This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Upgrades on cruise ships have always worked very differently than upgrades on airplanes. In the case of Royal Caribbean, many of its ships go out at maximum capacity, which has led its most loyal cruisers to recognize the importance of paying up for the stateroom you wish to reside in. (The airline equivalent would be WFBF, or Want First, Buy First.)
Technically, it has been possible for RCI’s top-tier elites to receive upgrades. Per the legalese in the company’s Crown and Anchor Society loyalty program: “We may, in our sole discretion, offer complimentary upgrades to Diamond Plus and Pinnacle members if stateroom upgrades are available. Please provide the upgrade preference information requested below, which will be considered if a stateroom upgrade is offered to you. Neither upgrades nor upgrade preferences are guaranteed.”
Of course, you’ll need north of 175 nights on a Royal Caribbean cruise to achieve Diamond Plus, and a mind-boggling 700 nights to secure Pinnacle Club status. And, even then, an upgrade was never guaranteed.
Following in the footsteps of Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean is introducing a new bid-based upgrade program that will go into effect Nov. 28, 2018. RoyalUp, as it’s called, enables cruisers to place bids for upgrades into any higher level room. If eligible, guests will receive an email that allows them to browse what’s available for upgrade, creating a silent auction of sorts in the run-up to their departure.
Any submitted offer is for the entire stay and applies to the first two people on the reservation. In other words, a $500 stateroom upgrade bid (if accepted) would result in a $1,000 charge. Unfortunately, there’s no telling as to when your bid will be accepted or rejected — it could be done immediately, or it could be triggered 48 hours prior to sailing. That’s certainly not ideal for those who prefer to plan things out, and it’s also not ideal for those who are particular about not just room type, but room location.
If you’re wondering, there’s no loyalty aspect to this at all. You can’t use points nor miles to upgrade, though we’d encourage you to use a credit card that maximizes returns on cruise spend. Furthermore, it doesn’t appear that bids placed by higher tier members are prioritized in any meaningful way. There’s also no real guidelines as to what bid makes sense, so you’ll likely feel as if you’re shooting in the dark a bit without realizing if your bids are in line with others.
For any cruisers who plan to submit bids for near-term voyages, let us know how the system treats you in comments below.
All photos by the author.
Know before you go.
News and deals straight to your inbox every day.
NEW INCREASED OFFER: 60,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel