If you’re trying to choose between 20 or more different categories of cruise ship cabins, you might be forgiven for suffering from decision paralysis.
The cure is to understand a little cruise-ship speak. There are actually only five main cabin types: inside, inside view, outside, balcony and suite. The other categories are variations of these cabin types, distinctive because of cabin size, view, physical and service amenities, and deck.
The price of each cabin depends on all these factors.
Inside cabins are typically the smallest, and have no port hole, window or door to the outside. On newer ships, they’re not as cramped as they were in the past.
On some ships, inside cabins have something called a “virtual” view. The cabin still has no porthole, window or outside door, but it has a video projected on a cabin wall of a virtual porthole, window, or balcony looking out on the ocean, to give you an outside cabin feel. There may be real curtains framing the video to make it seem more authentic.
Inside view cabins are on some of the new mega ships. They have windows and may have balconies, but instead of facing the ocean, they face an open exterior or interior central area of the ship.
Outside cabins face the outside of the ship, and have a port hole or large window facing the ocean.
Balcony cabins have a balcony (veranda) with access directly through a large glass door from the cabin which allows passengers to be outside without going to a public area of the ship.
Suites are the largest cabins on the ship, typically with bedrooms separate from the remainder of the cabin, and include a variety of amenities, such as butler service, as well as special perks. They may or may not have balconies.
Here are my top tips to help you choose your cabin wisely:
Aft cabins often have larger balconies than other ships’ cabins but they’re over the rear thrusters of the ships, used to power and steer them, resulting in vibrations felt in the cabins, from time to time, which may annoy you.
Some forward cabins, on the lower decks, are above the bow thrusters used for critical maneuvering of the ships. Late sleepers, may be startled out of their sleep by their noise and vibration during early morning dockings.
The hallway position of cabins can be critical. Being near an elevator bank or stairwell may be convenient, but it’s usually noisy late into the evening, and perhaps into the wee hours as well.
Of course, if you have limited mobility, choosing a cabin near the elevators will cut down the distances you’re required to go, to get around the ship.
Outside noise can be a problem in some cabins. Use your ship’s deck plan to locate noisy public areas such as discos, lounges, casinos, stores and restaurants, to avoid them.
There are two areas of the ship to which you may want to pay particular attention, regarding noise. On some ships, cabins are located directly under the jogging track. Joggers are generally an early morning group, so if you’re a late sleeper, choose a different cabin. Some ships have self-service laundry rooms. They are often in operation almost 24×7, especially on cruises with lots of families. I try to choose cabins far from them.
Privacy can be a problem with inside view cabins on mega ships, such as Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas. These ships have large public areas, both outside and some inside, between banks of cabins on multiple decks, on each side of the ship. These banks of cabins include both inside view cabins facing the central open areas and outside cabins facing the ocean.
Passengers behind windows with open curtains and on balconies of inside view cabins have little privacy, because they are easily seen by passengers and crew in the central public areas facing the cabins, as well as from inside view cabins in the cabin bank across from them. Generally, these staterooms are also noisier.
If you’re prone to motion sickness, it’s important to know the stabilizer systems installed on today’s cruise ships are effective, reducing the ships’ pitching and rolling on the ocean. Except in bad weather and high winds, few passengers notice their ship’s movement, however, if you’re susceptible to seasickness, cabins on lower decks, centrally located between the bow and stern (midships), have less pronounced movement.
Obstructions such as large lifeboats can eliminate the main advantage of outside and balcony cabins. If you’re not sure a cabin’s view is unobstructed, ask.
There’s a lot to think about when choosing a cabin. Carefully look at your ship’s deck plans, as well as cabin descriptions, features, and amenities before you choose yours. Ask questions when you’re not sure about cabin choices. I use a travel agent to help me, even though I’m a veteran cruise passenger.