of the Seas (Credit: Royal Caribbean International)

A guarantee cabin is an excellent option for people looking to save money on their cruise vacation. 

Because your cabin category is guaranteed, your accommodations won’t be any category lower than you selected. And there’s a slight chance you may be upgraded to a higher category.

But pay close attention to the price difference during the booking process. Some cruise lines sell guaranteed cabins at the same prices as regular bookings.

If that’s the case, you’re better off choosing your cabin accommodation.

The biggest downside is that you can’t control where your cabin will be located on the ship.

If you want to avoid seasickness and noise or prefer a cabin on a specific deck, it might be better to choose your exact cabin.

Are You Likely to Get an Upgrade?

Royal Caribbean’s Ultimate Panoramic Suite category on the amplified Oasis of the SeasPin
Royal Caribbean’s Ultimate Panoramic Suite category on the amplified Oasis of the Seas (Credit: Royal Caribbean International)

There is no way to predict if you will receive a free upgrade by booking a guaranteed cabin. Upgrades do happen, but they depend largely on ship occupancy and the demand for exact cabin categories.

You might be able to predict if you’ll be upgraded if you know how to find out if your cruise ship is full. But even then, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get an upgrade.

The guarantee is that you’ll receive a cabin in your booked category. It’s not a guaranteed upgrade.

When Are Guaranteed Cabins Assigned?

Guarantee cabins are usually assigned a few weeks or days before departure. Unlike a traditional cabin booking, you may not know your cabin number until a few days before you embark.

Cruise lines only need to provide you with a cabin assignment on the morning of the cruise. Fortunately, most cruise lines assign guarantee cabins two to three weeks before embarkation day.

It’s a good idea to double-check your cabin number the day you embark because cruise lines may change your cabin assignment.

Cruise lines rarely change cabin assignments within the same category. If your cabin number changes last minute, it’s usually because you’ve received an upgrade.

Which Cruise Lines Offer Guarantee Cabins?

All major cruise lines offer guarantee cabins. Some cruise lines offer a limited number of guarantee cabins on all sailings, while others may include guarantee cabins as part of a special promotion.

Why Do Cruise Lines Offer Guaranteed Staterooms?

Rendering of Mardi Gras' balcony cabinPin
Mardi Gras’ Balcony Cabin (Render Courtesy: Carnival Cruise Line)

Cruise lines offer guaranteed staterooms because they allow them greater flexibility in managing their cabin inventory.

The job of a revenue manager on a cruise line is to open and close, guarantee cabin availability to manage the inventory of available rooms on a cruise ship.

Empty cruise cabins mean lost revenue for a cruise line.

Cruise lines will often oversell a cruise itinerary, using their knowledge of cruise cancellations so that a cruise ship can sail as close to full capacity as possible. Guarantee cabins allow revenue managers to allocate cabin assignments where there are cancellations or unbooked accommodations.

We spoke to one revenue manager who claims that even while overselling cabins, they’ve never had to cancel a passenger’s cruise because of a lack of accommodations.

With over 30 million passengers sailing every year, cruise lines have a lot of data at their disposal to predict cancellations and sell just enough guarantee cabins to cover them.

Final Thoughts

Guarantee cabins are a great way to save money on a cruise.

We rarely spend time in our cruise ship cabin except when we’re sleeping. Because we don’t spend much time in the cabin, we often book guarantee cabins to save money. In fact, we’ve saved thousands of dollars by booking guarantee cabins.

But if cabin selection is important to you, it may be worth spending more to select a cabin that works for you.

Article by

Marcello De Lio

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