Cruise Ship Rooms: 4 Tips for Picking the Perfect Cabin

It’s not only about where you’re going—but also where you’re staying.

Illustrations by Kevin Jay Stanton

Planning a cruise? Chances are you’re already focusing on where to go and what to do. But what about where you’ll stay? In the 2018–19 Portrait of American Travelers survey, 92 percent of cruisers ranked cabin quality as the most influential feature in choosing a cruise—beating both excursions and ports of call. Because, like any vacation, if you don’t like where you’re staying, that dissatisfaction can outweigh the enjoyment of your time away from home.

So how do you pick a room—in a sea of cruise ship rooms—that’s perfect for you? It’s simple. All you have to do is check these four boxes:

1. It has the right amount of space

If you’re bringing the kids (and maybe the grandparents, too), make sure there’s room for everyone. Most cruise lines offer family-friendly accommodations, whether it’s a suite with a separate space for the kids, adjoining cruise ship rooms or a regular stateroom with a sofa bed or pull-down bunk beds.

Don’t need quite that much room but still want the ability to spread out? Mini-suite cruise ship rooms offer an affordable alternative to more luxe options. Or if you’re traveling solo, more cruise lines are adding cabins designed (and priced) for one. Norwegian, for example, was the first with its 100-square-foot Studio staterooms—cozy yet sleek, they have just enough room for a full-size bed and the basics.

If you really want to go big: Royal Caribbean’s two-story Ultimate Family Suite on Symphony of the Seas comes with its own indoor slide and an air hockey table. Win!

If you prefer to go small: The mini-suites on Princess Cruises come with a separate seating area, a balcony and two TVs.

2. It has a prime location

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Where your cabin is on the ship can have a huge impact on the quality of your cruise. But first, remember this: The best location means something different to each person, so consider your specific cruise ship room needs before making a final call.

For example: If you’re worried about getting seasick, choose a stateroom that’s on a lower deck and toward the middle of the ship—that’s where you’re likely to feel the least movement. If you want to avoid noise, closely study the ship map to pick a stateroom that’s far from public spaces, such as lounges, elevators or laundry stations.

Be aware of what’s above and below you, too. Cruise ship rooms on higher decks could be under the pool deck, and ones in the lower back end of the ship may be more prone to engine noise and vibration.

3. It has access to the outdoors

It’s no secret that cruise ship rooms with balconies cost more than interior rooms. But does the extra space, stunning views and fresh air provide more value?

If you’re perfectly content with using the public pool deck to get your outdoor fix or shore excursions to maximize your time, then the answer is likely no. But if you relish the privacy a balcony offers, we say go for it.

Plus, balcony space can be a real bonus on cruises in especially scenic locales, say, on a river cruise along Europe’s castle-lined Rhine or an expedition through Alaska’s glacier-filled Inside Passage. If you’re on a cruise that includes consecutive days at sea, a balcony can provide a quiet oasis from the buzz of ship activities—just you, wide-open views and ocean breezes.

If you can’t swing your own outdoor space: Go digital with Royal Caribbean’s Virtual Balcony cruise ship rooms. These cabins feature a floor-to-ceiling digital display that pipes in a real-time version of the sights and sounds outside the ship. In addition to giving interior rooms more light, the virtual balconies provide an instant weather check without leaving your room. To find the best deal on one of these cruise ship rooms with a virtual view, consult a AAA travel advisor.

4. It has a touch of indulgence

Life in a suite is decidedly sweet—you have more space, likely a balcony and, depending on your budget, super-luxe amenities such as a loft bedroom, a whirlpool tub or even a grand piano. But what makes the experience even sweeter are the exclusive perks that come with certain classes of cruise ship rooms.

In Royal Caribbean’s Royal Suite Class, for example, you have your own concierge, complimentary fine dining in all the ship’s specialty restaurants, priority entrance to onboard activities and more. A suite can also score you exclusive access to certain areas of the ship like private pools, lounges and restaurants.

Plus, the cabin class you choose can reflect your personality or how you like to travel. For example, solo cruisers staying in Norwegian’s Studio staterooms get private keycard access to a lounge for singles, where they have extra room to relax and the opportunity to meet fellow adventurers. Into the Zen life? Look for spa-class cruise ship rooms, like Celebrity Cruises’ AquaClass, which comes with spa-inspired cuisine at Blu restaurant, a personal spa concierge and daily tea delivery.

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