There are two types of cruisers: those who don’t care about where they wind up sleeping and those who, for whatever reason, place a high value on their cabin’s location. Indeed, choosing the right cabin is one of the most crucial steps when planning the perfect cruise.
Guarantee cabins or sail-away cabins — which are cheapest, assigned by the cruise line, and often in the least desirable locations — make the selection process easier. You can pick your preference and go where you’re told on embarkation day.
The rest of us, though, are investing a bit more time in the process. And the bigger the ship, the more complicated the process becomes, as newer ships tend to have a more comprehensive selection of staterooms and venues.
What’s in a name?
Stateroom categories can be confusing. Take, for example, the Ocean View Balcony in Royal Caribbean vessels. On its surface, that doesn’t seem to make much sense. After all, isn’t the whole point of having a balcony providing an ocean view?
It turns out that’s not necessarily the case. Because on Royal’s Oasis-class ships, you can also have balconies facing the carved-out interior of the ship. Perhaps you want a Central Park view of Wonder of the Seas, which overlooks their tree-lined central area. Or maybe you prefer a Boardwalk View balcony?
Additionally, it’s not only balcony categories that confuse a less-experienced cruiser. Looking again at Wonder of the Seas, one can book an interior stateroom with a “virtual” balcony or even interior staterooms with windows. But you might say, “Wouldn’t that be an Oceanview stateroom?” In this case, no, because the windows overlook Central Park.
Many cruise lines sell their porthole cabins as interiors because the porthole “window” is not nearly as big as the window in what is categorized as an oceanview cabin. So if you choose carefully, you could pay an interior price but get a little round window to look out of. It’s not much, but it’s better than a standard interior room!
See how confusing cabin categories can be?
What about a suite?
If you think opting for a suite will make the choice easier, think again. As cruise lines court the ever-increasing number of passengers willing to shell out extra cash for a more excellent stateroom with additional perks, the variety of suites has grown exponentially. Take, for example, Carnival Cruise Line’s game-changing Mardi Gras.
Those looking to book a suite on Mardi Gras have a wide variety of options, from the relatively simple Ocean Suite to the Excel Aft Suite with a truly jaw-dropping balcony.
Additionally, many lines have embraced the “ship-within-a-ship” concept by creating areas such as Norwegian’s The Haven, MSC’s The Yacht Club, and Celebrity Cruises’ The Retreat. Here, passengers must be aware that there are categories and subcategories of rooms.
For example, on most Norwegian Cruise Line ships, many of the rooms classified as The Haven are actually located outside the special Haven area, which can only be accessed via a special keycard).
Once you’ve figured out which type of stateroom you want, it’s a matter of figuring out where you want it to be. The good news is that it’s not difficult to make sure you don’t wind up in an undesirable cabin. By following a few simple steps, you can avoid making the most common mistakes.
Usually, when booking a stateroom on a website, you’ll be given the option of allowing the line to select a room for you or picking the cabin yourself. Many cruisers, especially first-timers, think, “Why make this harder than it needs to be? I’m sure the cruise line will put me somewhere awesome!” Sure, most staterooms on any given ship will be in wonderful locations, but why take that risk?
Use the tools at your disposal
One easy way to handle the whole concern about stateroom is by contacting a travel professional, telling them precisely what you want, and letting them take it from there. After all, that’s their job, and contrary to popular belief, using a travel agent doesn’t cost you a thing. (If it does, find someone else. The vast majority of agents are paid not by you but by the cruise lines with whom they work on a commission basis.)
But booking and planning the trip is half the fun if you’re anything like us. More than a few times, we’ve done all the legwork and then transferred the reservation to a travel agent so they can make sure we didn’t screw up! We still get the fun of doing the research and booking the trip; they go over everything with a fine-tooth comb and still earn their commission. Talk about a win/win!
So how, exactly, do you figure out which stateroom you want? Simple. Take your needs into account. Where’s your preferred location? Do you prefer the front, back, or middle of the ship? Do you want to make sure the kids are as close as humanly possible to the swimming pool?
The above questions will give you a general idea of where you want to be. That’s when we turn to a crazy helpful tool the cruise lines provide: deck plans!
How deck plans help you out
Once you’ve found a cabin, the deck plans can help you check one important thing: what’s above and below you.
Typically, we love to book staterooms sandwiched between other staterooms. If we know that Deck 4 through 9 are nothing but staterooms, there’s a good chance that the one we’ve chosen on Deck 6 will have cabins above and below.
Additionally, the deck plan offers helpful information about the stateroom you’ve booked. For example, does it “connect” to the one next door? What’s across the hallway?
Another thing to consider is the internet. You’d be surprised how often you can find everything you want to know about a given stateroom by simply typing in the ship’s name and cabin number. There’s a halfway decent chance that a cruise lover has posted a YouTube video about the very same room you’re considering booking, or someone has left a review of that specific cabin on a review site like cruiseline.com.
Ultimately, the more time you spend researching, the better the odds you’ll wind up in a stateroom suitable for your preference.
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