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Picking the Best Cabin for Your Cruise
Cabin or Stateroom?
Call it a Stateroom, call it a Cabin - a room on a cruise ship is just a room, right? Well, NO! How do you select the best one for you, then?
Just as you can choose to sleep at a budget motel, or a suite in a five star luxury hotel, you have choices when choosing the best cabin on a ship. And the best choice for you might not be exactly perfect for someone else.
Inside or Ocean View? Balcony or Promenade? Suite, Loft, or Garden Villa? Choosing your stateroom is a big part of planning a cruise.
I'll show some of the different types of accommodations on today's mass market lines, starting with affordable inside cabins. Then, we'll move 'up' from there. Along the way, you'll find some tips for picking the best stateroom for your time at sea.
What are my personal preferences? Well, that depends . . . Let's get on with it!
Photo: my own
In the Old Days . . .
There were "Classes" on Ocean Liners
In the days when great ocean liners made Atlantic crossings, "First Class" passengers enjoyed very different accommodations than the less fortunate in "Second Class," also sometimes referred to as "steerage." First Class was better attended to, and better fed in a luxuriously appointed dining room.
Today, only the Cunard Line sails true ocean liners , and maintains only a faint vestige of classes. There are (in descending order) Queen, Princess, and Britannia staterooms. Each does have its own dining room, but there's nothing remotely "steerage" about Cunard. Friends who are Cunarders report that 'even' Britannia passengers sail in well appointed cabins (some with balconies) and enjoy top drawer service and food throughout their voyage.
To find out more about the Cunard Queens that once plyed the ocean, see Queens of the Ocean Past
Photo: R.M.S.Queen Mary, having been pressed into war service as a troop transport, arrives in New York, June, 1945. (public domain photo)
Location, location, location
Could Make a Big Difference.
Here are some general considerations in choosing your cabin location:
1 - The ship's stabilizers minimize pitching and rolling to SOME extent - not entirely. The higher the deck, the more you feel rolling (sidewards motion) while the effect of pitch (front to back rocking) is more pronounced when you're nearer the bow or stern. If you worry about sea-sickness, choose a midship cabin on a lower deck.
2 - Check the Deck Plans on the cruise line's site. Find out what is nearby the cabin you are considering. Example: What if the one you are considering is located right underneath the Disco Bar? That might be a poor choice if you like to turn in early.
3 - If you have mobility issues, book early to assure availability of one of the limited number of special handicapped accessible staterooms.
4 - Some cabins have an 'obstructed view.' Often, they are located right under where the lifeboats hang on the side of the ship. They're so marked on the the deck plans on the ship's website. Just be sure to check for this. (Sometimes obstructed view accommodations are discounted!)
This is a nice looking set, and I have heard good things about it.
It comes in four colors:
Black, Red, Royal Blue, and Gray.
Need New Luggage? - I am seriously considering this set
I should replace our luggage set before we take many more trips. On our last cruise, the couple next door to us had a set like this one, except theirs was in red.
After getting aquainted, I asked them how they liked it, and they went on about how satisfied they were with their New Yorker Luggage Set from US Traveler, and what a good buy it was. It turns out that this was actually the first time they had used the entire set. (The husband had taken the small case on a recent overnight business trip.) So, they couldn't really speak to the issue of durability, but from what I could see, it looked pretty sturdy.
So, I thought I would pass this along in case anyone else is in need of new luggage.
Go INSIDE to Save Money
Big on Affordability- Small on Roominess
Inside cabins are just that - completely INSIDE the ship, with no outside exposure. They are also the smallest and most affordable rooms on a cruise ship.
Did I say small? Oh, yes. For example, on one of the older and smaller Royal Caribbean vessels, you'll have about 115-122 sq. ft, while on a newer, larger ship in the Princess feet, you get a whopping 160 sq. ft. - and that includes the bathroom!
Don't despair. If you spend any waking hours at all in your stateroom, you'll miss out on all the exciting things happening up on deck! It's really a sleeping and changing room, and that's typically all it's used for. (Honeymooners excepted, but they don't seem to mind spending hours in close proximity!)
My Word on Inside Cabins
... and Some Tips
Have I / Would I sail in an Inside cabin?
I have, and I would. (It's not my number one choice, however.)
I would IF it meant the difference between cruising and not cruising, and IF the duration of the voyage were 4 nights or less.
1 - There is NO outside light coming into these staterooms, so switch off the lights, and it's pitch back. Bring along a travel alarm clock with a lit dial. Otherwise you'll have no earthly idea when morning has arrived!
2 - Space is at a premium. Hang up evrything you can right away and stow empty suitcases under the bed. Make up for the lack of countertop, shelf, and drawer space with an over-the-door shoe bag. It's the perfect solution! Use its pockets to safely 'stow' your camera, card key, sun lotion, and other gear where you can quickly and easily retrieve them.
3 - If you like to swim, bring AT LEAST two swim suits. Wet suits take forever to dry when hung in the bathroom of one of these cabins. There's nothing more miserable than having to put on a still-wet suit! Pack a couple of large zip-lock bags for packing still damp things in when going home time arrives, too.
A handy item for cruising - especially if you're in an inside stateroom!
Handy Items for Cruising in an Inside Cabin - These Will Be Helpful During Your Time On Board
When you pack to go on a voyage for which you've booked an inside cabin, keep two things in mind:
- No matter how small you imagine your accommodations will be, think smaller. Think less storage space.
- There is no ambient light at night once you are at sea. None. Take some small surce of light. A backlit travel clock may be enough for some. Others may prefer a small flashlight.
Some people take an over the door shoe bag for organizing their smaller items without using valuable dresser space.
A hanging cosmetic bag comes in quite handy, too.
A great storage and organizing aid for when you book an inside is one of these smaller hanging organizers, which is great for in the your cabin's small bathroom
Ocean View Cabins
A Nice Middle Ground
Ocean View cabins are a nice middle ground between inside ones and the more expensive ones with their own private balconies.
Even within the Ocean View grouping, you may have additional choices to make. For example:
- Porthole (Usually on lower decks. Portholes don't open.)
- Window (No, these do not open, either)
- Obstructed View (the view is at least partially blocked, often by lilfeboats)
- Superior (larger than regular ocean view, with a sitting area, and more storage space)
- Family (limited number available - some have beds for up to six)
Note that not all of these choices apply to every ship of every line.
Just how much square footage you get varies from line to line and even from ship to ship within the same brand. But even the smaller ocean views are generally a bit larger than inside cabins - just a little bit! The Superior is larger than the regular ocean view. (Different lines may have different names for these.) The Family Ocean View cabins are the largest, often with a partitioned off sleeping area for the children. Some may utilize sofa-beds, wall fold-downs or bunks for the extra beds. Remember- efficient utilization of space is everything on a ship!
The question I hear most often about is "How obstructed is the view on an obstructed ocean view cabin?" The answer is that it can vary. In the above picture, which is fairly typical, you can see that, from this particular obstructed view stateroom, on deck 8 of one of Royal Caribbean's Sovereign class ships that we sailed in, the water is still visible. You also get a nice, close view of part of a lifeboat!
My Word on Ocean View Cabins
... and a Tip or Two.
Q -Have I / Would I sail in a 'room' with an Ocean View?
A - I have, and would.. . although, I would prefer a balcony, but I can't always have what I want.
Q - What about an obstructed view cabin?
A - This is actually what we usually book for a 3 or 4 nighter to The Bahamas. It's somewhere we've been more than a few times, and we can go more often if we don't pay a bundle for each time!
Q- And the larger, Superior Ocean View Cabins?
A - Yes, and yes. I like them, but don't always want to spend the extra that they cost.
In my opinion, the view from a ship's railing is one of the best views in the whole world!
1- Save money- go obstructed! If you are willing to forego a panoramic view, you could end up saving quite a few bucks by sacrificing a some of that view.
2 - Try to get one with a window, rather than a porthole. You get a bit more of a view that way.
3 - Look for an obstructed view cabin fairly near a stairwell. You may be just one deck above the Promenade Deck. This is ideal. That way, if you spy something you'd like a better look at, it will be just a quick jaunt down a flight of stairs and out a nearby door to get to the ship's railing where you can enjoy a really unobstructed view. Take a long, deep breath of the healthy sea air while you're there - Ahhhhhhh!
4 - As an alternative to a Family Ocean View, try finding a pair of adjacent obstructed views cabins with a connecting door. (Once again, do your homework by checking the deck plans on the company's website.) ADVANTAGE: You may save some money, AND you get TWO bathrooms!
What Are You Thinking So Far?
So far, we've mentioned Cunard, talked about inside cabins, and several types of ocean view cabins.
Of the types of staterooms presented so far, which sounds good to you?
Video Tour of a Balcony Stateroom - on the Carnival Legend
Here's a narrated video tour of a balcony stateroom on the Carnival Legend. It gives you a good look at what one of these staterooms provides, including, of course, the balcony. Décor and design will vary from line to line,and ship to ship, but this will give you a real good general idea of what you can expect.
Balcony or Veranda Staterooms
The Beginning of Prime Real Estate
If you are going to to any entertaining at sea, you'll probably want to book at least a balcony stateroom. Yes- you read that right! I actually hostsed a wine and cheese party on my extended balcony once. And, I've attended invitation only parties in Grand and Presidential Suites.
But, what if you just want to sail in a really nice stateroom? Yes, now I'm calling them stateroom as opposed to cabins. Nothing more than semantics! There is a very special feeling that you get from relaxing on your own private balcony, foo foo drink in one hand, and good book in the other. Oh, yeah.
On most lines, you can even arrange ahead of time to have an extra special romantic breakfast or dinner served on your balcony... for a price, of course! So, if you want that extra touch and feel of luxury, go for it, and book a balcony stateroom.
Once again, there are variations within this catetory of staterooms, and some people have some pretty strong preferences. For example, on some (not all) Royal Caribbean ships, there is a bulge along about mid ship that is often referred to as "the hump." Some swear the view is susperior from these balconies.
My personal preference is for one on the stern, like those you see pictured on the coaster at right. However, my brother and sister in law feel the ride in the aft cabins is now as quiet or smooth as it is in the ones at midship.
There is a real range in sizes, and, of course, a corresponding range in pricing.
Things to Consider Taking Along - When You Go to Sea
Journaling at sea can be an enjoyable activity. Think about taking one.
Read up on cruising before you go, so you'll know what to expect.
Plan on what you will use to keep up with your all important sea card, on board and off - even when your'e in the water. If you lose that sea card, you're up that creek we've all heard so much about.
You''ll be glad to have a waterproof holder to hang around your nect. They are so handy! They're just the right size to hold your sea card, a credit and some folding money. (You can also buy them on board, but usually at an inflated price.)
My Word on Balcony Accommodations
Plus, Some Tips
Have I / Would I book a Balcony (or Veranda) Cabin?
Oh yes! And sometimes no.
Obviously, I have booked a balcony cabin. That picture of that you just saw was of the one we enjoyed on one of our cruises, though I dodn't remember just which one that was right off hand.
I love having a balcony on voyages that are long enough to enjoy the extra private space and view - anything of 5 to 6 days or more. And, I especially like them if the itinerary includes even one new port for me. I LOVE watching the new port come into view from my balcony... and bidding goodbye from there, too.
Since I am not sure I would book a suite, even if money were no object, for me absolute prime real estate on just about any ship is an Aft Corner Balcony. These are often are bigger than the non-corner ones, and the view is fabulous. Second best would be any of the aft balconies. I'm a wake watcher. That churning water is just mesmerizing, and especially so in the Caribbean, where the color is simply unmatched.
We normally do NOT book balcony accommodations for cruises lasting less than 5 nights. I just feel I want to save my 'luxury dollars' for when I really have time to enjoy what they are purchasing.
Record Your Thoughts for Prosperity
Some people find that the soothing atmosphere on their stateroom balcony puts them in the mood to read or write.
If you are someone who enjoys writing using an actual pen and paper, then you'll probably want to take along a notebook or journal.
This spiral notebook has a cover with the words "My Cruise Journal" imprinted on it. HOWEVER, you can change those words to something you prefer, like your name for example.
1- Balconies provide a great place to let your wet swim suits dry - when you are in port. Just don't forget to take them inside before the ship sails, or you might lose them!
2 - A tip about tips. Be generous with your stateroom attendants, wait staff, and others who work so hard to make your days on board pleasant. The bulk of their pay comes from YOU, not the cruise line. I like to think of the line's published tipping guidelines as a 'starting point.' You take it from there.
3 - Most balcony doors can be locked into place when open, so that they don't bang shut again with each roll of the ship. Just investigate your door closure a little, and you'll probably find the secret, which varies from ship to ship.
The Really Prime Real Estate
Here's where divergence really begins to happen. Different lines have different names for their different types of suites, and how they are appointed. Most have separate living room and bedroom areas, wet bars, large flat-screen TVs, stereo systems, and jacuzzi tubs. At the very least. Some have grand pianos. Others have wrap-around balconies with private hot tubs.
And each line strives to distinguish itself with the 'specialness' of their top end accommodations. For example:
- Norwegian Cruise Line has the Courtyard - a group of private suites with their own private pool deck, butler service, and more.
- On their new Oasis class ships, Royal Caribbean has introduced two level Loft Suites, with guest bathrooms, indoor and outdoor dining areas, and an upper level for sleeping quarters.
- Celebrity's AquaClass is designed for the ultimate spa enthusiast, with easy access to the Spa, and their own private, special-menu dining room
There's more... but you get the idea.
Pick a line, and look for their top category of staterooms. You're sure to find some amazing things, along with an equallly amazing price tag in some cases. Curious about prices? I just ran a price check on a 'low season' week long cruise for 2 in a loft suite on Oasis of the Seas - $10,680. That's perhaps 10 times what you might expect to pay for economy digs.
Enjoy Your Cabin and Your Time at Sea
A Hearty Bon Voyage to You!
There are a few other special types of cabins to choose from, including Boardwalk and Promenade View Cabins on some Royal Caribbean ships, and quarters for solo travelers on the Norwegian Epic, but you'll discover them when you begin researching your vacation at sea.
Whatever type of cabin you choose, remember that the cruise isn't all just about what your sleeping quarters look like... it's about the places you go, the people you'll meet, the experiences you'll have.
So, choose your cabin wisely, but most of all, just choose one, and enjoy your time on the deep blue ocean!
Is a Balcony or Suite More Your Style? - Time to Weigh In Again
Now that you've had a chance to read a little about Balony staterooms and Suites, let's take another vote. Maybe you were holding off, or maybe you've changed your mind.
NOW which one have you decided you might sail in?
Ship Collectibles - at Auction Today on eBay
Like cruise ship "stuff"? Here are some collectibles currently being auctioned off on The Bay.,
Specific Stateroom Selection Questions
Three good sources
If you have very specific questions about cabins beyond the general information offered in this lens, here are two good sources for you:
1) Your Travel Agent. A GOOD Travel Agent should be able to answer a lot of your questions, or get the answers for you. It's important that your agent is a) certified by CLIA or some other sanctioning organization and b) has a good amount of personal experience cruising themselves. I have a good one, and she is a keeper! (For the record, I wouldn't dream of handling my own bookings, even with over 250 'sea days' under my belt. See Booking a Cruise - DIY or Use a TA for why.)
2) Veteran Cruisers. If you check some of the popular internet cruise forums, you'll meet quite a few of them. And, you may even bump into someone who has stayed in the exact cabin you are considering.
3) Friends and Family. People you know who are already been there and done that will gladly answer your questions. Though, do keep in mind that if they've only ever sailed on one line, they may not have the straight scoop on others.
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About Ocean Liners of Days Past - (Other pages you might enjoy)
- Sister Ships of the RMS Titanic
Everyone knows the story of the sinking of the Titanic, but not everyone knows that the RMS Titanic was one of a trio of sister ships that also included the HMHS Britannic and the RMS Olympic
- Musical Heroes on the Titanic - The Band that Played as the Titanic was Sinking
Wallace Hartley, and the other seven members of the Titanic Band went down with the ship ... and played to the end. What WAS the last song played? That is actually a bit of a mytstery, but it was probably one of three tunes . . .
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