The first thing to get your head around is that there could be more than 30 different cabin types - or “starerooms” as they’re known in ship parlance - for you to choose from. The differences can be subtle but small distinctions can be significant to your overall experience.
Your principal decision will be based on what you can afford in the balance between size, facilities and location with prices tiered accordingly.
Years ago, balconies were a rare treat on the largest ships but today, many of the newer vessels offer mainly balcony cabins so the choice at least is made simpler by focusing on stateroom configurations.
For all the variables, cabins are basically categorised into four major types and the nuances occur within each class.
It’s worth noting you won’t be spending a huge amount of time in your cabin by day so consider that when you are weighing up prices. You may opt for extra shore excursions and dining at speciality restaurants for example with the money you save by taking a slightly more modest accommodation option.
You’ll also need to check the deck configuration of your preferred ship to see where the main features are that may or may not affect you. Do you want to be near the central elevators if mobility is an issue for you? Prefer to have easy access to the pool decks or kids club? Are you concerned about seasickness? (If so, a quick tip is to choose a cabin on a low deck toward the centre of the ship where motion is minimal).
To help with your decision-making, here’s a snapshot of the four main classes of cabin on offer on virtually every ship.
As the entry level and most affordable, rooms without windows or balconies are not for everyone but the money saved can be significant.
If the prospect of being at sea without a view to the outside world sounds a little claustrophobic, don’t dismiss the idea immediately. Modern cruise ship designers have thought hard about making the interior staterooms more appealing by offering ‘virtual balconies’ which are screens on the walls that show a live camera feed of the view outside. It’s surprisingly effective.
Oceanview or Outside cabins
Essentially, the next step up from being inside is paying for a view. ‘Outside cabins’ mean they are located on the outside of the ship but generally have no direct access to the open air. You’ll get a window and more than likely extra space than you’d get with an inside cabin.
Being able to sip a drink on your own balcony or opening the doors to take in the crisp ocean air as magnificent vistas roll by is what cruising is actually all about for most regulars. Expect to see a fair jump in price from the Oceanview class but if you can afford it, you won’t regret it. Think about it, without the convenience of being able to wander a few steps to swing open the doors to the verandah, your only option in other cabin classes is to walk outside and make your way to the open public decks.
Now we’re getting ritzy – and pricey. The vast majority of staterooms on a ship are one open space with an en-suite/bathroom. In a suite however, expect divided living areas and bedroom/s, sweeping views, plenty of space and often, butler service and ‘suite guest-only’ areas on board. At the top end of the cruise experience, suites are designed to spend time in so don’t even bother shaking the piggy bank upside down to splurge on one if you expect to join in all the ship’s activities, shore excursions and evening entertainment.
Remember, there are many variations in each a category that effectively offer subtle upgrades and downgrades between each main category. Do your homework and find out the finer details of your ship’s layout as every cruise line and ship class is different.