The past few weeks I’ve covered cruising; lets finish off this short series with Picking the Right Stateroom. Previous posts – our Intro, your Itinerary, and Picking the Right Ship Size. There are many more topics we could write about here but I wanted to give you a little food for thought.
Unlike hotels, cruises let you select not only the category of room you want to stay in, but also the exact room you want to stay in. That means that you have to take a lot more than just inside or outside into consideration when choosing your room.
Stateroom Type: Similar to hotels, cruise ships have various levels of rooms. There are four general room categories: inside, outside, balcony, and suite. Inside rooms are the smallest rooms on the ship and do not have any windows. Some ships are starting to include large LCD screens that simulate a window, but I’m not sure how well they work or how useful they are. Outside staterooms are a little larger than inside staterooms and either have a large porthole or a single large window. Similar in size to an outside room are the balcony staterooms. However, where outside staterooms have a large window, balcony staterooms usually have floor to ceiling windows that open out onto a balcony with chairs. Balconies can be a great way to spend a morning or evening if you don’t feel like crowding around the public decks when the ships is entering or leaving a port. Beyond balcony staterooms are suites. Similar to hotels, these can be anywhere from slightly larger than balcony staterooms to very spacious. Almost all will come with a balcony as well. The real draw of suites, however, are the upgraded amenities. Almost all cruise lines will give priority embarkation and tender services to suite guests as well as free access to some specialty restaurants. Other amenities can include butler service, free laundry and dry cleaning, and priority dining reservations.
Location: There are three different considerations to keep in mind when choosing the location of your stateroom: what deck you’re on; which side of the ship you’re on; and whether you’re in the front, middle, or back of the ship. I’ve always liked to be on a mid-level deck as it gives me the best access to both the pool deck above and the dining and entertainment decks below. However, if you think you’ll be using one of those more than the other, it might be better to choose a higher or lower deck. I’ve found that most of the suites are located in the mid- to high-level decks, with balcony staterooms filling out the remaining decks. One other thing to keep in mind is that the higher the stateroom, the more motion you will feel so if you’re prone to motion sickness, it might be better to pick a lower stateroom.
When deciding between the two sides of the ship – port or starboard – it really doesn’t make a huge difference. I’ve generally picked the port side of the ship because I love watching the activity surrounding the ship when it’s in a port, but a ship will also dock on its starboard side if necessary, so it isn’t an exact science. There are staterooms in the front and back of the ship as well, but I’ve never stayed in one so I can’t comment too much. What I’ve heard, however, is that staterooms on the back can sometimes be quite noisy due to the restaurants and pools that are usually at the back of the ship on the upper levels.
Finally, choosing whether to be near the front, middle, or back of the ship (even if you’re on the port or starboard sides) can have a great impact on how much walking you’ll be doing. Make sure to look at the deck plans of each individual ship to see where you think you’ll be spending the majority of your time. Obviously, the middle of the ship is the most desired as it means you’re not too far from anything. Nevertheless, if the dining room, casino, and pool are all near the back, it may be better to choose a stateroom near the back elevators and stairwell.
My Take: I’ve taken five cruises and have never stayed in an inside cabin. There’s something about the lack of windows that really gets to me – and I don’t even consider myself claustrophobic. I’ve spent most of my cruises on balcony ships, while staying in an outside cabin once and a suite another time. While the suite was extremely nice, I found the benefits to be a little lacking. Unless you plan to get up at 6AM every day at port, there’s no need for priority disembarkation because there’s never really a line.
Every cruise I’ve been on with a balcony, I’ve found myself spending considerable amounts of time on it as it’s just a fantastic way to spend a morning. If you can, I would highly recommend looking for room with a balcony. It usually isn’t too hard finding a room in the middle of the ship, but you’ll generally have to pay extra for it. Personally, I’d spend the extra money on a balcony rather than a middle of the ship stateroom as I don’t mind walking. However, keep in mind that some of these ships are very large so there will be quite a bit of walking involved no matter where your room is.
Picking a stateroom is not an exact science and is largely dependent on the layout of each individual ship so make sure to check the deck plans to pick the right stateroom for you.