Cruise Lifestyle: Choosing the right cruise ship cabin

For some, a cabin is just a room in which to sleep, for others it can make or break a cruise holiday. The cabin you choose depends on what you want from your cruise vacation. Here’s our guide to help you make the right choice.

What makes the cruise industry so unique compared to other sectors of the travel market is the fact that there is literally something for everyone, often aboard the same ship. You can have a fun, but inexpensive cruise aboard the Costa Fortuna as a family for example (sailing from Dubai on 14 round-trip 7-night Arabian cruises between December 2013 and March 2014), or you can have a more luxurious couples cruise with your wife or husband on the same ship. It all depends on which of the ship’s facilities you’re most interested in using and most importantly; it depends on the type of cabin you choose.

For many, a cabin is just a space in which to wash and sleep in-between the multitude of things to do on-board and the many destinations to see. For others, it is their base of operations and therefore is a major part of the cruise experience.

In today’s cruise market there are a range of different types of cabin or stateroom. You can have an inside cabin in the bowels of the ship (the cheapest choice, especially if shared by a family of four), or you can let the kids have an inside cabin while you and your partner share an Ocean View cabin. If you want you go one better, you could choose a Balcony cabin, or even a Balcony suite! Then there’s the Spa Suites and Penthouse Lofts. The choice is yours and it comes down to what you want from your cruise experience.

Cruise Ship Dos and Donts for the First Time Cruiser

The Basics


Inside

As the name would suggest, an inside cabin is located on the inner side of the passenger corridors, with no porthole and very little room – they are almost always the smallest cabins onboard. Older ships tend to have very little inside cabins, aboard Royal Caribbean’s oldest ships they’re just 115 to 122 sq ft, while on the newer, larger ships in the Princess fleet, they’re around 160 sq ft. Both of these specifications include the en-suite bathroom. There’s very little surface space available in these cabins so pack lightly and you’d be well-advised to take two swimming costumes as it can take more than 24-hours for a swimsuit to dry when hung in the bathroom of an inside cabin. Pictured is an inside cabin aboard the Cunard ocean liner Queen Mary 2, which basically shows the most luxurious type of inside cabin available at sea.

Outside (or Ocean View)

An outside cabin is more expensive than an inside, but far cheaper than a balcony cabin, so is a good option for the first time cruiser who doesn’t want to spend too much on a weeklong voyage. For cruises of more than a few days, an outside is almost essential unless you’re extremely non-fussy when it comes to space and natural light. An outside cabin is usually identical to an inside in every way except that there is a porthole or on most newer ships, a window. Outside cabins will difference in price based on how close they are to the ship’s public rooms, and whether they have an obstructed view (some balcony and outside cabins have lifeboats in front of them). Most cruise ships also have a Superior Outside, which is larger and usually includes a small settee facing the vanity desk. Pictured is a standard Outside Cabin aboard the Costa Favolosa.

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Balcony (or Veranda)

Now we’re into the piece d’résistance of the modern cruise ship, the Juggernaut that it can unleash on any ocean-liner-turned-cruise-ship to send it straight to the bottom. Located higher up on the ship, usually above the Boat Deck, these cabins enjoy premium views and a private terrace on which passengers can spend time in the sun reading a book, having a private dinner or watching the ship’s approach into port. They tend to be larger than a traditional outside cabin with a separate sitting area and double bed. Again, they differ in price according to where the cabin is located on the ship, the higher up you go, the more premium the balcony cabins become, generally speaking. It should be noted, however, that the size of the balcony differs from one cruise line to another, some have only enough room to stand with the door open, while others have enough space for a table and chairs. Smokers should also note that on most cruise ships now, you are not allowed to smoke on the balcony. Balcony cabins are especially worth it on cruises of more than a week, which unfortunately also makes them a lot more expensive. If you’re an experienced cruiser, they’re a great option if you’re going to be visiting a new port of call, as it allows you to watch the approach in peace and privacy. Pictured is a standard Balcony cabin aboard MSC Lirica.

See Cruise Arabia’s MSC Lirica Ship review

Suites

This category includes everything from junior suites, executive suites and penthouse suites, to owner’s suites, royal suites, spa suites and more. The diversity from one cruise line to another is huge, as is the size of each ‘suite’ – a standard junior suite is often less than half the size of the grandest penthouse or owner’s suites aboard the same ship, for example. Most have separate living room and bedroom areas, wet bars, large flat-screen TVs, stereo systems, and jacuzzi tubs, while Royal or Penthouse suites may include a Grand Piano and full-size dining room. The balconies are also always much larger than a standard Balcony cabin, often with room for an outdoor Jacuzzi at the top-end. These accomodations are the cruise industry’s answer to airlines’ First Class – often the best class of suite can cost ten times more than an inside or even an outside cabin. On most cruise lines, passengers staying in a suite also get access to exclusive parts of the ship such as private lounges, premium dining rooms and adults-only retreats. Who says the class system has disappeared from the modern cruise industry? Pictured is a Penthouse Suite aboard Seabourn’s new cruise liner Seabourn Quest.

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