5 ways to get the most bang for your buck on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Dec 5, 2020

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So, you’re heading on your first Royal Caribbean Cruise? The line is known for its mega-ships and first-of-its-kind world-class entertainment at sea. The voyage is worth every penny but the costs can add up between your cruise fare, taxes and port charges, and extras likes beverage packages and specialty dining. If you’re investing in a Royal Caribbean cruise, here are the best ways to get the most bang for your buck.

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Bid for an upgrade

Quantum of the Seas Royal Loft Suite (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

Royal Caribbean offers a pretty cool bid-based cabin upgrade program called RoyalUp. It allows you to bid a certain amount of money, often as low as $50 per person, to upgrade your current stateroom to an ocean view or balcony cabin or even a suite.

RoyalUp is a simple three-step process:

  • Log in to the upgrade page using your last name and reservation ID.
  • Browse the cabin options and select how much you’re willing to pay for the upgrade.
  • Check your email. Royal Caribbean will let you know when and if your bid is accepted.

The cruise line says that to increase your odds of scoring an upgrade, you should bid on multiple rooms. Once your bid is accepted, Royal Caribbean will charge that amount to the card it has on file for your voyage. Your bid amount is per person for the length of the cruise but you’ll only pay for the first two people occupying the cabin. This is great news for family or friends traveling together. Not so great for solo travelers that will be charged based on double occupancy for their upgrades.

When bidding, be sure you’ll be happy in that cabin because once your bid is accepted, your credit card is charged and the fee is nonrefundable. You cannot decline the upgrade after you’ve requested it via this bidding system.

The system may accept your bid the moment you submit it or it may process up to two days prior to embarkation.

It’s also important to note that you’ll be responsible for paying a higher gratuity rate if you’re upgraded to a suite. And, you’ll only earn Crown & Anchor points on the original cabin category you purchased and not the upgraded on.

Related: Everything you need to know about Royal Caribbean’s loyalty program

Visit Perfect Day at CocoCay

Royal Caribbean Perfect Day at CocoCay
Perfect Day at CocoCay (Photo by Sierra Redmond)

In 2019, Royal Caribbean invested a large amount of money in improving its ships and services and that included a revitalization of its private island in the Bahamas. Previously called CocoCay, it’s now Perfect Day at CocoCay and it’s an experience that should absolutely not be missed.

It boasts amazing water parks, including the tallest thrill water slide in North American. You’ll also find multiple beaches, pools, dining options, island excursions and more. Your time on the island gets you the most bang for your buck simply because you get all of these cool experiences for free. Generally speaking, it’s an all-inclusive island. That means that you can participate in most activities, amenities and areas of the island for no additional cost beyond your cruise fare. Food and drinks and Wi-Fi (if you purchased a package on board) are free as well as is access to beach lounge chairs. You can only access the island by cruising on a Royal Caribbean ship that includes it on its itineraries.

Experiences that include a charge include the 13 waterslides, wave pool and adventure pool; the zip line; Up, Up and Away helium balloon experience; entrance to the premium Coco Beach Club; as well as cabana, daybed, kayak and snorkel rentals.

On our Royal Caribbean cruise, Perfect Day at CocoCay was hands-down our most enjoyed experience on our itinerary and everything being included in the price of our cruise saved us hundreds of dollars that we would have spent at another port of call. While you can spend cash for certain on-island experiences, you can absolutely spend an entire day there and have an amazing time without spending a dollar more than your cruise fare.

Related: The ultimate guide to Royal Caribbean ships and itineraries

check your Cruise Compass for special activities

The 735-seat, outdoor AquaTheater on Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas is home to aerial and water shows. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

One of the easiest ways to waste money on any cruise is to be unaware of all the free activities and programs that are scheduled. A Royal Caribbean cruise is no different. Each night, you will receive a Cruise Compass activity planner that provides you with a detailed hour-by-hour schedule of events for the next day on board. In addition, the cruise line’s free mobile app also lists activities. If you want to get your money’s worth on your cruise, spend some time each night highlighting each activity or show that you may want to check out. Then, set a reminder or alarm on your phone so you don’t miss that activity.

Here’s a pro tip: Choose a flexible dining hour when you book your cruise. Most guests choose to dine for dinner either at 6 or 8 p.m. However, if you choose flexible dining and you’re not sold on eating at a certain time, you can take advantage of all the activities that were previously crowded during the day. While everyone else is eating dinner, you can have that gorgeous hot tub all to yourself!

Remember, dining in the main dining rooms (although nice) are not mandatory. There are so many other options on board to grab dinner or a snack at odd times. This gives you a ton of flexibility and leaves you with more time to enjoy all your cruise has to offer.

Related: What’s included in your cruise fare?

Monitor price changes after you book

Like any other commodity, cruise fares fluctuate. After you’ve booked a cruise, keep watching for price reductions. If you see one, call the cruise line (or your travel agent) and ask that the difference between what you paid and the current fare be credited to you — either returned to the original form of payment or as onboard credit deposit to your account for use during your voyage.

Booking another cruise while on board

If you get to the end of your Royal Caribbean cruise and realize that you had an amazing experience, the best way to get the most savings on your next voyage is to book another cruise while on board. Booking a cruise on board makes you eligible for discounts and incentives such as on board cruise credits or discounted drink packages. Simply visit the customer service desk and ask for a brochure and form for other Royal Caribbean ships. A crew member will book your vacation right then and there and often offer additional incentives, such as a discounted deposit.

When you book a cruise on a cruise ship, you can transfer that booking to your regular travel agent. That way, you’ll also reap the benefits of any perms your agent offers, such as onboard credit or prepaid gratuities. It’s a win-win!

Bottom line

While there are many ways to save money and indulge in an awesome cruise vacation, these are our favorite ways to get the most bang for our buck on Royal Caribbean cruises.

Booking your first cruise? Check out these stories first!

Featured image courtesy of Royal Caribbean

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