After choosing your cruise itinerary, the next big decision in choosing the type of cabin you want. In some cases, your cabin preference may even decide the cruise line you choose. While some people are quick to say that the cabin doesn’t matter because you’ll never be in it, in fact, when you have a nice cabin, you’ll find it’s your personal respite on the ship.
How do you decide what type of cabin is right for you? Well, if money is no object just opt for the best available. I try to book the very best cabin available for the budget that I have. Because there is nothing like enjoying a day at sea, watching the world go by, from the comfort of your balcony. But, even if you have a more modest budget, there’s still a cabin that’s right for you.
Cruise lines give a variety of names to the cabin categories, some are specialty names while others merely letters, but basically the types fall into one of these general cruise cabin categories:
- Specialty Suites – Often called presidential or owner’s suites, these are top of the line all the way and have the premium locations on the ship. They’re large and spacious, have private balconies, private butlers/room stewards, and often a private club room and dining room. You’ll get preferential treatment for boarding, shore excursions, spa appointments, well let’s face it – for pretty much anything you want! This is luxury like you’ve rarely seen it, and I hope one day that I get to experience it!
- Deluxe Suites – Although blandly named, these suites still offer most of the amenities of the deluxe suites and often have a private bar and dining room. Plenty of preferential treatment to go around at this cabin category as well.
- Junior Suites – Not all ships offer this category of cabin, and some a lower category of suites and call in something else, but a junior suite can be a perfect choice for cruising families. The suite often have an adjoining cabin, providing more room for everyone in the family to spread out. A suite with an adjoining room will allow parents privacy, and give personal space for older children while still giving parents the ability to keep an eye on everyone. Junior suites are also a nice choice if you just want a little extra room, but don’t need (or can’t afford) all the luxury of the higher graded suites.
- Outside cabins with a balcony – A nicely sized cabin with a walk out balcony. This is generally my cabin of choice as it usually fits within my budget. Remember though, not all balconies are created equal. Some balconies have room to sit and relax while others offer standing room only. Check to see if the balcony offers a clear railing or an obstructed railing. With a clear railing, you can enjoy an afternoon watching the world go by from your cabin. If it’s obstructed, you’ll need to spend the time standing.
- Deluxe outside cabins – These cabins are just like those with a balcony. Only they don’t have one. Instead, there’s a large window (sometimes floor-to-ceiling, sometimes just a very large porthole) that opens your cabin to the world going by. They are usually fairly spacious, the light makes it airy, and if you can’t have a balcony, this is a good affordable choice.
- Outside cabin with obstructed view – It’s an outside cabin all right, but often the only way you’ll realize this is if you contort yourself to look up at the sky. The obstruction in the label is usually a lifeboat or some other emergency gear, and you probably won’t be able to see around it. A little light will come in around it, but that’s about it. I’ve never understood the attraction of these cabins, but they are an attractive option for cruisers on a budget. These cabins may have a smaller porthole rather than a spacious window.
- Outside cabin with partial obstruction – You know that fully obstructed view I mentioned? Well, chances are that lifeboat is going to extend a bit into the view space of the cabin right next door, too. You’ll get half a window free and clear, or maybe there’s a post right down the middle. It’s not without a few drawbacks, but if you can put up with it, there’s good value to be had with this cabin level. These cabins may also have a porthole rather than a full window.
- Inside cabin – Walls surround you. There’s nothing glamorous or glorious about these cabins, but if you believe that you won’t be in your cabin long enough to care, then go ahead. I’ve been in an inside cabin once. I was on a standby for best of ship and it sold out and I didn’t get a better cabin. Since it was a last minute decision at a great price, and I was on the ship headed toward a destination that interested me, I could tough it out. These are often the first cabins to sell out on a sailing as they are entry level cabins and pricing. For me – I’m willing to pay more for a better cabin – BUT if this is all your budget can stretch for, you can make it work. You likely won’t want to spend much time in your cabin, so enjoy exploring the ship, finding the private nooks and crannies, and the spots on the ship that you can call your own.
Cruise pricing, of course, depends on the type of cabin and its location on your cruise ship. I’ve been in all of the cabins, except for those beautiful suites that I lust over, and while I have my personal preferences, I wouldn’t stay home just because my first choice of a cabin wasn’t available.
If a cruise vacation is something that you’ve been wanting to try, check out the deck plans and your ship and start planning your getaway at sea. Find the cabin that best suits your personal preference and budget. Then once onboard, sit back and relax and enjoy the journey AND the destination.
Photo credit: Author’s personal collection
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Mary Jo Manzanares | Mary Jo Manzanares is a founder and the editor-in-chief of The Traveler’s Way, an online travel magazine proving informational and inspirational travel recommendations for curious Baby Boomer travelers. She has been a speaker at various industry events and has a personal travel blog at Traveling with MJ. When she’s not traveling, Mary Jo likes lingering over a cup of coffee, wandering in a museum, sipping wine at a cafe, and sharing it all with friends and readers. Mary Jo's top travel destinations are Italy, Portugal, and the Caribbean.