Royal Caribbean's stateroom bidding upgrade program is quite popular because it offers the opportunity to get a bigger (and arguably better) cabin for less than if you booked it outright. But how can you increase your chances to actually win the upgrade?
Among the frequently asked Royal Caribbean cruise questions we get on this site, how to win a Royal Up bid is among the top queries.
At some point before your cruise, you should get an email from Royal Caribbean alerting you to the option to bid for a room upgrade. Depending on which category of room you have booked, there is usually a variety of bigger and more opulent cabin choices to consider.
The allure of getting a nicer stateroom for a fraction of the normal cost tantalizes many guests, and the obvious next question is how to increase the chances of actually winning a Royal Up bid.
How RoyalUp works
When you get the email, you have the option of entering a Royal Up bid yourself or through your travel agent.
This program is similar to a silent auction, where the cruise line sets a minimum bid, and you can go up in price from there.
Any submitted offer is for the entire stay and applies to the first two people on the reservation. If your reservation includes multiple guests (between 2 and 5 passengers), the offer amount submitted will be per guest but only for the first and second guest on the reservation.
As an example, a $500 stateroom upgrade bid (if accepted) would result in a $1,000 charge.
When considering a bid amount, the website rates your bid, although it seems to universally increase your chance tied to the dollar amount. As you might imagine, it will make you think a higher bid is a better bid.
In reality, you have no idea what anyone else bid. So there is absolutely no way to know how competitive your bid truly is, and whom you are competing against.
Unlike an auction on eBay where you can see the top bid so far, there's no such way with Royal Up.
It's important to remember that Royal Up is a mechanism for the cruise line to sell unsold cruise ship cabins, especially if there's a last minute cancellation.
The most important fact to realize about Royal Up is just because you get a bidding opportunity does not mean there is a cabin available to upgrade to.
While upgrading to unsold cabins is one part of the process, it seems more common for Royal Caribbean to leverage bids when someone cancels a reservation close to the sail date.
In short, RoyalUp is kind of a "black box" where guests don't have any insight into the logic of how winning bids are selected. In addition, there's no indication when a bid will be selected. It's possible your bid could be active all the way until your ship departs.
It's all luck
In trying to answer the question of how to increase your chances of winning a Royal Up bid, the answer is simply luck.
In my experience trying out RoyalUp myself and talking with many other cruise fans, it's quite clear that there is no consistent strategy to actually winning a bid.
If you're in an inside room and trying to bid to a cabin category that has a lot of availability and less demand, such as an oceanview or balcony, your chances are probably a bit higher at winning a bid since there's more inventory of those types of cabins.
Suites, on the other hand, are tough to win because everyone on the ship dreams of moving up to a suite. Combine that with the limited suite inventory, and you have a rather low chance at winning.
In comparing winning bids shared by past cruisers, there's even less consistency as to which strategy works best. There are winning bids for a minimum bid amount, as well as winning bids for a maximum amount.
To further validate these observations, I reached out to a few travel agents and asked them what their experience has been with their clients winning a stateroom upgrade bid.
Jenn Greene, a Travel Planner with MEI Travel, called the bidding program "random" when describing it to her clients, "Royal Up is completely random. I let clients know that it’s more like a lottery than a guarantee. And that if you really want it bid high. With ships sailing full, I am seeing less opportunities for clients to bid."
Mindy Breitman, a Travel Advisor for Cruise Planners, also couldn't find any patterns for her clients to benefit from, " I consider it a silent auction - totally random. I had two people on the same exact sailing bid for the same exact category and the same bid amount. One got the Royal up the other didn’t."
Sharla Manglass, a Travel Planner with MEI Travel, looks at a few variables that could swing your chances one way or another, "First- availability of staterooms that will fit your party size on the ship. Not all staterooms will sleep 3 or 4, and there are sometimes even capacity restrictions due to regulations."
"Royal Up success also depends on overall ship capacity. On a recent cruise for myself, the entire ship was sold out, so obviously no bids were accepted, even though we were offered them."
The experiences from these travel agents backs up what many cruise fans have shared over the years as well.
In short, treat Royal Up like a scratch off lotto game: it's fun to give it a try, but you should expect to lose and certainly don't make plans based on you winning.