There are many decisions to make when selecting a cruise-which cruise line should you sail with, where do you want to go, how long of a cruise will you take, what are the best cruise staterooms for your holiday? Not all cruise lines have the same amenities and destinations and not all staterooms (or cabins) are created equal.
Your cruise stateroom is a floating hotel room , a hotel room where you spend a fair amount of time as you progress from port to port. It’s considerably smaller, but offers similar features such as daily cleaning, turn down service and room service. Just as when determining which hotel room level suits you during your land travels, you’ll need to pick from multiple cruise stateroom options. So, how do you decide? We’ve put together a few tips to help you pick the perfect cruise staterooms for you and your family.
1. Determine your budget – Stateroom categories vary by price, so, before you pick, you’ll need to decide how much you can afford to spend. I suggest putting together a budget and researching prices before you make final plans. Factor in the price of the cruise, accommodation and meals before and after your cruise (if applicable), transportation to the ship (flights, gas & parking fees, train tickets), beverages, excursions and gratuities.
Also, look for cruise deals before making your purchase. You might find our Caribbean cruise money saving tips article to be helpful to keep more money in your pocket.
You may be able to get a free onboard credit, free drink package or kids sail free offer. Don’t forget to look at what amenities are available with upgrades. You might find that the added perks of one stateroom over another will level out the expenses.
Our travel budget planner might be a helpful tool for recording the numbers.
2. Pick your stateroom type or category – There are many stateroom categories available to suit all budgets. This can be daunting as some cruise lines may have 20+ categories to choose from. But don’t worry, first pick from one of the 4 main categories as a starting point.
:: An interior stateroom (as the name implies) is the smallest stateroom and doesn’t have a window or outside view.
:: An oceanview stateroom has a window or porthole, so you can see outside but it doesn’t open. This can be the same size as an interior room, but may be slightly larger depending on the cruise line.
:: A balcony stateroom (or veranda) has a balcony with a sliding glass door. These provide extra outdoor space and will have a table and 2 chairs.
:: A suite is amongst the largest rooms and will have a balcony. The location is usually better than the standard balcony room, and you’ll likely find a separate living area and bedroom.
You’ll also typically find different levels of suites. These can be standard suites all the way up to Concierge level. Concierge might have multiple rooms and posh amenities such as butler service, bathtubs, pillow options, private access to dining rooms, lounges or sundecks. Of course, if your looking at this level, budget may not be a consideration!!!
What category you choose will be based on several personal preferences. Do you need a lot of space? Do you want to get away from other cruisers and relax on your own balcony? Are you planning to use your room just to sleep and shower? What’s your budget?
I always cruise with a balcony room. Derrick has tried to convince me that we don’t use the balcony enough for the expense, but I refuse to cruise without being able to get outside. I love to open the curtains every morning and have the room flooded with natural light. It’s also great to be able to watch as we dock in a new port while still in my pjs.
However, I’ve heard from more and more cruisers that they are choosing an interior room and doing back to back cruises instead of single cruise. They feel the room doesn’t matter as they only use it to sleep and change. The price for two back to back 7 night cruises is approximately the same as just one 7 night cruise with a balcony room. Certainly something to think about!
3. Location, location, location – Where do you want to be located on the ship? The front, back, or middle?
Do you get sea sick? I always select mid-ship as I get sea sick and this is where I feel less movement. I also like to be on the 8th or 9th floor which puts me right smack in the middle of the ship.
These staterooms typically sell out quickly, as midship is prime real estate.
What do you want to be near? Look at the deck maps to see what is around the stateroom you are considering. Do you want to be close to the elevators? Do you want to be near the pool deck for easier access? Do you want to be close to restaurants? Do you want to look out over the Promenade?
What areas do you want to avoid? Is the night club near your room? You’ll likely here music late into the evening. If you don’t stay up late, avoid this area. If you plan to party until the sun comes up, that won’t matter. Is the stateroom under the buffet or pool deck? You’ll probably hear noise at all hours of the day and night.
As I’m a light sleeper, I always try to select a stateroom between other staterooms. That’s not to say you won’t end up with a stomper above your room, you can just avoid the scraping of deck chairs from the pool deck. Another thing to keep in mind is engine noise and vibration.
4. Consider the kids – If you’re traveling as a family, you’ll want to keep in mind how many people will be sharing the same room. Some cruise lines such as Disney, naturally have larger rooms to accommodate families. If you’re not upgrading to a large suite, pullmans or pulldown beds are great for kids. One kid gets the pullman and the other gets the pullout sofa bed.
5. Not all views are the same – Okay, if you’re in the middle of the ship, the views will be pretty standard. You can see along the length of the ship and get a good idea at what’s going on around you.
Popular views are from Aft balcony staterooms. You’re at the back of the ship, so you’ll get sweeping 180 degree views. These balconies are usually large – up to 50% larger than other balconies on the ship. However, you will typically be further from other ship amenities and people can usually look down onto your balcony.
Obstructed View staterooms can be a great deal. These are oceanview and balcony rooms that have a partially obstructed view. There might be an overhang that limits your visibility or they might be located close to the bridge wing or next to the lifeboats. If you want a view for less money, this can be a good option.
Virtual balconies or magical portholes are another cool option available on some ships such as Royal Caribbean and Disney. Real-time views are displayed on screens to give the illusion of having an oceanview or balcony.
Another option on the Oasis-class Royal Caribbean ships, is views over Central Park or the Boardwalk. My mother-in-law thinks these are fun for kids and the price is usually more than an inside room but less than the traditional oceanview room.
Should you be on the Port or Starboard side? The port side is left and starboard is right. This is important if you will be cruising by scenic areas. You’ll either see ocean or get lovely views of the land as you sail. Look at the destination map to see which side of the ship you’d like to be on.
Choosing the perfect cruise staterooms is a personal choice every cruisers must make. It’s so much more than allowing the online booking form to select your stateroom. Factor in your budget, the stateroom location & amenities. Cruising is a great way to vacation. Don’t let the wrong stateroom put a damper on your holiday.
You might also like Six Simple Steps to Pick the Perfect Cruise Ship for Your Next Family Vacation.
Rebecca Kennedy says
Excellent article!!! I learned so much that I never even thought of before. Thank you!!!
Dana Zeliff says
I’m so glad you enjoyed the article! Let me know if you have any questions.