Cruise: how to choose your cabin

Sarah Bolton on 19 June 2015
1. Type: Firstly decide on whether you are looking for an inside, ocean view, balcony cabin or suite. Take into consideration the size of the cabin, whether you might be claustrophobic, prefer a view (can check the weather when you wake up, and see the world go by), would like your own balcony to sit out on and get fresh air, whether you require entertaining space, space for a large family, concierge/butler service etc. Also at this stage, if you need a wheelchair adapted or disabled cabin with additional facilities, look at the options available.

2. Location: Check to see the location of the cabin on the ship, whether it is forward, aft or midships, and whether on a lower or upper deck. Depending on the size and modernity of the ship this can make a difference. The most stable part of a ship is midships lower down towards the water-line – this really only comes into effect on smaller, older ships that don’t have modern stabilizers fitted, in rough weather. (If you don’t believe me – look at where all cruiselines position their Medical Centres – midships lower deck!) Other than that you may find it is more of a snob factor that people prefer to be higher up (as in the origins of cruising 1st class was at the top of the ships, with 3rd class at the bottom – think “Titanic”!) The other thing to factor in when choosing your cabin’s location is to ensure that if you have an ocean view or balcony whether you have a clear or obstructed view, and if you’re on the deck above the lifeboats whether these hang out over the side of the ship or within, as this may affect your view down to the sea below.

3. Surroundings: Check on the deckplan what is near to the cabin you are looking at, and whether these are pros/cons for your specific circumstances. Personally I avoid choosing a cabin near areas where there may be a lot of people walking past or open doors to what may be potentially noisy areas eg self-service laundry, medical centre etc. Also locate where the lifts and stairwells are. Some people prefer to be close to these, especially if they have impaired mobility, whereas others prefer to be further down the corridor to avoid the noise of the stairwell and people going past their cabin.

4. Decks: Check to see what is directly above and below the cabin. The most preferable option is to have other passenger cabins. Avoid the deck below the pool deck as a generalisation, as you may be woken early in the morning when the attendants are moving the deck furniture around; and if you are one to have an afternoon nap in your cabin, you may have the sound of people moving around on deck above your head. Also look out for where any late night entertainment may be occurring if you are an early-to-bedder eg theatre, nightclub, casino and bars.

5. Interconnecting: Check if the cabin is inter-connecting. This is great if you are a family or group of friends travelling together as the inter-connecting doors may be unlocked. However if you are not travelling with your neighbours, despite the door being locked so there is no fear of disturbance, you can quite often find that the insulation between the cabins isn’t as good and you can get more noise transference. Depending on the ship, you will sometimes find that the layout of the cabin is also different in inter-connecting cabins in order to allow for the extra door, and therefore you may not have a full sofa or as much storage space for example.

6. Additional berths: If you need a cabin to accommodate 3 or 4 people, ensure you choose a size of cabin that will be comfortable for all of you (especially if you are 4 large adults), with space to move around each other and especially when it comes to bathroom usage! Do check the following when choosing 3 or 4 berth cabins: are the 3rd/4th berths in the form of a sofabed or upper berths? If they are upper berths, check if the lower beds still have the option of being twin or double beds.

For those who do not require additional berths, check to see if the cabin you are looking at has upper berths, and whether they lower from the ceiling (as most modern ships do), or they fold down from against the wall. If possible avoid a cabin with the extra beds against the wall, as it has been known for people to occasionally wake up in the night and knock themselves on the edge of the unused bed.

7. Bathrooms: Depending on the cruiseline, ship and cabin choice, bathrooms come from the basic to the luxurious – make sure you know what you’re getting! If a stand-alone shower is important to you (especially for mobility reasons), or you like a bath, you must check this. Some cabins may have both, or a shower over a bath. Deckplans and cabin descriptions won’t tell you, but take into consideration things like storage space in bathrooms (women need lots of it!), shower curtains/screen etc – all of which a cruise expert agent can tell you. Also note that some cruiselines have gone down the route of trying to redesign the bathroom (NCL) where the bathroom is opaque glass and you can see the other person’s outline in the bathroom – not for those not already well acquainted with their cabin buddy or the faint-hearted.

8. Storage space: Take this into account when you are looking at cabins. It becomes particularly important when there are more than 2 people in the cabin; on a longer length of cruise where you may take more clothing; expedition cruises where you need specific gear as well as your everyday wear; on more formal cruises where you need to take formalwear (ladies in particular like to have a different dress for each occasion). Without sounding sexist, it is well known that ladies do take more luggage than men – lets face it we have umpteen pairs of shoes, make up bags, hair equipment, handbags etc as well as the clothing, so if there are 2 or more ladies in the cabin make sure there is enough space. On the luxury cruiselines many of the staterooms come with walk-in wardrobes, which are ideal. Do bear in mind though that beds on the whole are high enough for suitcases to go underneath, so you can always use your suitcase as a storage space.

9. Additional extras: Many cruiselines now offer differing levels of service eg concierge class, aqua class, which may give you bonuses such us priority check-in, early boarding, extras in your cabin eg fruit/wine/flowers, upgraded toiletries and bedding, access to a private lounge, dedicated restaurant, access to the spa included, concierge service or private butler etc. It may be well-worth upgrading your cabin when you take into account the added value.

10. Personal preference: Finally you have to remember that everything comes down to personal preference – if you have cruised before you may have "your" cabin!