How To Choose a Cruise Ship Cabin (Part 1)

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Your room on a cruise ship is called a cabin (or stateroom) and is akin to a hotel room, but typically much smaller. Before a cruise, choosing a cruise ship cabin can take much time but be fun and challenging at the same time, and not just a little bit frustrating on occasion.

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Cabins fall into different types or “categories,” and some cruise lines will present as many as 20 or more categories per ship. Before you get overwhelmed, it’s helpful to remember that there are essentially only four types of cabins on any cruise vessel:

  • Inside: the smallest-sized room, with no window to the outside
  • Outside: a room with a window or porthole (a round window) with a view to the outside, often similarly sized to an inside cabin or a bit larger; also known as oceanview
  • Balcony: a room featuring a verandah that allows you to step outside without going up to a public deck
  • Suite: a larger cabin, often with separate living and sleeping areas, and a wide variety of extra amenities and perks
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by choice, we’ll help you get started with this guide to choosing the best cruise cabins for you and your travel party.

Cabin Location on the Ship

The “real estate” that your stateroom occupies, no matter the type, can make you seasick or keep you up all night with noise — or it can lull you like a baby and provide exquisite views of your surroundings. That’s why doing your homework is important. Here are some factors to consider when picking your cabin’s location on the ship.

Sapphire Deck. B. Deluxe Suite in Scenic Spirit via Scenic Tours 

Stability

If you tend to get seasick, cabin location is really important. It’s a question of engineering, really. The lower and more central you are in a ship, the less roll and sway you will feel. Even if you choose a balconied stateroom, choose the lowest level and the most midship one you can find. The higher decks and cabins at the very front (forward) or back (aft) of the ship will rock and roll the most.

Distance

Some cruise travelers prefer their cabins to be near to (or far away from) specific areas of the ship. Sun-worshippers might prefer an upper-deck location close to the pools and sun decks, while partiers might want easy access to midship entertainment hubs. Travelers with mobility concerns may prefer a stateroom close to a bank of elevators.

Noise

For some reason, most cruise lines assign their nicest and most expensive cabins to the highest decks, usually just below the pool deck (most likely because if you have a window or balcony, you have a more sweeping vista). Still, it’s the pool deck that often causes the most noise problems, so if you don’t want to hear scraping chairs at the crack of dawn or yee-hawing pool parties until the wee hours, go down a level. In fact, when it comes to noise, the best bet is to select a cabin that is both above and below other cabins. Other pitfalls include service areas adjacent to or above your stateroom; show lounges or bars adjacent to, above or below your stateroom; and self-service launderettes across from your cabin. Other cabins that can be problematic are those that are situated low and at the back (because of their proximity to engine noise, vibration and anchor) or low and forward (because of bow thrusters).

Cabin Size

Royal Panorama Suite – 80m2/861ft2 in Scenic Spirit via Scenic Tours

In this age of mega-ships, cabins now come in all shapes and sizes. In addition to the typical boxy inside and outside cabins, you can find expansive suites, duplexes and lofts. Balconies also range in size from small affairs barely able to squeeze in two chairs and a drinks table to huge wraparound decks with outdoor dining tables and hot tubs.

On many ships, basic inside and outside cabins are usually the same size, the difference being that one has a porthole or picture window to let in natural light. Balcony cabins can also be the same size as standard insides and outsides, with the addition of the outdoor space on the verandah; sometimes the interior space is larger. A basic cabin, regardless of category, is referred to as a “standard” unless there is something about it that makes it different (such as physical layout, being handicapped accessible or a designated family cabin). With minisuites on up, you get bigger and bigger indoor and outdoor spaces.

For many travelers, the decision on what size cabin to get is directly related to price. Who wouldn’t go for the huge suite if price were no obstacle? Yet it can be tricky to decide whether a balcony is worth the upgrade from a standard outside, or which suite to choose. Here are a few size-related considerations to take into account.

(to be continued)

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