HAL Nieuw Amsterdam

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 how to choose your cruise ship cabin. 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 their cruise cabin categories, some are specialty names while others merely letters, but basically, while they may be called different things, they fall into one of these general cruise cabin categories:

  • Deluxe Suites – Often called presidential or owner’s suites, these cruise cabins 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 most cruises lines have a variety of types of suites, I’ve lumped them all together in this general category. They offer larger cruise cabins at premium spots on the ship and offer many of the amenities of the deluxe suites. You may find that they have larger balconies, deluxe amenities, and priority for reservations. There is plenty of plenty of preferential treatment to go around in this cruise cabin category as well, and I’ve loved the time I’ve sailed in the category.
  • Junior Suites – Not all ships offer this category of cruise 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. These cruise cabins are still bigger than most, and a value luxury option when your budget doesn’t stretch quite as far as a full suite.
  • Outside cabins with a balcony – A nicely sized cruise cabin with a balcony, this is often a cruise cabin favorite as it fits within many budgets. Not all balconies are created equal, though; some have room to sit and relax while others offer standing room only and still others have a French Balcony, which just means a door that opens but not a place to sit. Check to see if the balcony offers a clear railing – this is my favorite as I can watch the world go by while seated.
  • Deluxe outside cabins – Just like the cruise cabins 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 an obstructed view – It’s an outside cabin all right, but you’ll likely only realized it 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 they often are offered at bargain basement prices for cruisers that don’t care about their cabin placement. These cruise 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 cruise 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 twice – once as part of a group and I had no ability to upgrade, and once when I didn’t know better. I’m willing to pay more for a better cruise 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 cruise cabin and its location on your ship.  I’ve been in all of the cabins, except for the biggest and best of 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.