Six Easy Mistakes To Avoid When Booking Your Cruise Ship Cabin

September 21, 2015

We know we’re probably a bit biased but is there anything more fun than deciding on a cruise and then settling down to pick the perfect cruise ship cabin to stay in?

Choosing a grade, pouring over the deck plans, seeing what’s close to it… Ah, bliss!

Apparently though (or so we’ve heard) some people don’t really like choosing their cruise ship cabin.

Some find it a chore, some find it challenging and others just think it’s overly complicated. Never fear though, the team are here (as always) to simplify things for you and make booking your cruise as easy as possible.


Cutting through the jargon

Confused dog

The first thing you’ll need to do is decipher some of the jargon surrounding cruise ship cabins. A cruise ship is, in reality, no different to a hotel room (with the obvious exception that your view changes every day!) but the cruise lines will insist on referring to them by different names.

You may think of it as nothing more than somewhere to rest your head of a night but they’ll use terms like cabin or stateroom or other such things along a nautical theme. Something that could cause confusion is the fact that all cruise ships have high end suites available to book but if you’re looking at a cabin on a luxury six star ship they’ll all be called suites (just in case things weren’t complicated enough already).


Cabin grades

Inside, outside, balcony, suite


Once you’ve figured out what to call your cabin you’ll need to decide which grade to book. Most cruise lines will have twenty/thirty plus different cabin grades to choose from but lucky for you there’s only really four basic grades that you need to worry about…


Insides – An inside cabin will be just as it sounds, a cabin on the inside of the ship. Four walls and a door (plus all your furniture obviously). This will be the cheapest grade of cabin you can book, saving you a lot of money but does mean you won’t have a view (or even a window). They’re perfect for those that just want to get changed and sleep in their rooms but if you’re planning on spending a lot of time in there you may want to consider booking something else.


Outsides – An outside cabin will be almost exactly the same as an inside cabin in terms of size and layout but unlike the inside cabin will be built on the side of the ship which means you can have a window, a view and some natural daylight. These kinds of cabins are a nice step between inside and balcony cabins for those that don’t like the sound of the inside but can’t quite afford the balcony option.


Balconies – a balcony cabin, in appearance at least, will be much the same as an outside cabin (although normally slightly larger). The big difference will be that on the wall where an outside cabin would have a window, you’ll find a French window leading out onto your own private balcony.


Suites – Cruise ship suites come in all shapes and sizes with the basic type (normally known as junior suites) just being larger balcony cabins (with more floor space) whilst some of the biggest can have rooms spread over two storeys, private gardens, private bars and your own Jacuzzi out on your balcony!


Those then, are the basic four types of cabin grades. As we’ve mentioned, cruise lines do have many more grades than our standard four but they’ll all be a variation on the same thing. You may find one grade will be inside cabins at the front of the ship or on a certain deck whilst another grade may be outside cabins with and without obstructed views.

Try not to worry about it too much though, once you’ve the basic four mastered you’ll be fine.


Location, location, location


Perhaps just as important as picking the type of cabin you book is choosing where your cabin is located.

There’s a lot of things you need to consider here, especially if you suffer from sea sickness (although in modern times, with mega cruise ships, this has become much less of an issue).


Front of the ship – Historically, cabins at the front of the ship have always been considered by most cruisers to be located in the ‘worst’ position (if such a thing can exist on a luxury ship!)

The reason for this is that as a ship cuts through the waves the front will experience the most movement, going up and down, meaning if you are prone to sea sickness you may feel a little green around the gills. It’s worth remembering though that this is normally only an issue in waters that are quite choppy, in places like the Mediterranean or the Caribbean you’ll experience a lot less movement (which means no sea sickness).


Aft of the ship – the aft of the ship, as it’s known, (or the back of the ship for those of you not completely au fait with your nautical terms) tends to be considered the next best cabin position after midships. Whilst the front of the ship gets the most movement the back also does get some. Whilst it’s nowhere near as bad as the front of the ship, you may still notice some movement in rough seas.


Midships (or the middle of the ship) – Having a midships cabin is the position most regular cruisers will always try to get given the choice. If you imagine your cruise ship as a see-saw (a very big see-saw that can float in the ocean obviously) then as it moves up and down the middle stays in the same position, right?

The same is true for a cruise ship. As it moves through the waves, moving up and down, the middle of the ship will remain the most stationary.


The top decks – There’s an old adage in cruising – “the more you pay, the more you sway”. This rather charming idiom came about from the cruise lines charging the most money for balcony cabins at the top of the ship.

These cabins will obviously command a better view than those towards the bottom of the ship but due to the nature of a cruise ship you may notice a little more swaying than you would on the lower decks of the ship (towards its centre of gravity).


The bottom decks – As we have mentioned, the lower decks may not command as much of a view but don’t forget, you can always walk up to the top deck to enjoy it. What you’ll find in picking a cabin lower down is that you’ll save quite a bit of money and if you’re sensitive to the motion of a ship will notice it a lot less.


Walking distances – Some modern ships are big. Very big! Even if you’re not looking to book a cruise on one of these it’s probably still worth considering the position of your cabin when looking at the deck plans.

How far are you from the lifts? Or the main dining room? Will you have a massive walk coming back from the bar of an evening?

It’s more of an issue for those that struggle to walk long distances but still worth considering for everyone else none the less.


Noise considerations – Just as you may want to consider the position of the lifts when you think about your walking distance to them, you may also want to think about noise levels. Will people queuing up outside them disturb you in the morning if you’re sleeping late? If you’ve gone to bed early will people coming back after dinner wake you?

If it’s the case that you’re a particularly light sleeper then you may want to pick a cabin away from the lifts.

It’s not just the lifts you need to think about when it comes to noise considerations though. Is your cabin the next deck up from the theatre? It obviously won’t be an issue during the day but the last thing you want if you fancy an early night is to be able to hear the theatre underneath you. Try to avoid these kinds of cabins if you can. When you’re looking at your cabin on a deck plan just have a look above and below you and to either side.  Is there anything around you that might be noisy? If there is perhaps it’d be best to look at another cabin.


Does size matter?

does size matter

How much does size matter to you really? Whilst we’ve already said inside and outside cabins tend to be the same size (just with the addition/loss of a window) the size of balconies and suites can vary wildly.

The thing is though, how much size do you need?

Now the answer to that may be a lot, in which case by all means book the biggest suite you can afford. It’s worth remembering though that until you get up to the top, with the top levels of suites all you’re really paying for is extra floor space.

There’ll be a bed, a sofa, a bathroom and a balcony.

That being said there will be a few points worth considering still…


Bath vs Shower – To save space some balcony cabins will come equipped with a shower only whilst others will have a full bath. That may not be a deal breaker for most but if a bath is important to you then make sure you check the deck plans carefully. The cabins that have a bath and shower will be marked.


Balcony vs cabin space –   Whilst we’re on the subject of floor space it’s probably worth mentioning the age old debate between balcony size and cabin space.

If you just glance at a deck plan it may look as though all the balconies are the same size but when you trawl through the fine print you’ll notice some balconies are bigger, with the trade-off being a smaller cabin or vice versa. Often however you won’t even realise this until you arrive. If you call and speak to a cruise specialist they’ll always be able to check the exact balcony size for you. What you need to decide beforehand is what you’re looking for from your balcony. Are you just looking to take in the view and maybe enjoy a morning coffee (in which case a slightly smaller balcony and larger cabin will probably suit you best) or will you be looking to sunbathe out there (meaning you’ll need a larger balcony for the sun lounger but will probably sacrifice a bit of cabin space)?

As with most things – have a think about what you want and let your cruise consultant find you the perfect cabin.


Well that’s a bit different!

And that’s the basics of choosing a cruise ship cabin!

Still with us?

Good, that means you’re probably ready for our masterclass…

Whilst we’ve covered the basics there’s still a bit more to go over, far too much too cover here in fact but we’ll try to give you a taster.

Cruise ships aren’t just big floating hotels. First and foremost they’re ships (we know that seems obvious but stick with us a moment). A hotel is basically a big square box with all the cabins laid out in the exact same size.

A ship isn’t like that. The designers need to fit the cabins in where there’s space; around the engines, the restaurants, the bars and theatre, the bridge and much more. This means that on any given cruise ship, if you’re one of the people in the know (or you know someone that is), you can find some very quirky shaped or designed cabins. Sometimes the cruise lines will advertise this fact, sometimes they won’t. We’ll try to cover a few of the more common ones here…


Promenade cabins – If you remember right back to the start of this article we told you the reason inside cabins were the cheapest was that they didn’t have a view. What if we told you you could have an inside cabin and a view though?

Believe it or not it’s possible!

If you book a cruise on one of Royal Caribbean’s larger ships (Voyager class or above) the ships will have what’s known as the Royal Promenade. This is a giant walkway in the centre of the ship three or four storeys high. On the bottom level (the promenade) you’ll find shops, restaurants, bars and the occasional parade as well as live music and other entertainment.

This is where it gets good though… On the higher levels, instead of just having blank walls (backing onto inside cabins) Royal Caribbean have added windows to all the cabins so you can overlook the promenade and people watch to your hearts content.

Promenade cabin


Solo cabins – There’s a massive demand in cruising at the moment for solo cabins but a lot of the cruise lines have been slow to catch up with this. Fortunately this situation is changing now and most new cruise ships now come equipped with a small amount of cabins specially designed for people travelling on their own.

Be warned though, they do tend to sell out quickly!

Solo cabin


Family cabins – With very few exceptions all cruise ship cabins will sleep a maximum of four people. This means if you’re travelling with three or more children you’re going to have a problem. There are some cabins that sleep five or six (in fact there are some suites that can sleep eight-ten people!) but these tend to sell out early, especially during the summer holidays.

This means if you’re planning on travelling with a larger family and you can all stop in one room but you need to plan ahead a bit more.

If this isn’t an option for you then the more common option is to book two adjoining cabins.

Obviously you could just book two cabins next to each other but many will have an interconnecting door for just this purpose (it’s locked from both side if you’re not travelling with the person in the next cabin so don’t worry).

family cabin


Obstructed views – The thought of booking a cabin with an obstructed view can be quite pointless to some; after all, what’s the point of spending money on a window or balcony only to have it obstructed!

By law all cruise ships have to carry lifeboats and these boats obviously need to be stored somewhere. Often you’ll find them just outside the lower outside or balcony view cabins. You still get all the natural daylight (and in the case of a balcony more room) but you lose out a little on the view.

Why would anyone agree to this then you may wonder?

Simple – You get a massive discount for it!

For obvious reasons the cruise lines sell these cabins at massively reduced costs but if all you’re looking for is a cheap cabin with some natural daylight to alleviate the feeling of claustrophobia an inside cabin may elicit then it might be a good choice for you.

The added benefit being that not all obstructed cabins are fully obstructed, some only have partial obstructions. There are obviously several dozen lifeboats per ship so if you happen to book a cabin in-between two of them you’ll still get the full discount but may get a bit of a view as well!


Is that everything?

The last thing to consider (and we promise that this is the last thing) is what extras you’ll get with your cabin.

As the cruise lines can’t really increase the size of most balcony cabins, rather than sell them all at the same price they’ll class some as a higher grade and just include extra ‘perks’ with them.

This ‘perks’ can range from exclusive access to restaurants or spas right through to your own private concierge or butler.

Butler With Note on Tray


What kind of cabin do you like to book? Do you spend much time pouring over deck plans?

Are there any top tips you think we’ve missed?

Let us know in the comments below…


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