Weekly Wednesday – Stateroom Upgrades

As you are going through the booking process for a cruise, it all seems fairly self-explanatory, right? Well, mostly. All of the cruise lines have some variation of the process where you initially have to identify the date of your cruise and which itinerary best speaks to you. Then you identify how many staterooms you’ll need and how many people will be sailing in each stateroom. The step that immediately follows is one that feels like it’s the decision of a lifetime: stateroom type. Do you splurge and get a suite so you can enjoy extra space for your sailing, or are you the type of person who chooses an interior room because you like darkness at all hours? Once you select your category, do you let the cruise line assign your room for you in that category, or do you physically select the room? So many questions and decisions to be made, and you haven’t even made a payment yet!

Here’s the good news to all of those worrisome options you had to make during the booking process: depending on how your sailing is received by the general public, you may be given the opportunity to upgrade to a different room for a fraction of the cost. Seems like a wild concept, but cruise lines would rather fill their ships up with semi-discounted fares, as opposed to sailing with empty staterooms. The idea: why not upgrade those who are already booked, rather than sell an upgraded stateroom to a new booking for a deeply discounted rate? I am going to take you through the process for Carnival and Royal Caribbean as I’ve had the offer to upgrade from both lines.

Carnival Stateroom Upgrade

We had booked our July Alaska sailing on April 4th. Rates were super low for the itinerary so we jumped on the offer as quickly as we could; when else could a high level VIFP get an Alaska sailing for $750 total? I thought we had struck gold and was celebrating our interior digs for such a low rate. Fifteen days later, Carnival sent me an email inviting me to upgrade my stateroom. At first, I figured it would be an astronomical price-point to accept the upgrade, so I chuckled at the idea. After discussing it further with Mark, I navigated to the link and clicked it.

Screen capture of email received from Carnival Cruise Line

They weren’t kidding about the upgrade being only $350 to get into a balcony, however upon comparing the room location on the deck plan for the ship, we discovered that the location was less than ideal (putting us directly under the Lido where the chairs get rearranged at odd hours of the night). I couldn’t find any other room options, so I figured that was the only one available. I went back and referred to the email and saw a phone number listed below the link. I immediately called the number and had the deck plan open for reference. I feel bad for the person helping me because every time she offered a stateroom, I looked at the deck plan and pondered the location; what’s above it, below it, and nearby.

Finally, we arrived at a balcony on deck 10, forward. This stateroom was in a perfect location! I quickly searched for reviews on this stateroom online to make sure there weren’t any negative anomalies and told the agent to do it! We are now slated to sail Alaska in a balcony room for just over $1000! A price very rare for a 7-day cruise, especially to that region.

Royal Up

Royal Caribbean does things a little different with their upgrade offers. We booked our Harmony of the Seas sailing in September of 2020 (yikes!) and didn’t get our upgrade offer until after the booking was paid in full, and only one week before sailing! The initial amount that we paid for the sailing was fairly low (less than $1000 total for an interior room), given the size and age of the ship, and the fact that we’re used to Royal Caribbean generally having higher fares. I figured I would give this a try since I received the Royal Up email. The upgrade is handled a little differently in that you place a bid on the amount of money you’re willing to put forward for a higher-class stateroom.

Screen capture of email from Royal Caribbean

On the email, they list what the minimum is that you would need to fork over for the upgrade, however once you get into the upgrade screen, you identify how much you think the upgrade is worth, with the listed price as the starting point. I opted to place a bid for their “Spacious Interior” cabin. The minimum amount was set at $30 per person, so I went in and offered $50. I figured the lowest price wouldn’t get me anywhere, so I increased my offer just to see if that would take.

I received confirmation on my bid the day before the sailing, and was informed that if my bid is accepted, my credit card would be charged for the upgrade, and we would receive our new stateroom assignment when we check in at the cruise terminal. When we woke up on the day of the cruise, I checked my email one final time before heading to the terminal and saw an email from Royal Caribbean informing me that they had not accepted my Royal Up offer and that we would remain in our currently assigned stateroom.

Is It Worth It?

I think the upgrade offers all come down to how satisfied you are with your current selection. It’s nice to know that you aren’t completely locked into the stateroom category/location that is booked when you pay for your sailing. Options are good to have, especially when it means that you can get into a better class of stateroom without breaking bank! I am curious what offer I would need to provide to gain that upgrade on our Royal Caribbean sailing, but in the end, we were pretty satisfied with the room that we were in that week. We would love to hear about your upgrade experiences, and if there are any other methods that are offered by the other cruise lines.

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