We may be slightly biased, but there’s not much that’s more fun than deciding on a cruise and then settling down to pick the perfect cruise ship cabin to stay in.
Choosing a grade, dissecting the deck plans, checking where the closest bar and spa is, bliss. Apparently though (or so we’ve heard), some people don’t really like the experience of 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, we’ve simplified things for you and made booking your cruise ship cabin a very simple decision…
Cutting Through the Jargon
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, 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).
Once you’ve figured out what to call your cabin you’ll need to decide which grade to book. Luckily, there are only really four basic grades that you need to worry about…
An inside cabin will be just as it sounds, a cabin on the inside of the ship, and the cheapest cabin you can book!
It saves you a lot of money but does mean you’ll be without a view or even a window; 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
An outside cabin will be almost exactly the same as an inside cabin in terms of size and layout but, unlike the inside cabin, it sits on the outside 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 don’t fancy stretching to a balcony cabin either.
This will appear almost exactly like an outside cabin, perhaps a little larger, but the big difference will be that you’ll have a French window leading out onto your own private balcony!
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 stories, private gardens, private bars and your own Jacuzzi out on your balcony!
Location, Location, Location
Perhaps just as important as picking the type of cabin you book is choosing where your cabin is located! You’ll need to take a lot of things into consideration here, especially if you suffer from sea sickness or are a light sleeper. Although, these things don’t usually matter on the mega-ships…
Front of the ship
As this is where the ship cuts through the waves, the front will experience the most movement, meaning if you’re prone to sea sickness you may feel a little green!
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 back of the ship 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)
If you imagine your cruise ship as a see-saw, then as it moves up and down the middle stays in the same position, right?
As it moves through the waves, moving up and down, the middle of the ship will remain the most stationary so this is a great one to feel less movement!
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, you’ll notice it a lot less.
Some modern ships are big, and 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 nonetheless.
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?
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. But there are still some important points to cover…
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 the 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)?
Make sure you consider all these things and have a think about what you want before letting your cruise consultant find you the perfect cabin!
Well, That’s A Bit Different!
Whilst we’ve covered the basics there’s still a bit more to go over, far too much to cover here in fact but we’ll try to give you a taster.
Cruise ships aren’t just big floating hotels despite the stigma they are often stuck with. Whereas the rooms in hotels are laid out in the exact same size, cruise ship 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…
Believe it or not, it’s possible to get an inside cabin with a view! 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 has added windows to all the cabins so you can overlook the promenade and people-watch to your heart’s content.
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 number of cabins specially designed for people travelling on their own. Be warned though, they do tend to sell out quickly…
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 with families looking for a holiday.
If you don’t manage to book one of these then two adjoining cabins is an alternative option, and we don’t just mean booking two cabins next to each other.
The adjoining cabins will have an interconnecting door for just this purpose (but don’t worry, it’s locked from both sides if you’re not travelling with the person in the next cabin).
The thought of booking a cabin with an obstructed view can be quite pointless to some, but 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.
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 is 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 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.
These ‘perks’ can range from exclusive access to restaurants or spas right through to your own private concierge or butler.
What cabin do you usually go for? Which is your least favourite? Do you have any tricks up your sleeve for getting the most out of your money?
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