Are you considering taking your first cruise?
What should you do to avoid a disappointing vacation?
First, decide on the itinerary and the length of the trip. The next step is choosing a ship and the type of cabin. It will be wise to compare and contrast different cruise lines and cabin options. Not all cruise ships are the same.
The length of the cruise and the itinerary may affect your choices.
It is vital to learn a few basics about cruise ship cabin options.
Make an Educated Decision
Online deck plans will acquaint a prospective passenger with the overall design of the ship. Cabin layouts and videos will illustrate the room options. Becoming familiar with the common areas, the crew areas, and the elevators will make it easier to understand the traffic flow.
Ask Yourself 7 Questions:
Do you want to be close or faraway from the public areas?
Will noises from the ship or people irritate you?
Are you prone to motion sickness?
Are you a private person who would prefer sitting on your cabin’s veranda or a gregarious person who will spend little time in your room?
Can you cope without seeing any sunlight in your cabin?
Do you want to be pampered with extra amenities?
Are you on a strict budget or free to spend lavishly?
Become Familiar with Cabin Choices
Guaranteed Stateroom vs. Assigned Room
If you’re looking for a way to cut costs, a guaranteed stateroom may be an option. The guarantee is for a particular category or possibly an upgrade based on availability. While this option can be cost effective, it is a huge gamble. The cabin could be the most undesirable cabin in that category or it could be a simple upgrade. If you are not flexible, choose an assigned room. You will be able to pinpoint the cabin on the map and not be surprised.
Cruise ships have stabilizers that limit the rocking and swaying of a ship. Nevertheless, certain bodies of water can be rougher than others and inclement weather can also increase the likelihood of uncomfortable movement. Take a look at the horizontal and vertical possibilities and decide which location is best for you.
Forward cabins are not recommended for people who tend to get motion sickness. The most forward cabins will be farther away from the elevator and some common areas. These cabins may also experience ship noises
Mid-ship cabins are perfect for someone who is trying to avoid seasickness and for disabled individuals who are not completely mobile. An elevator is always located mid-ship. Passengers may pay a premium for this ideal location. These cabins sell quickly.
Aft cabins should be considered if mid-ship cabins are sold out. Cabins at the far back will require more walking and may experience more ship vibrations and noises.
Port versus Starboard– Most itineraries travel in multiple directions so the side of the ship should not make a difference. However, in some instances the itinerary favors one side of the ship over the other. Check a map. Most would prefer looking at the coastline rather than staring out at sea. When traveling north, cruisers on the starboard side will start the day with the sunrise. Heading south, passengers on the port side will view the sunset.
Lower cabins are less prone to movement and tend to be less expensive.
Upper level cabins provide better views but may experience more swaying.
Cabins near high traffic areas such as the main lobby, dining rooms, swimming pools, health and fitness areas, children’s areas, and crew work areas will be noisier than rooms located on floors that have limited social areas. Avoid cabins that are underneath the pool deck and fitness areas. Best choices are cabins that are buffered by decks that only have passenger cabins.
Choosing the type of cabin is a personal choice that is dependent on how much you want to spend, your size preference, whether you want to be able to step outside, and availability. First choice cabins may not be available if you book close to the sailing date.
Check the online site for floor plans and exact dimensions. Cabins are considerably smaller than hotel rooms. Higher priced cabins may not be any larger than lower priced cabins. The difference in price may be dependent on the location, the size of the balcony, or additional amenities.
Inside cabins are the least expensive, but can be claustrophobic and disconcerting for many people. Can you cope without seeing the outside? If you are not planning to spend much time in your cabin, this night be the best option. Without any windows, the room will be darker than you’re accustomed. Some cruise ships offer inside cabins that face an atrium or have an image that replicates an outside view. This may make the cabin appear larger.
Having a window allows you to see the outside and will make the room a bit brighter. However, the category of “window” can vary from ship to ship. In some instances the window is merely a small porthole while in other cases it is an oversized window. These cabins tend to be on lower decks and are sometimes blocked by lifeboats or other obstructions. The splashing from the sea may be troublesome for some.
Balcony cabins provide more space and an outside sitting area. The area can be used for private dining and the ability to take awesome pictures from the comfort of your stateroom. Price points vary according to the cabin location and the size of the deck. Lower priced balcony cabins may have obstructed views from lifeboats or overhangs. Some balconies are angled and/or oversized. Rear facing balconies provide panoramic views and tend to be larger. However, many are in tiered configurations so privacy is limited.
Suites are the most luxurious way to cruise. The cabins are spacious and include additional services and amenities. A personal butler may be part of the deal. The price point can be shocking on some cruise lines.
Special Needs There is a limited number of cabins that can accommodate wheel chairs and the disabled. Early bookings will provide greater options.
Most cabins accommodate two adults. Based on availability, there are options for a 3rd or 4th passenger in a cabin. The 3rd and 4th passengers travel at a discounted price. This is a cost effective way to travel with children. A sofa bed or upper berths (see picture above) are the additional sleeping options. Space is at a premium so choose fellow passengers wisely. Consider checking to see if the ship has any connecting rooms. More space can be found in family suites. However the price point is considerably higher and the supply is limited.
Concierge-level cabins may also come with in-cabins amenities like welcome drinks, fruit baskets or afternoon canapes.
Spa-level cabins will provide health and fitness amenities that may include a more select dining option.
Booking well in advance of the sailing date will usually offer more choices and possibly lower costs. Until the final payment is made, most cruise lines will adjust the price of the cruise if the price drops. Last minute bookings can result in huge savings. Finding reasonable airfare and pre or post cruise accommodations may be a challenge.
Did you check all of the categories within your price range?
Sometimes the difference between one category and the next is negligible and well worth the few extra dollars.
Some travel agents provide additional perks in addition to the cruise ship offerings. Costco usually adds shipboard credit and sometimes additional perks.
Many forego this nominal extra charge saying, “There’s no need to spend anymore.” In most instances, the insurance policy will not be used. However, one never knows whether sickness, accidents, or delayed travel will disrupt a trip. If the price point of the trip is more than you’re willing to lose, consider adding insurance. An unexpected surgery within 3 weeks of a sailing caused me to cancel a family cruise to South America that included 6 passengers. Had I not purchased the insurance, I would have forfeited approximately $20,000 for the land and air package.
Taking time to research your cruise ship cabin options will minimize the chance of having a disappointing first cruise vacation.
My memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, and the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards.