Pro Tips for Choosing a Cruise Cabin

by GO GlobeHopper

If you are considering a cruise for your next vacation, take heed of our pro tips for choosing a cruise cabin that best suits your needs. It’s better to know what to expect BEFORE you book and end up disappointed.

If you look back at travel in the 70s and 80s, you might recall that cruises were once looked upon as something for ‘swinging singles’.  Primarily, they appealed to and attracted solo men and women travelers looking for a good time.  If a phrase like ‘What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas’ had existed back then, it likely would have applied to cruises.  The phenomenon even managed to fuel a late 70s comedy series called ‘The Loveboat’, where passengers were mainly singles looking for love.  No doubt the subject matter was sugar-coated for the purpose of the family show, but it did manage to perpetuate the idea that cruises were basically intended for solo travelers.

Thankfully, the industry has come a long way since then. First, by employing rules that forbid crew members from fraternizing with the guests, as they very often did (on The Loveboat as well as in real life).  Secondly, by making cruises accessible to everyone, with more and more ships, bigger and better amenities, and more destinations. Even accommodations have changed, they are no longer cookie-cutter cabins with a one-size-fits-all mentality.

With families of all ages, extended families, wedding parties, and groups now traveling together, the task of what kind of cabin to book and where to book it needs to be addressed.  The best way to start is by giving yourself plenty of time for planning and asking a few key questions, such as: What do you need the cabin to provide?  How much time do you plan to spend in the cabin? Is the cabin only for sleeping at night or will there be a need to use it for relaxation or something else during the day? How quiet do you need the cabin to be?  What are you willing to pay or not pay for accommodations?

Knowledge is power.  So, in order to answer these questions, it’s good to have as much information as possible to help make a decision. And even then, it’s wise to double-check with the cruise line or with your travel agent, who might be able to offer a suggestion or two.

Location Dictates Price:  

Travelers on a budget should consider inside cabins as well as cabins on lower decks, both of which are less expensive. The tradeoff is that inside cabins lack windows, meaning they also lack views and natural light. Cabins on lower decks, particularly toward the stern (rear of the ship), tend to experience noise and vibration due to the engines. And cabins near restaurants, perhaps on the same deck or directly below, can be noisy as well as prone to ongoing aromas.  If none of these things bother you because you plan to be out and about for the majority of the cruise, you can easily take advantage of the cheaper rates.

Opting for outside cabins comes at a higher price, but having a window and a view can make the room feel bigger and less constricting. It’s definitely a better option if you suffer from claustrophobia and feel the need to see the outdoors.  Rooms with balconies feel bigger still, with the option of another sitting area. However, if the chance of using the balcony is unlikely, it doesn’t warrant paying so much extra for the room. Additionally, if the destination is Alaska or anywhere cold, balconies can be more of a drawback than a plus seeing as they tend to let warmth escape the room.  Families with small children might see a balcony as a safety matter.

In the end, it all comes down to your budget vs your needs.  Getting a grip on what matters most to you and what you can comfortably afford should be something you discuss with your fellow travelers long before you actually book.

Size Matters:

Bathrooms on cruise ships are significantly smaller than anything you’ll find at a hotel, so if the bathroom is an area in which you know you will require some space, perhaps for medical reasons or for tending to children, it would be wise to skip a standard cabin and opt for a suite.

Suites can encompass bathtubs instead of just a standard shower, and also come with more living space, such as a desk and chair and a pull-out sofa for an additional sleeping area.  Some suites have enough space to accommodate children’s beds as well.  This is a worthwhile option for a family, and though more expensive than an inside or lower deck cabin, in the end, it’s still cheaper than booking additional cabins.

Couples, Seniors, Brides & Grooms, and Honeymooners:

It stands to reason that if you fall into any of these categories you will likely spend more time in your cabin than the average traveler.  With this in mind, it’s wise to opt for a bigger and more comfortable suite with a view. Yes, it will cost more but will be worth it for the comfort.  As for seniors, we advise that you inquire about accessible rooms and do so in plenty of advance since these accommodations are very limited and tend to book quickly.

More on Location

For travelers prone to seasickness, or even if you’ve never cruised before but you fear you will fall victim to it, the best cabins to book are those that provide the most stability. Cabins near the front or back of the ship or those on the higher levels will definitely feel the most motion of the ocean.  Cabins and suites in the central part of the ship, particularly those on the lower decks will feel less movement.

Depending on where you plan to spend the majority of your time on the cruise might factor into your cabin choice. For example, travelers that plan to swim and sunbathe might benefit most from a cabin near the sun decks and pools.  Families might wish to remain close to onboard activities for the children.  Those looking to partake in the nightlife might wish to remain close to the entertainment area. Travelers hoping to spend some days ashore might consider a cabin that provides easy access to debarking.  And those that suffer from mobility issues would be wise to consult the cruise line or their travel agent for a map of the ship so they can select a cabin close to elevators.

When it comes to noise, there are several areas of the ship that tend to be noisier than others.  So if a quiet cabin or stateroom is of importance, be sure to steer clear of the lowest deck due to the ship’s engines, not to mention that the anchor makes a ton of noise when it’s dropped.  Cabins or suites near or sometimes directly above the sun decks and pools can expect noise from early morning till late at night.  And those located near the restaurants, bars, and entertainment areas can be counted on for noise late into the night as well.

Final Thoughts

Depending on your needs, it might seem like a difficult task to figure out where on the ship you need to be, and within your price range.  But the more you know, the more equipped you will be to make the decision. And if you can’t make the decision on your own, ask your travel agent for assistance.

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