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 precisely where the cabins are in relation to the public areas on board.
Then, of course, you have to see what is available. Book your cruise well before your planned travel date for the best possible choice and the best location.
Some particular cabins 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 on choosing your cabin and common mistakes to avoid!
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 ship cabins are built with accessible access. And some cruise ships have none at all.
An accessible cabin offers the same standard features as a standard cabin but with broader doorways and a bathroom designed for easy mobility.
Many of the new cruise ships offer cabins that suit the solo traveler. Cabins are more compact, but most importantly, you can avoid paying that expensive single-room supplement if you occupy a cabin intended for two.
Norwegian Cruise Lines still lead the way with many solo cabins onboard their newest ships and 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 are just that, located within interior walls without a window or any natural light. All other amenities are the same in the cabin as in standard window or balcony cabins. But avoid choosing interior cruise cabins if you get claustrophobic. 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 spend in your cabin anyway?
Choosing cruise cabins that are separate but close together
If you are traveling 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 well. It feels good to know they are just across the narrow corridor and can pop into your cabin anytime. 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 means living in an inside cabin with a high-definition screen displaying the sights and sounds outside. And in real-time! And you even get a virtual railing. Pretty cool!
Oceanview 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 vary from cruise line to cruise line. Norwegian Cruise Line, for example, has two 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.
We recommend that you opt for the balcony cabin if it suits your family. The extra space and sitting outside on your own balcony will be worth the additional cost if your budget can handle it.
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 to your private balcony. This gives you around 4 to 6 square meters of extra space. The balcony furniture is two chairs and a small table. It’s a great way of extending the size of your cabin, especially if you are more than two 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 color. 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 offers balcony cabins facing in toward 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 people’s balconies and cabins, additional 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 plows 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. 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 butler. Family suites can offer good value for money if the kids are adults or you want to live 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 traveling alone, I advise you to avoid choosing an adjoining cabin with a connecting door to the cabin next door. You will have more noise—from hearing your neighbor’s wake-up call to the TV. Check out the deck plan, as adjoining cabins are marked.
- Avoid booking a cruise cabin under the pool deck – think of 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 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 near nightclubs 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 oceanview cabins have obstructed views where lifeboats and tender boats are outside your window. When choosing your cruise cabin, remember that this can block almost your entire view, although you will have some natural light. 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 oceanview cabins.
Any cabins 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 to check you are not located close to these service doors.
Choosing a cruise cabin towards the very back or 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 is cabins located mid-ship. If the ship is on choppy seas and moves, you feel the least movement when you are midship.
Ensure that other cabins surround you on both sides – and even opposite, above and below your 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 the front of the ship, so you have easy and shorter access to, for example, 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 see what other cabins are available in the same price range, and have the deck plan in front of you when booking.