Choosing cruise cabins and common mistakes to avoid

Your choice of cabin onboard your cruise ship can make or break your cruising experience. It’s worth taking your time and studying the cruise ship deck plan before you decide, so that you can see exactly where the cabins are in relation to the public areas on board.

Then of course you have to see what is available. For the widest possible choice and the best locations, book your cruise well in advance of your cruise date.

There are some particular cabins which sell out very fast, and that’s because there are so few onboard. Accessible cabins and solo cabins are two examples.

Here are our best tips of how to choose your cabin and common mistakes to avoid!

Accessible cabins

If you need an accessible cabin, designed for guests with mobility problems to allow for easier maneuverability, you need to book early. Generally, less than 3% of cruise ships cabins are built with accessible access. And some cruise ship have none at all.

An accessible cabin offers the same standards features as a regular cabin, but with wider door ways and a bathroom designed for easy mobility.

Solo Cabins

Many of the new cruise ship offered cabins that suit the solo traveler.Cabins are more compact, but the most important thing is that you can avoid paying that expensive single room supplement if you were to occupy a cabin intended for two.

Norwegian Cruise Lines still lead the way with a good number of solo cabins onboard not only their newest ships, but on the older cruise ships that are being renovated. Read more in our article about cruising solo and how to find the best cruise with single cabins.

Inside cabins 

Inside cabins are just that, located within interior walls without a window or any natural light of any kind. All other amenities are exactly the same in the cabin as standard window or balcony cabins. But avoid choosing interior cruise cabins if you get claustrophobic. That said, inside cabins are the least expensive cabin types so if you have a budget to stick to, go for it. How much time will you really spend in your cabin anyway?

Choosing cruise cabins that are separate but close together

If you are travelling with young teenagers and do not want to share one cabin for all four of you, choosing cruise cabins with a balcony for parents plus an inside cabin directly opposite for the kids works great. It feels good to know that they are just across the narrow corridor and can pop into your cabin at any time. You take away the worry of them clowning around on their own balcony, and teens are not usually bothered that they have an inside cabin and are just happy to have their own space.

Virtual balcony cabins

A few cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean have gone even further by offering virtual balcony cabins. Choosing cruise cabins with a virtual balcony mean that you are actually living in an inside cabin but with a huge high-definition screen displaying the actual sights and sounds outside. And in real time! And you even get a virtual railing. Pretty cool!

Ocean view cabins (with a window, otherwise known as outside cabins)

Ocean view or outside cabins are those with a window. Window size and amount of natural light in varies from cruise line to cruise line. Norwegian Cruise Line for example have 2 different categories of outside cabins. One with a larger rectangular window (“picture window”) and one with a smaller round window (“porthole window”).

Ocean view cabins are priced between inside and balcony cabins. Do compare prices with your cruise line on their different cabin types. Sometimes paying just a little extra for choosing a balcony cabin located midship, compared to choosing an ocean view cabin on a higher deck, is worth it.

Here I would definitely opt for the balcony cabin if it suits your family. The extra space and being able to sit outside on your own balcony will be worth the extra cost if your budget can handle it.

Balcony cabins

Balcony cabins are by far the most popular choice and that’s why every cruise line has the greatest number of these cabins on board.

Your cabin has a floor-to-ceiling sliding glass door allowing access onto your private balcony. This gives you around 4 to 6 square metres extra space. The balcony furniture is 2 chairs and a small table. It’s a great way of extending the size of your cabin especially if you are more than 2 guests in one cabin. Plus it’s the nicest way to start the day with a coffee and croissant out in the morning sea air!

Remember to ask your cruise line if your balcony has a clear glass surround or a solid colour. Your view when sitting down could be partially obscured if the balcony glass is not clear.

Most balcony cabins face the ocean; however Royal Caribbean also offer balcony cabins facing in towards the ship, overlooking Central Park or The Boardwalk. If you like people-watching and seeing life go from your balcony, then you will like these cabins. If you don’t, avoid choosing these. And remember if you can see out into other peoples balconies and cabins, other guests can see you too.

Aft balcony cabins

Aft cabins are those right at the back of the ship. And they are popular! ask any regular cruise traveler and they will know that to acquire one of these cabins, you need to book and secure your cabin choice early.

Why are these aft cabins so popular? The balcony is larger than in regular balcony cabins, and you get the most remarkable, unobstructed view of the ocean from the back of the ship as it ploughs through the sea. We love this type of cabin, so study the deck plan of the cruise ship you have chosen, and look out for availability when booking your cruise.


Suites of all sizes and configurations are the priciest options on board. The truth is that you get what you pay for as suites offer extra space for you and your family to move around.

Some also come with a separate living room or your own butler. Family suites can offer good value for money if the kids are adults themselves or you want to live together with elderly parents. In some cases not such a huge increase in price compared to booking two balcony cabins.

What to avoid when choosing your cruise cabin

  • If you are a couple travelling alone I would certainly advise you to avoid choosing an adjoining cabin . The ones where there is a connecting door to the cabin next door. Quite simply you will have more noise. Everything from hearing your neighbours wakeup call, to the TV. Check out the deck plan, as adjoining cabins are clearly marked.
  • Avoid booking a cruise cabin directly under the pool deck – think loud music and night parties.
  • A cabin directly under the promenade deck can be a bit noisy. Most large ships have a promenade deck that wraps around the ship. Here you can walk, run or have a drink at one of the waterfront bars. And on a busy ship you will hear all of this.
  • Avoid cruise cabins located close to public areas. These include kids clubs or games rooms, or next to the theatre. This is where excursion groups often meet and it can be noisy.
  • Look at your deck plan and avoid cabins in the vicinity of night clubs and party venues. You get the idea.
  • If your ship offers laundry areas then avoid cabins around this area. The vibrations of the machines will disturb you.
  • Avoid cabins directly over or under kitchens, restaurants and the pool area. Yes, you can hear the vibrations from the scraping of deck chairs and yes, it will be very annoying.

Noisy Cabins and Obstructed Views

Some ocean view cabins have obstructed views where life boats and tender boats are located outside your window. When choosing your cruise cabin remember that this can block almost your entire view, although you will have some natural light in. We booked a blocked view cabin once as a last minute booking with no other options. It was ok, but not great. But we did save some money compared to other ocean-view cabins.

Any cabins located close to service doors for crew access may be noisy due to the coming and going of crew personnel at all hours. These cabins may be difficult to identify on your cruise plan. Be sure to speak to your cruise line when you have made a provisional booking online just to check you are not located close to these service doors.

Choosing a cruise cabin towards the very back or very front of the ship may have a great view but you may also feel the vibrations of the back engine or front anchor.

Suffer from motion sickness? Think mid-ship when choosing cruise cabins

Our favorite and therefore our best recommendation are cabins located mid-ship. If the ship is on choppy seas and moves you feel the least amount of movement when you are midship.

Make sure that you are surrounded by other cabins on both sides – and even opposite, above and below you cabin. This way you will be insulated from busy public areas. Mid-ship means that you will also have equal distance to the back and to the front of the ship, so you have easy and shorter access to, for example, walking to restaurants at the back and theaters at the front of the ship.

Your cabin, your choice

Take your time, choose your cabin carefully and don’t just accept what you are automatically allocated when booking. Always look to see what other cabins are available in the same price range and have the deck plan in front of you when booking.

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Meet the author: With more than 20 years experience from the travel industry, Mattias offers tips, expert advice and a unique perspective anchored in having worked with market leading cruise lines, tour operators, consolidators, airlines and hospitality suppliers. Read more..

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