Cruising: Understanding Cabin Selections

Cruise ship cabin selectionCruise ship cabin selection

Cruise ship cabin selection

For many people, cruise holidays represent the best of travel – it’s as much about the journey (your time at sea) as it is the destination (your ports of call).  Deciding to take a cruise is just the first of many decisions you’ll need to make, and like all travel decisions, this is where research, personal preferences, and budget come into play.

One of the decisions you’ll need to make for your cruise is deciding on the category of cabin you want.  If money is no object just opt for the best available.  But most of us are on a budget, even if it’s a generous one, so think about how you want to spend your time on the journey and then try to match up your preferences and budget with the best cabin category choice.

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:

  • Deluxe 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 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 do get to see it!
  • Suites –  Although disappointingly named, these still offer many 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, many offer a lower category of suites and call in something else, but a junior suite can be a perfect choice for cruising families as they often have an adjoining cabin.  It will give you a little more room for everyone to spread out, yet never be too far away, and it allows parents privacy while still having the ability to keep an eye on everyone.  It’s also a nice choice if you just want a little extra room, but not all the luxury of the higher graded suites.
  • Outside cabins with a balcony – A nicely sized cabin with a walk out balcony, this is probably my personal preference as it usually fits within my budget.  Not all balconies are created equal, though; some have room to sit and relax while others offer standing room only.  Check to see if the balcony offers a clear railing – otherwise you won’t be able to see the world go by while seated.
  • Deluxe outside cabins – Just like with a balcony, only without one.  Instead, there’s usually a large window to bring light into the cabin and for you to peek out at the world.
  • Outside cabin with obstructed view – It’s an outside cabin all right, but you’ll likely only realized by looking up at the sky.  The obstruction is usually a lifeboat or some other emergency gear, and you probably won’t be able to see around it.  I’ve never understood the attraction of these cabins, but usually they attractive a cruiser for whom price is the bottom line.  These cabins may have a porthole rather than a 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.  These cabins may also have a porthole rather than a full window as well.
  • 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, when I was on a standby for best of ship and it sold out.  I didn’t get a better cabin.  But I was on the ship headed toward a destination that interested me and that was all that mattered at that point.  I’m willing to pay more for a better cabin, BUT – if this is all your budget can stretch for, find a way to make it work by spending time on the rest of the ship and minimal time in your cabin.

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 cabin choice 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.  Then sit back and relax and enjoy the journey AND the destination.

Photo credit:  SXC




Mary Jo Manzanares is a traveler, travel blogger, and podcaster. In addition to her blog, Traveling with MJ, she hosts the Where Else to Go podcast, and is the founder and the editor-in-chief of The Traveler’s Way, an online travel magazine. Her travel ethos is value luxury - luxury for real people - and her goal is to help travelers know when to splurge and when to save. Mary Jo has been a speaker at various industry events around the world. 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. Her most recent travels were to Stockholm, a Baltic cruise, and Universal Orlando Resort.

One Response to “Cruising: Understanding Cabin Selections”

  1. September 28, 2011 at 7:48 am #

    i always like suites are always so expensive on cruise ships

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