When I recommend hotels, I generally suggest that the traveler strongly consider how they will use the room before paying for upgrades like suites and a good view. With a cruise, however, I feel that stateroom selection is even more important. You’ll probably be in the room more than you would for other types of vacations.
In addition, staterooms are notoriously small, and if you are sailing for a longer period of time, you may find that you need more space or may want other factors like a private balcony. On some cruise lines, a suite may also include bonus amenities, like exclusive access to a concierge lounge.
Here are some considerations when choosing between interior staterooms, cruise balcony rooms, or suites on your next cruise vacation.
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Considerations when choosing between interior staterooms, cruise balcony rooms, or cruise suites
Before you decide what type of room is best for you, you’ll want to look at the specifics of the cruise line that you are sailing. There will be different stateroom categories, and you can take a look at deck plans. Typically, you can choose your cruise cabin from among the available rooms, although this isn’t always the case (Virgin Voyages, for instance, chooses the room for you, once you pick the category). Once you know what your options are, then you can start considering the items below.
Cost is the biggest thing you’ll want to look at when choosing a stateroom and stateroom features. Once you choose a cruise line and an itinerary, the stateroom type that you choose will vary the price the most. The price difference between an inside cabin, a balcony room, and a suite can often be pretty significant.
If you are on a strict budget, inside rooms are going to be the most affordable option. Of course, price isn’t the only factor to consider, but it is a major consideration. If you have some flexibility in dates, you may also look at different itineraries and dates which can also affect the cost of the sailing.
Need for Outside View
Cruise ships are often pretty big, but cruise ship staterooms aren’t. For some people, that can be a big issue. If you are prone to claustrophobia or might feel a little cramped in a room without a window or balcony, you may need to have a cruise balcony. This is an important consideration because it can really change your experience.
Number of People in the Room
Many staterooms, including balcony staterooms and ocean-view staterooms, can accommodate three or four people – often in twin beds, bunk beds, murphy beds, or other configurations. But, a cruise ship cabin at full capacity can often seem cramped, especially on longer sailings. You’ll want to make sure you have enough space for everything.
If you are traveling with the entire family, you may want to look at family suites. These often offer more space, with a separate sitting area, and an extra desk vanity for getting ready. While they are more expensive than a standard stateroom, the extra space may be worth it.
Another option with a family is to consider getting two cruise balcony staterooms. There won’t be a separate sitting room, but you will have two bathrooms, which can really be helpful when traveling with a family or a group. You may also be able to request adjoining staterooms, so you’ll be able to go in and out of the two staterooms.
If you are sailing alone, an interior stateroom will be much easy to handle than if you are with others. It can also be a great way to save money on a single stateroom. You can always leave the room and go to one of the decks to see the outside if necessary.
How Much Time You Will Spend in the Room
Most people don’t go on a cruise to spend all of their time in a stateroom. However, you’ll never be too far from your room, so you will definitely spend some time there. The length of time of your cruise is also important because you’ll have fewer things with you if you are on a short trip.
Think about how you will use your room. Maybe, for instance, you’ll want to have room service breakfast delivered each morning so that you can eat on your balcony. Or perhaps you’ll need to go back to the room in the afternoon for a younger child’s nap.
Also, take a look at the specifics of your cruise itinerary. If you will be leaving the ship for several ports of call, that may mean you’ll spend less time in the room. In that case, you may be comfortable booking a cheaper type of cabin.
However, based on what you plan on doing in the room, it may make it worthwhile to decide to pay extra for the balcony. Enjoying that morning coffee outside on a private balcony can really be a relaxing way to start the day.
What Amenities Come With a Suite
Suites are something else you really should consider, especially if you are traveling with a family. Every cruise line and cruise ship is different, but there are some really beautiful cruise ship suites (especially on the newer ships). While these come with an added expense, often suite guests get additional perks.
Benefits vary by cruise line, but some of the benefits may include access to concierge service and concierge lounge, complimentary WiFi access, a special sundeck or pool area, early priority boarding, and exclusive restaurants. Some cruise lines have junior suites available which may offer more space than a traditional stateroom, but may not come with these additional amenities
If your sailing isn’t at capacity, several cruise lines (including Royal Caribbean) send opportunities for guests to bid for an upgrade. These aren’t always available but can be a great way to get a suite at a great price. Once your bid is accepted, you’ll get all of the same extra perks that come with the stateroom. Just be sure you understand the different types of suites before bidding.
All of these factors should be considered when choosing your room. I personally like to have the balcony (called a verandah on the Disney Cruise Line), because I do enjoy looking out at the water. But, I rarely choose connecting staterooms, because I don’t want to spend the extra money. As long as I have a private balcony, I don’t mind being a little cramped for sleeping.
What type of stateroom do you prefer? Do you need to have a balcony when cruising?
To find cruise deals, visit Cruise Critic which offers a page with current deals.
Considering a family cruise? Check out our guide to family cruising, with posts about popular cruise terminals, cruise ships, and cruise lines, as well as tips for cruising.