Read the fine print to make sure you get the cruise ship room you want — Photo courtesy of CGF Photography / iStock Via Getty Images
You know where you want to cruise to, and on which cruise line you want to spend your hard-earned vacation dollars. Now the important part: Selecting your cruise ship room.
Choosing a cruise cabin, stateroom, or suite can be daunting, but we’ve streamlined the process with helpful tips and tricks for navigating the murky waters.
The age of your ship matters
First things first: Like a fine wine, a ship’s vintage can make a world of difference when it comes to stateroom or suite selection, but inversely so.
More often than not, older ships (10 years and older) will have smaller cabins overall, or at least tinier bathrooms and accompanying diminutive showers.
On the other hand, new cruise ships (five years and younger) have placed a greater emphasis on the luxury of space, including showers you can actually turn around in.
Which cabins to avoid on a cruise ship?
A bad cabin location can ruin your entire vacation — Photo courtesy of Paha_L / iStock Via Getty Images
What’s true for real estate is true for cruise travel. Location should always be your next consideration, even before choosing a specific category. Why? Proximity and motion.
The irony is: “The more you pay, the more you sway.” Modern cruise ships are very stable, but they still move as they ride the waves. And with rare exception, the more expensive suites tend to be positioned higher onboard, meaning they can effectively sway more as a ship rocks from side to side. The same is generally true of staterooms located farther forward in the bow or aft in the stern, both where a greater seesaw action can occur.
For those prone to motion sickness, the sweet spot isn’t the most expensive suite; instead, choose cabins on the lower decks closest to the center of a vessel’s length.
Know that a cabin’s proximity to certain onboard facilities may result in more foot traffic and/or noise. Potential cruisers should stay clear of cabins placed near busier staircases and elevator lobbies.
Also, check the deck plans to see what is on the levels directly above or below. Soundproofing is usually pretty good, but if you’re a very light sleeper, it’s best to avoid a room near a nightclub or main theater.
What’s the nicest room on a cruise ship?
Cruise cabin decisions include whether you want a balcony or veranda — Photo courtesy of dbvirago / iStock Via Getty Images
Then comes the so-called cabin “category” to ponder. You’ll have to decide on an inside (no window), outside (window but no balcony), balcony (sometimes called veranda), or multi-space suite. Then there’s the aforementioned location question, plus varying price points for the most sought-after rooms.
If you’re looking to save money, an inside cabin is cheapest, but there are times when splurging is worthwhile, too. On Alaskan cruises, for example, a median-sized balcony stateroom is a good value to most who appreciate the outdoor surroundings.
If money is no object, a palatial suite is clearly the best in private accommodations.
Book the best cabin for your traveling party size
If you’re traveling with more than two to a room, discounts might be given for the extra guests (based on availability). Family suites, those conducive to larger groups with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, can offer an even greater value proposition.
Cruise cabins are most often priced for double occupancy, so the room carries the cost of two travelers even if only one person is occupying it. So, find a travel partner if you want to save some bucks. Thankfully, there’s a growing trend in the cruise market to cater to solo travelers by providing smaller, well-outfitted cabins for one without charging a supplement.
Know your cruise ship room inclusions and extras
Extras like butler service, in-room dining, and more come with some cruise ship rooms — Photo courtesy of Kirk Fisher / iStock Via Getty Images
Not all individual cabin categories are created equal. Two cruise ship rooms of the same size and layout may be differentiated only by “deluxe” inclusions — and resulting cost.
Some rooms may or may not come with extras like upgraded toiletries, the ability to make more dining reservations at specialty restaurants, expedited embarkation and disembarkation, concierge services (super helpful if you’re cruising with dietary restrictions), and entry to ship-within-a-ship complexes.
As cabins are elevated into suite territory, inclusions may increase to bundled butler service, laundry packages, full in-room dining, private spa facilities, and more.
To USB or not to USB? That is the amenity question
Technology can make or break a vacation for modern travelers, another reason to consider a cruise ship’s age. Older ships will seldom have USB charging ports, and perhaps only a few electrical outlets at a vanity desk.
With so many handheld devices used by every age group, newer ships now come equipped with multiple USB, USB-C, and even induction-charging capabilities at nightstands. A power strip (without a surge protector) can come in handy; add it to your cruise packing list.
The same goes for electrical amps. The latest Dyson hair dryers and other modern appliances require a lot of power, and some older vessels just aren’t up to the challenge of accommodating them. Newer ships can handle it, however, and some cruise ship rooms include such amenities so you don’t have to bring your own.
Other technologies to consider are the use of tablet computers and on-demand television programming. In some cases, passengers can even stream their own content to TVs and radios in suites and staterooms, or go so far as to control the thermostat remotely via mobile app.
In other words, read the fine print, be diligent, and know exactly what is and isn’t included in a particular cruise ship room for smooth sailing. Bon voyage!