I had been preparing for the cruise for more than a year. The Carnival ship hadn't even made its maiden voyage when I booked two ocean-view connecting rooms — one for me and my wife, and the other for our two boys, 12 and 15 years old at the time. Then, less than 48 hours before the cruise departed, my wife got a call. Carnival wanted to upgrade us to a grand suite.

She asked the agent to call back, and we did quick research on suites. Our original rooms were sandwiched by bedrooms above and below, so we wouldn't be subject to scraping deck chairs or a thumping nightclub. Plus, the boys would have a bathroom and their own beds. The grand suite was big — it had a walk-in closet, a large balcony, a whirlpool tub — but it offered less privacy, one television, one bed for the boys to share and one bathroom.

Why us, I asked when the agent called back. As first-time cruisers, we were hardly the typical recipients of an upgrade. Turns out, demand for ocean-view rooms was high; our move would free up two. I also asked about location. The suite promised to be as quiet as the original rooms. The deal sweetened when Carnival threw in a refund for one of the rooms. We accepted.

Next I went to Carnival's website to print our updated information. Some items hadn't transferred smoothly. Only two of the four of us were going on a shore excursion and getting airport transfers, plus my wife and oldest son were missing from the documents. As my wife was finishing packing for our early-morning flight the next day, I found myself calling Carnival to get all this resolved.

After that, it was mostly smooth sailing — until we returned home. The excursions and airport transfers I repurchased were refunded, but not a portion of the room cost. I had to call Carnival again to sort it out. Because I'd booked with a credit card I had since canceled, Carnival sent me a check for the missing amount.

Despite the hassles, we are glad we accepted the upgrade. It was an experience we won't soon forget.

Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg will return next week.