Sea to Z guide – Choosing your perfect cabin

Planning to go on a cruise can be one of the most exciting things, but things can get complicated very quickly.  In this blog we’ll look at the various cabins found on ships to help you choose the right space for you on your next adventure.

Picking a cabin can be determined by a number of factors, but really it boils down to what you want to get out of a cruise.  Some people may want to just use the space to get ready and sleep.  While others will seek out this place as their own sanctuary for the majority of the cruise.  It’s safe to say that most of us sit within the middle of these two camps.

Location is everything

The location of your cabin is perhaps more important than what cabin you eventually settle on.  There’s a number of factors that could affect your holiday. These include:

Stability

For me this is probably the most important consideration when picking the right cabin for you.  Depending on where you are on the ship, you can sometimes feel more movement than others.  If you suffer from, or are worried about seasickness, then the location of the cabin can make the difference between having an enjoyable holiday, or potentially not.  Stick to the lower and most central areas of the ship which will move the least.

Distance and noise

Some passengers like to be located in certain parts of the ship (including for the above).  Personally, I do like to be close to the stairs, but others will prefer to be further away in cases it gets noisy, from things like foot fall.  Equally, for some they will prefer a cabin on an upper-deck to be close to the pool or lower to get to restaurants and other entertainment.

Size and layout

It’s true not all cabins are made equal.  Each line and ship has its own quirks where you might find some cabins that are bigger – either internally through a shape that has to accommodate the structure of the ship or have, for example, a bigger balcony.

A great example of this are the ‘sweet sixteen’ found on Celebrity’s Millennium class ships.  These sixteen cabins have significantly largely balconies than other cabins on board due to the wider structure of the ship, but are actually one of the lowest balcony cabin grades.

Four is the magic number

Broadly speaking there are four categories of cabins on cruise ships.  Some lines have less, but they are all variations of this core theme. For instance, lines like Silversea have an all-suite approach.  Here’s our run down of the various cabin types you can typically find on cruise ships.

Interior

An interior cabin could be the right choice for you if you are looking for good value for money without compromising on space.  Particularly if you’re not fussed about having a view or will just use the space to sleep and get ready.

More importantly, an interior cabin may not mean you have no view.  On several Royal Caribbean ships many of the interior cabins overlook the inside promenade.  On top of this, many inside cabins on Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean also have special screens that have a live feed to the outside.  Disney’s Magic Porthole is particularly fun as your favourite Disney characters will appear on the screen.

You can even get interior suites on some lines, that have all the benefits of a suite at a more affordable price.  A great example is those found on MSC Meraviglia and Bellissima.

Top Tip

While an inside cabin is typically the cheapest, this is not always the case and sometimes you’ll find oceanview and balcony cabins cheaper.  This is a pricing quirk that’s worth exploiting. The key is to do you research or use a travel agent to search for the best rates.

Oceanview

For most cruisers the choice will come down to a balcony or oceanview cabin.  The good news is that for the most part these cabins are very similar.  Usually they are similar sizes, with the same beds, amenities, TVs, etc.

The biggest distinction with an Oceanview is the size of the window (of course).  Low down on the ship you will get much smaller windows, but elsewhere you’ll get a much bigger view.  At the front of the ship overlooking the bow you’ll typically get much larger windows.  Similarly, on some ships you can get panoramic oceanview windows that benefit from floor-to-ceiling windows affording great views.

For me, part of the choice depends on where you are going and what type of cruise you are doing.  So, for instance, if I was going to the Norwegian Fjords I would aim for a balcony.  I want to feel up close to the destination.  Whereas on some colder cruises I would definitely consider an oceanview.

Top Tip

Make the most of the views.  You’ve purchased an oceanview cabin, so make sure you get the best location for the itinerary you’re undertaking.  If you know there will be a lot of scenic cruising, look for one of the panoramic rooms mentioned above to get a true appreciation of the scenery around you.

Balcony

These days the largest proportion of cabins on most ships are balconies.  Offering beautiful views out to sea, you can see why it appeals. Picture yourself sitting, enjoying a glass of bubbles on the balcony watching the sun set – True bliss.

There are a huge variety of balconies available from line-to-line offering various sizes and amenities. This of course will affect the price, as can the location on the ship.  Some prefer to be right by the lifts for easy access to the rest of the ship, while others like to be further away to avoid any noise. Of these, aft ‘sunset’ cabins are a popular choice, with balconies that look out over the wake of the ship.

Not all balconies face the sea.  With its unique a split structure, Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class have balconies that overlook the inward Central Park, as well as its board walk.  This typically comes at a lower price to standard balconies.  On top of this, the Boardwalk cabins overlook the Aqua Theatre, so you can watch water and diving shows from the comfort of your own room.

What constitutes a balcony is also changing.  If you take a look at Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Edge, as an example. Most balconies have been replaced with what’s called the infinite balcony, resulting in much bigger rooms compared to other ships – with 23% extra space compared to other ships.  The rooms have been designed to blur the distinction between indoor and outdoor space.  The best way I can describe this is that where you would expect to have the balcony, there is a wintergarden indoor space with a large panoramic window.  To turn this space from indoor to outdoor all you need to is press a button and the window parts and becomes a balcony.  It’s very clever.

You’ll also find an increasing number of balcony cabins and categories that offer additional amenities compared to standard ones.  A great example is Aquaclass on Celebrity Cruises.  Aquaclass looks to provide a more luxurious experience and is perfect for those seeking restoration and relaxation.  The biggest draws are access to the exclusive Blu restaurant, offering an intimate dining experience with fresh and clean food.  Secondly, Aquaclass have access to the amazing Thermal Suite on board.  The cabins are very similar to others on board, but feature an upgraded rain shower, a pillow menu, daily canapes and tea, bathrobes and slippers and a welcome bottle of sparkling wine.

Top Tip

If you’re not fussed about location, then why not just book a ‘guarantee’ cabin.  You’ll pay a much lower rate and the cruise line will select the actual cabin.  If you’re lucky, you could end up being assigned an amazing cabin and location (or getting an upgrade).  Equally, you may end up with something less desirable.  In my experience it’s worth trying for the offset of the cost savings.

The suite life

I’ve previously spoken about some of the best suites at sea.  There are a huge variety of suites available, whether chic junior suites to huge deck-spanning suites.  When booking a suite, the physical stateroom is arguably the biggest selling point, with upgraded facilities, furnishings and service.  Some are split over multiple floors, have huge private terraces, hot tubs, separate dining and living areas, to name but a few features.  They are truly opulent and desirable spaces.

On top of this there are wider benefits, includes priority services and embarkation, exclusive specialist restaurants, free wifi, wet bars, butler service as well as many others.  Some lines even include free air fare and excursions within the cruise booking.

The idea of exclusive suite areas are also very popular and a growing feature on more and more lines, from the NCL Haven to the MSC Yacht Club (pictured below).  These ship within a ship areas offer concierge services and exclusive lounges, bars restaurants and sun decks.

Special cabins

As cruising grows, further cabins types are becoming available.

Family cabins

Family cruising, and in fact multi-generational cruising, is an area of huge growth. So much so that specific cabins are now being created to accommodate these groups.  From specific family cabins, such as those found on MSC, that can accommodate a family with ease. To modular cabin types where you can combine certain cabins (for example a suite, an interior and a balcony) into a much larger living area for everyone – take a look at the video below at an example which debuted on Quantum of the Seas.

Cabin design has also changed to support family cruising, for example Disney Cruise Lines, which features a split bathroom to allow multiple activities to take place at once.

Solo travellers

The cruise industry has woken up to the importance of the solo traveller.  Many lines now offer specific cabins designed for solo passengers to try and avoid them having to pay single passenger supplements for standard rooms (which can be hefty).

Depending on the line you can get a variety of cabins specifically for solo passengers, including inside, outside and balcony cabins.  Overall, a solo cabin typically means a smaller room with a smaller bed.

Some lines also offer specific areas dedicated for solo passengers.  A great example is The Studio on board Norwegian Cruise Line ships.  This area encourages solo guests to interact, with their own dedicated lounge areas, including their own bar.

 

So, what’s your pick?  Are you a fan of an interior cabin or ready to splash out on an opulent suite?  Let me know on social media and in the comments below.

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