So you have found just the right ship and itinerary. Now you need to find just the right stateroom! Choosing your cabin can be exciting, but also quite a process.
In essence there are really only 4 cabin types on any cruise ship:
Inside: Generally the smallest cabins onboard and have no views.
Ocean View: A window providing you with a sea view—can be obstructed (lifeboat outside window), porthole (small, round window) or a full picture window—all provide you with some natural light in the cabin.
Balcony: Private verandah.
Suite: Range from mini to penthouse suite with larger living space and extra amenities
Once you are aware of the four types of cabins, the differing categories within those types narrow down location, size and price.
The main factor to consider when picking your stateroom is location. If you are susceptible to seasickness, sensitive to loud noise or require a specific area of the ship-near an elevator or with a particular view, for example-it is very important to do your research.
Seasickness: if you are prone to seasickness, the location of your cabin is extremely important. The lower and more central you are in a ship, the less motion you will feel. So choose the lowest level and most mid-ship stateroom possible, even if you choose a balcony stateroom. If a mid-ship cabin is not available, your second best choice is to choose an aft cabin, towards the rear of the ship. The least enjoyable location for you will be in a forward cabin, towards the very front of the ship.
Noise: The highest categories typically are located just below the Lido Deck for the sweeping views, but unfortunately this location tends to be the noisiest. Activities range from late night deck parties to early morning swimmers that like to move the chairs and provide you with a nice scraping noise below.
The best choice to limit any noise is to choose a cabin that is in-between passenger decks. So there will be a passenger cabin above and below. You also need to watch out for service areas within your vicinity (self service launderettes, staff storage); elevators; show lounges or bars nearby to, above or below your stateroom; and those that are either low and at the rear (because of their proximity to engine noise, vibration and anchor), or low and forward (bow thrusters).
Limited Mobility: If you are unable to walk long distances, choosing a specific location is very important. Passenger decks on a ship are long hallways, with usually only two to three sets of elevators. It can be quite a hike to your cabin if you do not choose accordingly. Look for cabins near an elevator, but a few cabins down to limit noise pollution from those late-night deck partiers.
Viewing Pleasure: If you would enjoy a specific view from your balcony, obviously cabin location is imperative. Here are some popular areas of a ship to enjoy your verandah:
Aft Balcony Staterooms—these became popular only recently. They are now some of the most coveted staterooms because you are offered a 180 degree view over the ships rear and the balconies are almost always 50% bigger than your standard balcony. They are however at the very back so far away from an elevator or access to activities; they are usually uncovered or only partially covered; they are usually stacked out so that the cabins above are able to see your balcony.
Some standard rooms and many suites are located at the aft ‘corners’ of a ship, with a balcony that curves up the side. This allows you to see where you’re going and where you’ve been at the same time.
Front-facing balconied cabins are almost always suites.
Some viewing drawbacks include balconied cabins under the Lido Deck overhang, which limits visibility; cabins above or adjacent to the lifeboats; and forward balconied cabins located close to the bridge wing.
Sometimes your cruise itinerary will decide what type of view you will receive from your ocean view or balcony. If you are doing a south/northbound Alaska cruise, or south/northbound Mediterranean cruise, you would want to consider choosing a cabin on the side of the ship that will face land. These will fill quickly, so make sure you book as early as possible. If you prefer a sea-view, make sure you choose the side of the ship that will face the ocean. On a roundtrip Caribbean cruise or a trans-Atlantic crossing, the side of the ship you are on doesn’t really matter as they can berth into port both ways.
Newer cruise ships are increasing the square footage of even their most basic cabins to give cruise passengers the chance to get away from the hubbub and relax in the peace of their stateroom.
Inside Cabins: Your mainstream standard inside stateroom will range from 120-180 square feet. There is no window, so can be a a bit dark. The bedding arrangements will also vary, from one upper/one lower (essentially bunk beds) to a king bed. So make sure you confirm with your cruise guide that you are receiving the square footage and bedding you prefer.
Outside, Ocean View Cabins: Your mainstream standard ocean view staterooms are very similar to a standard inside cabin. The main difference will be the window, bringing in natural light. Many of the newer ships have large picture windows instead of portholes, but they cannot be opened.
If you would like a sea breeze, a balcony will be your best choice. Some of the older ships have both porthole and picture windows, with the portholes being located on the first few passenger decks. They tend to be less expensive and provide some light, but do limit your view. On many ships there are also obstructed ocean view cabins. These will be located on a higher passenger deck, but there will be a lifeboat obstructing your view. The location is a bit more desirable for some. Like the porthole, it will provide you with natural light and you will know what time of day it is. You, however, will not have the sweeping sea views.
Balcony/Verandah Cabins: If you would like an unobstructed sea view with a breeze, a balcony will really be your best bet. But be warned, once you sail in a balcony you never go back! Balcony cabins are typically larger than your standard inside or ocean view cabins. They have sliding glass doors to your private verandah, giving you a view from anywhere in the room. The balconies themselves are typically only large enough for two chairs and a small table, so no sun bathing but it is perfect for morning coffee!
Suites: There are plenty of suite categories available but some of them, especially on older ships, are neither significantly bigger nor considerably more elegant than standard cabins are on newer ships. The sizes and amenities vary widely, from mini/junior suites to penthouse/villas. Generally speaking, a suite will typically be a bit larger than a standard balcony and have a separate seating area, spacious verandah, larger bathrooms (some with actual tubs!) and upgraded amenities.
When it comes to choosing suite accommodations, it’s best to figure out how much space you really need, what amenities are important to you and what you can afford to spend. Suites on most ships are the first category to sell out, partly because there are fewer of them, and partly because they often offer extremely good value. For this reason, it is important to speak with our cruise guides early and decide what kind of suite you’d like.
If you absolutely need the cream of the crop, for just under $20,000 per week you can take advantage of Norwegian Cruise Line’s Garden Villa suites. These are the largest suites at sea accommodating up to 8 passengers in 3 bedrooms, feature private saunas and hot tubs, a kitchen and butlers, an array of additional lavish amenities and private elevator entrance.
Family Style Cabins: Most of the newer ships on the mainstream cruise lines have standard cabins that will sleep four, sometimes even five, mostly comfortably. The cabins are typically the same size as a cabin that sleeps two, though there will be bunk-style third and fourth berths that pull out of the walls. They work well for children, but could be a bit difficult for an adult to get into. However, the third and fourth passenger rates are usually less than the first two passengers, making this an affordable way to travel.
If you are able to spend a little more for peace of mind, you could reserve two separate adjoining cabins that have a connecting door. This provides you with a bit more privacy and two bathrooms! Or there are certain suites that have two separate bedrooms or a separate area with a pullout couch.
These ‘family-style’ cabins do tend to fill quickly due to limited quantity and rising popularity. It is best to deposit as early as you can so you have your pick of staterooms.
To hammer it home, researching and depositing for your cruise as early as possible guarantees you will be in the cabin you want on the cruise you want—no compromises. This is your vacation, right?
It also ensures you have the best rate and savings possible. The last minute cruise deal is a bit of a myth unfortunately. The ships are sailing full; especially at peak times such as holiday, spring and summer breaks.
Even if you deposit early, if the price for your category goes down before final payment the cruise line will honor the lower rate. However, your price is locked in ON your final payment date. Most cruise lines now do not offer any reimbursement if the rate goes down ON or AFTER you pay in full. But just go ahead and double check with your agent to make sure. The best rule of thumb is that if you find a ship you like on an itinerary you like, get the cabin you desire and go for it. If the price goes down and you get a refund, consider it a nice bonus.
Guarantee: When you book a cabin guarantee, an actual cabin in your selected category will not be assigned at the time of booking, but will be assigned at the time of ship check-in, with the possibility of an upgrade. You are ‘guaranteed’ the category you have chosen, with no chance of being placed in a lower category. There is a chance of an upgrade to a higher category (better location) but is it typically within the same cabin type; inside to inside, ocean view to ocean view, balcony to balcony. It is extremely rare to be upgraded to a higher cabin type. So booking the least expensive inside guarantee will not give you a chance for an upgrade to a suite.
Final cabin category and location (including deck) are at the total discretion of the cruise line. It is not recommended that you book a “guarantee” cabin if you are traveling with others and want to assure you are in cabins near each other. Also if you are concerned about being in a certain part of the ship it is not recommended to book a guarantee stateroom.
But be aware that you might just end up in the category you purchased, and you might just end up in a less than desirable location. Most times you are unable to change your cabin once the cruise line has assigned it. But you can always double check with your cruise guide.
A guarantee cabin can be a really great deal, if you can accept that you have no control. If you just can’t stand that thought of being on the first passenger deck, or the front of the ship, you will be happier if you choose your stateroom upfront.
Upgrades: It’s important to remember that there’s no secret formula or witches brew you can drink to get an upgraded cabin. It is usually just plain luck, or being in the right place at the right time.
If a certain category of cabin has sold out, or is oversold (more cabins have been sold than are actually in inventory), the cruise line cannot downgrade passengers who have paid for their cruise. So at random (it really is random), they choose certain passengers and upgrade them to a category with a bit more availability. So luck does play in here.
A guarantee cabin in this instance would be a great deal for the possibility of an upgrade.
Normally if you have chosen a stateroom, or have been assigned a specific stateroom by the cruise line that will be your cabin for the cruise. We can all dream of that Garden Villa upgrade though!
Did you get all of that!? I hope this helps you choose the best cabin for your particular needs and desires. If you are still clueless–that is completely fine by the way–just give one of our cruise guides a call (800.243.1959), makes things much easier. This is what they are trained for; providing you with their knowledge and experience for a seamless vacation!
originally posted 12/16/10