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Choosing a Cruise Cabin

by Peter Horton
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Booking your cruise – choosing the right cabin

OK, so you’ve decided on your cruise, chosen the ship, selected the date of departure, decided on the length of the sailing, where you’ll be departing from and the ports to be visited.

So, what’s next? Choosing the right cabin, that’s what’s next!

Cruise ships have a vast array of cabins for you to choose from. Some of the newer cruise ships have in excess of 20 categories to choose from. This can be confusing so it’s worth taking time to work out what you need and more importantly what you can afford.

The cabins available for your group will depend on several factors.

  1. How many people will be staying in the cabin?
  2. What are the ages of those in the cabin?
  3. What is the mix of passengers in the cabin (adult, child, baby, teenager)?
  4. Do you have a preferred location?
  5. Is there a particular type of cabin that you prefer?
  6. Are you a member of a cruise line loyalty program? (You may get a discount on some types)
  7. And probably most importantly, what is your budget?

Balcony Cabin onboard Celebrity Constellation

You may have more criteria to consider, so if you’re cruising for the first time, or have sailed before but are looking at a different cruise line or ship, it may be worth putting a list together.

Even taking all the above into consideration you will still have a vast array of cabins to choose from in making that final decision on where you’re going to relax and unwind on your cruise.

Most cruise lines will ask how many adults/children are to be in a cabin at the start of a reservation and then only display the ones suitable for your party when you start to make a selection.

Some companies only let you book a maximum number of cabins on one reservation, so if you need more, located next to each other for example, you may have to book over the telephone.

Invariably suites that hold large numbers cannot be reserved online and so don’t be put off if you want the ‘master’ suite for 12 people and it doesn’t seem to be available, call the reservations team.

LocationOne of the most important factors that will help decide on the cabin most suitable for you is location, location, location!

If you are a nervous sailor or prone to sea sickness, whether it’s your first cruise and you’re not sure how you’ll cope with the motion, or you’re sailing for the umpteenth time, then the best location is mid ships and low down which will help lessen the effects of any ‘motion in the ocean’. This doesn’t mean you have to be below the water line, or near the engines!

Other decisions that will influence your preferred location will include one or more of the following.

  1. Port or Starboard?
    This can be an important if you like sun on your balcony in the morning or afternoon.
  2. Aft facing if you want to have a view either side of you.
  3. Forward facing to see where you’re going.
  4. Near the elevators if you are affected by reduced mobility and don’t or can’t walk long distances (remember some of the newer ships are huge with endless corridors to navigate).
  5. Do you want to be near the restaurants, bars, entertainment areas, or sun and sports decks?
  6. Is an accessible cabin required? (all categories should have this type of stateroom available).

Let’s look at some of the main cabin categories and then we can investigate each group in detail.

Balcony Cabin

Solo Cabins

 More cruise lines are now offering those travelling alone the ability to sail in a single berth cabin. This doesn’t always mean sleeping in a narrow single bed though!

Inside

As the name implies, these usually provide the most cost-effective option as they have no outside view and so are priced accordingly.

Oceanview

The next level category of cabin will be those that provide a view to the outside world with a port hole or picture window and most likely more spacious than an inside stateroom.

Balcony/Verandah

One of the most popular categories giving you an outdoor space as an extension of your cabin.

Suites

Moving on up in size and grandeur are suites, of which there is a huge variety to choose from.

So that’s the broad category of staterooms available covered, now we need to delve deeper within each group.

Solo Cabins

 More and more cruise lines are now providing accommodation suited for the individual traveller. This means that in a lot of cases there isn’t the need to pay a supplement because of having to book as a minimum, a cabin normally sold for double occupancy.

The cabins available range from inside staterooms with dedicated lounges where solo guests can meet others in the same category of accommodation or insides with interior windows overlooking a corridor so not completely dark, to single cabins with a full balcony.

As this market is recognised by the cruise lines as an important sector, ships often now go into mandatory dry dock, and invariably return with a set of solo cabins.

Inside Staterooms

Inside Cabin with Virtual Balcony

Traditionally these are the least expensive option for cruisers. However, even within this category, there is a vast range of options available.

There are smaller interior cabins with no windows, so as it implies, you need artificial light even during the daytime and larger ones capable of housing a family with pullman beds (lowered from the ceiling), bunk or sofa beds.

Recognising that guests like to see the outside world, come cruise lines now install ‘virtual balconies’ in their inside staterooms so that guests can see the ocean by the use of cameras and huge screens, some even are given drapes to resemble a real window.

Other inside options include a window to an internal area, so not only giving the ability for daylight but a view, albeit not of the ocean, but where you can perhaps see the ‘world go by’. Some of these are referred to as ‘Promenade’ cabins.

As you can see from the range of interior cabins offered, the fares will vary accordingly.

On newer vessels, some inside cabins are connected to other types of stateroom providing a flexible layout creating ‘family cabins’ with separate bedrooms but allowing communal access for the group.  

Oceanview

Oceanview Cabin

As the name implies, these staterooms have as a minimum, a window to the ocean. Again, there are a variety of layouts and sizes in different locations to choose from. There are cabins for 2 to those housing family groups.

Locations can vary from lower decks to being at the front of a ship to high up with panoramic views.

Balcony/Verandah

Aft Balcony Cabin

Of all the types of cabin, these usually comprise the highest percentage of total staterooms on newer vessels as they are extremely popular. Depending on various layouts, floor space and facilities there can be ‘standard’, ‘superior’, ‘deluxe’ or ‘premium’ balcony staterooms available.

They are located on most decks and vary greatly in size and layout. There are cabins for 1, up to those for families and many are connecting to enable groups/families to stay close together.

Due to popularity, many cruise lines will charge different fares depending on the location. There may be a ‘base’ fare then an additional supplement if you want a higher deck, or to be located more mid ships. Those located at the aft most likely attract more of a premium as they have wider views and invariably larger balconies.   

The size of the balcony can vary from ship to ship so doing a little investigation will help you decide on a location. Some ships have standard balcony cabins with larger balconies available for a supplement.

Cruise lines are becoming more inventive in the location and design of balcony staterooms, so it is extremely important to review the options open to you.

Some of the largest ships afloat have balcony cabins that although not giving you an ocean view, have a veranda and so provide an outside space overlooking an internal area. Think of it like some hotels that have balcony rooms around an internal atrium.

Others are on lower decks nearer the waterline giving those of you who like to be close to the ocean and listening to the sound of the waves a great option.

As these balcony cabins are mostly on the outside of the ship, some may have an obstructed view due to the location of superstructure or lifeboats. Cruise lines will highlight these on deck plans, so check before you book.

Look for angled balconies that may provide more floor space or extended balconies but bearing in mind these may be overlooked by cabins on decks above you.

On some ships, part of the balcony dividers open and some lines allow those with cabins next to each other to have them opened to provide a huge open-air space.

Others offer dedicated access to the spa, or dedicated dining rooms so check the differences.

Suites

Grand Suite

There is a huge variety of cabins that are called ‘suites’. Some are just similar to balcony staterooms but with a larger floor plan, containing more furniture such as sofas and armchairs, together with a larger bathroom with huge showers or bath tubs. These are often referred to as a ‘mini’ or ‘junior’ suite and offer more space than a ‘standard’ balcony cabin.

From here suites get larger, grander with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms and are positioned in more desirable locations. As you look at the various suites available, check out not just the number of people they can accommodate but the privileges they offer from priority check in, concierge services, complimentary beverages, free Wi-Fi, butler service, in room dining, reserved priority seating in the theatres, to being allocated a dedicated restaurant for meals.

Suites can prove to be a cost-effective option for families when you look at the cost per head.

Many suites are now split level or ‘duplex’ with the sleeping area on separate level from the lounge area with the ability for private dining around a large formal table or entertaining.

Invariably there will be a ‘Royal Suite’ that comes with a grand piano!

‘Ship within a Ship’

Another huge growth area in the cruise market is the offering by some lines of an area containing a cross section of cabins (from interior to suites) but with private pools, sun decks and dedicated restaurants and bars. Access to these facilities is only available to residents of these staterooms.

These sometimes have exclusive check in areas, guest services and are accessed by private elevator. Many offer a butler or concierge service being responsible for making sure all your requirements are catered for and taken care of.

Once again if you would like this type of accommodation review the options available and make the decision if the additional costs are worth it to you because they do come at a price.

Summary and conclusions

As you can see there is a plethora of accommodation to choose from.

But using the criteria important to you will help you decide on the cabin that’s right for you and your party.

However, hopefully, the above will help you navigate through the sea of choices available and lead you to having a fantastic cruise.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please do not hesitate and contact us.

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Peter Horton

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