View From Your Cabin
If what you see from your cabin is important to you, you might want to think about how cabin location impacts your scenic vistas. Consider both the direction in which your room faces, as well as how the ship’s structure might get in the way of your view out to sea.
Forward- and Aft-Facing Balconies
Aft balconied cabins (the ones at very back of the ship) can be the most prized standard balconied cabins afloat. Why? Because they can make you feel as though you are at the end of the world, offering 180-degree views over the stern’s wake. And the balconies are almost always at least 50 percent bigger than standard balconies located along the sides of the ship. They do have a downside, though; they are at the very back of the ship and far away from a lot of activities.
Some older ships have cabins with windows looking out onto the open-air walking track (called the promenade) that encircles the ship. These promenade cabins offer the advantage of easy access to fresh air without paying for a balcony. The two biggest drawbacks of promenade-deck staterooms are that they tend to be dark because of the wide overhang above the deck, and anyone can see into them when the lights are on. Don’t forget to close those drapes!
Some supposedly “oceanview” staterooms actually have obstructed, or blocked, views due to the ship’s structural design. These include balconied cabins under the pool deck overhang, which limits visibility; cabins above or adjacent to the lifeboats; and forward balconied cabins located close to the bridge wing. But there is an upside to a blocked vista — they can be a good deal. If the amount of view you get relative to the amount of money you spend is important to you, look for “secret porthole” insides or “obstructed view” outsides.
Windowed and balconied cabins don’t always look out to sea. Virtual views are the latest trend for inside cabins that wouldn’t otherwise have a window.
If scenery is important to you, take a good look at your cruise itinerary before selecting your cabin, specifically if you are choosing an outside or balcony. If you are doing a one-way sailing, you might want to consider choosing a cabin on the side of the ship that faces the land. Sometimes the views can be breathtaking, and you won’t get those views from the cabins that face out to the open sea.
Inside cabins with no views at all are typically the smallest, cheapest cabins onboard. They are great options for budget-minded travelers who don’t intend to spend a lot of time in their stateroom, or who want to sleep all day in absolute pitch dark. They are less ideal for cruisers prone to seasickness, those who need natural light and groups who require a lot of in-cabin space. Not everyone will be happy in an inside cabin; it’s worth upgrading if the lack of light will put a damper on your vacation.
Cruise fares fluctuate like airfares; they can change daily. Generally speaking, you’ll find the lowest fares by booking early (eight months or more prior to sailing) or booking late (two to six weeks before departure). Often, fares drop just after final payment is due (about two months before sailing). But waiting for a higher-category cabin to come down in price to fit into your travel budget is risky; if the cabin category is selling well, fares will just go up.
When trying to determine how much cabin you can afford, don’t forget to factor in the cost of the rest of your trip. If you have to spend a lot on airfare, pre-cruise hotels and activities in port, you might not be able to afford the fanciest suite; if you’re using frequent-flyer miles or don’t need to book a hotel, you’ll have more money for cruise fare; the money you save on airfare can be used to spring for a nice stateroom.
While you can’t count on the “upgrade fairy” to pay you a visit after you’ve booked that low-tier cabin, you can look out for upgrade deals before you book. One common cruise-line promotion is to offer outside cabins for the price of insides, or balconies for the price of outsides. Just be wary of any offer promising a two-category upgrade (or similar); the fine print usually indicates that the line will give you a “better” (whatever that means according to the line) cabin within the same category (inside to better inside, etc.). You will then be stuck with whichever cabin they give you — whether you agree it’s better or not.
A “guarantee” cabin selection is one in which you pay a low rate for the cabin type (inside, outside, etc.) you are willing to take, but you allow the cruise line to select the actual cabin for you. If you luck out, you could get assigned to a higher-category cabin (e.g., book an outside guarantee and end up in a balcony cabin). On the flip side, you might get the worst cabin in the category you chose — the one that’s slightly smaller or has a blocked view or is in a noisy corner of the ship. Letting the cruise line choose your cabin is risky, so be sure you’ll be happy no matter which cabin you get assigned.
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