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How to Choose the Right Cruise Ship Cabin

Cruise ship balcony
A cruise ship balcony requires a larger budget. Credit: Pixabay license

Choosing the right cabin on a cruise ship is partly a matter of budget. But just like real estate, it’s also a matter of location.

The budget decision is fairly easy. Cabin prices are organized according to the size of the cabin, amenities and especially the views. (“Views” include some cabins that don’t have any views at all.)

Cruise ships have four common cabin types ranging from lowest price to highest price: interior, window, balcony and suite. Each cabin type often has some extra variations, once again in size, price, amenities and views:

  • Interior cabins are the least expensive because they don’t have any windows. They are the best choices for passengers on a limited budget who plan to spend most of their time outside of the cabin, which is common for most people.
  • The next level in cost is cabins that have views of the outside of the ship in the form of small portholes (less expensive) and larger windows (more expensive). They are less claustrophobic than interior cabins.
  • Next are cabins with balconies for passengers with much larger budgets and who don’t like crowded poolside decks. A variation is cabins on some ships with doors that open up to a deck. The deck is usually the same one that people use for running, walking, sitting on chairs or laying on chaise lounges.
  • Suites in particular vary in the amount of space available and therefore in price. They usually offer the most interior space and largest balconies for the highest prices.

Example Cruise Cabin Prices

Although prices for each cabin type depends partly on demand and availability, the following actual cruise gives an idea about how prices vary for each cabin type.

One seven-night cruise out of Miami had an interior cabin for $629, an “ocean view” cabin with window or porthole for $769, a cabin with balcony for $869 and a suite for $1,279.

In terms of space, the interior cabin had 129 square feet, the porthole cabin had 172 square feet, the balcony had 150 square feet (not including the balcony space) and the basic suite had 355 square feet of space plus the balcony.

Notice in this example that a cabin with a balcony is smaller and more expensive than a cabin with only a window or porthole. Basically, the cruise ship designers shifted the indoor space to outdoor space.

Speaking from experience, the smallest balconies usually have room for a few chairs and nothing more.

Cabin Location Factors

Caribbean cruise ship
© Scott S. Bateman

Prices also matter with the location of the cabin on the ship. Three factors matter with the location:

On which deck is the cabin? Low decks mean climbing more stairs or taking the elevator to get to the pools, spa, restaurants and other activities on the top decks of the ship. A busy day can mean an occasional long wait time for an elevator.

Where is the cabin between the bow (front) and stern (back) of the ship? A cabin near the bow may mean the passengers have to walk to the stern of the ship to reach the main buffet restaurant, which we have had to do on several cruises. It was not difficult, but it did require more than five minutes of walking and taking stairs or elevators.

Is the deck near noisy middle deck activities? On our last voyage, our very inexpensive cabin was inexpensive in part because it was right by the theater on deck five. We could clearly hear music, singing and applause until 11 o’clock some nights. We didn’t mind the noise, but some passengers might.

The ideal location for a cabin is midship for easy access to everything. But midship cabins tend to sell out more quickly for that reason and often command higher prices.

A Personal Perspective

We are budget travelers for the sake of traveling more often. We have taken only one cruise out of many where we paid for a cabin with a balcony.

My wife didn’t use it at all. I used it every other day. Looking back, the big jump in price didn’t seem to justify getting a small balcony. We could just as easily spent time on a deck chair outside on the upper decks—which we did.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
May 24, 2024

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