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You and your cruise ship cabin: how to pick the right one

An ocean-view cabin offers light and a view
An ocean-view cabin offers light and a view
Teri Crane

We've sold several hundred cruises over the past 15 years. And we've enjoyed a couple of dozen ourselves. One question we often encounter is a deceptively simple one: what cruise ship cabin do I want? And believe me, there's no simple answer.

Choosing the "right" cabin depends first on the cruise line. If you're sailing on a prestigious all-suite vessel, no problem. You can't get a bad cabin. On the other hand, for those of us booking onto the mid-priced lines, choosing a cabin can be problematic.

Carnival has great big cabins, so space won't be too big a problem even in the lowest categories. Royal Caribbean's lowest categories are much smaller. Princess has smallish ones, so does NCL. On any of these lines, you're going to get what you pay for, so opt for a higher category if you can afford to.

Inside or outside? If you are bothered by small, enclosed spaces, I'd say it's worth the upcharge for the picture window. It can make a huge difference to your overall comfort.

Do I need a balcony? Well, of course you do. On the other hand, it can add 30%, 50% even 100% to the cost of your cruise vacation, so splurge only if it's in your budget. When you think about it, the entire ship is going to the same places and there is plenty of open air up top (or on the promenade deck), so maybe you don't need a balcony to call your own. Let your budget make the decision.

And where do I want to be? Regardless of the type of cabin you choose, there are a few basic rules. Lower is steadier than higher and mid-ship is steadier than either the bow (front) or stern (back) of the ship. To illustrate this last point, hold a pencil at the center, between two fingers. Flex it slightly. The center, where you're holding it, moves very little; the ends are swinging wildly. That pencil is your ship. Book in the center unless you really enjoy pitching and rolling. These days, with stabilization on ships, you will barely motion in a mid-ship cabin, especially if you're fairly low in the ship.

Recently, the very back of the ship has emerged as prime space and aft-facing balconies are in demand. There is an upside and a downside to these cabins. There is motion back there and there can be some disconcerting vibrations, especially when docking. You're also a long hike to an elevator, especially on the new ships with only two banks of elevators. On the plus side, watching the ship's wake is mesmerizing and you feel like the ocean is for you alone. If you like to leave your door open to enjoy the sea breeze, however, don't book an aft-facing balcony. The sound of the engines and the churning wake they generate is not a relaxing hum, it's a roar.

Your best bet when selecting a cruise ship cabin is to listen to and trust the advice of a cruise travel agent. Pat Crane and I have been selling cruises for 15 years and we know how to read a deck plan! For example, did you know they really are drawn to scale--and the slight variance you may notice in cabin sizes on the plan is an accurate reflection of which cabins are slightly larger or smaller than others?

Call Pat or me for sound advice and the lowest prices on any cruise, any ship, any sailing, any itinerary, and ANY CABIN! 1-866-424-1090 toll-free, or write us at

Bon Voyage!


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