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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.)

Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas - Night Central Park
Interior staterooms on Symphony of the Seas

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.

RoyalUp emails are floating into inboxes now

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.

Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas - Ultimate Family Suite Adult Bedroom
Adults have a comparably calm bedroom in the Ultimate Family Suite

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.

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