Cabin Categories: Which are Most Popular and Why

Cruisemates readers have different reasons for selecting one type of stateroom over another, and it isn't always related solely to price.

One cruiser said she had once received a free upgrade to a suite, and that she thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the experience. But in preparing for her next cruise, she discovered the true cost of that upgraded cabin, and said there was no way she would ever pay such an amount.

One cruiser said he prefers a large outside cabin and notes that they can be larger than balcony cabins. This is because the space given over to the veranda has been built inside the structure of the ship -- usually because the cabin is too close to the water line to permit an open door. This is the type of cabin I prefer, and for the same reason. Someday I would like to experience a balcony cabin, but I love having an extra-large oceanview cabin with a picture window overlooking the bow of the ship (I want to see the iceberg before we plow into it). This is the class of cabin we had on our two cruises on RCI's Explorer of the Seas. Its size -- 211 sq. ft. -- insures there is plenty of elbow room.

Finally, most cruisers who book inside cabins do so because they are the least expensive, and they prefer to spend their money on excursions or other pursuits. This is an excellent choice for many people. The truth is, with a few exceptions, everyone gets the same ship access no matter what kind of stateroom is booked, from the least expensive inside room to the most massive suites. Some cruisers are only in their cabins when they need to sleep and change clothes. They read in the library, tan by the pool and generally spend all of their waking time in the public areas of the ship.

We mention exceptions. It is a very recent trend on a few newer ships to feature limited access common areas to groups of certain suite passengers. A good example is the New Cunard Queen Victoria. This ship has suites in the "Queens' Grill" and "Princess Grill" categories. These passengers eat in these respective dining rooms, but also have exclusive access to a common lounge area with books and a concierge, and a private outdoor area for hot tubs and plush lounge chairs.

There are usually sub-categories within each cabin class which come in a range of prices. So all cabins may not be equal even when they have the same dimensions. Cabins are often placed into sub-categories identified by a letter ("A") or letter-number combination ("C2," etc.). The specific location of a cabin can have a lot to do with its cost. Generally speaking, as you go up to a higher deck, the cost of cabins -- especially balcony cabins -- increases even when the cabin remains in the same category. An outside cabin on Deck 10 may provide a more spectacular view than the same cabin on Deck 6. The Deck 10 cabin may be categorized as an "A," while those on Deck 6 might be categorized as a "D." The cost of an "A" category cabin can be several hundred dollars higher than category "D," even if they are both the same size and layout. In editor Paul Motter's opinion, when comparing two cabins with identical floorplans, paying more for a cabin just because it is on a higher deck is a bad idea. There is no significant advantage to being on a higher deck unless you really care about the view. Staterooms on lower decks generally experience less motion when the ship is sailing.

There is one exception to this rule. Some cabins can have a view that is partially or nearly fully obstructed by lifeboats. These are sold as "obstructed view" cabins at a lower price than non-obstructed view cabins of the same floorplan. These cabins are usually situated on the deck where the lifeboats are kept, just above the promenade deck. Some people seek these cabins out because they are cheaper. On the other hand, if you find yourself in one of these cabins when you paid the same price as the oceanview category, you have a legitimate complaint.

Some cruisers prone to seasickness often choose a cabin on a lower deck near the center of the ship. The ship's motion is more noticeable the higher up you go, and also near either end of the vessel. While my cabins have been all the way forward on Deck 9, we've suffered no discomfort. On today's mega-ships, passengers rarely experience debilitating seasickness. That is not to say it can't happen. Cruisers who routinely become carsick or airsick might want to take extra precautions.

Every cruise line has its own method of classifying cabins, and what's true for one line may not hold for another. For this reason, Cruisemates advises that newer cruisers book through a travel agency that has been certified by CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association). That certification means the staff of that agency has been trained in the details and nuances of cruise sales.

To make your choices easier, join Cruisemates -- if you haven't done so already (it's free of course) and get involved in our message boards. There is a category for almost every subject and a couple of catch-alls for unclassified topics. This will help you ask the proper questions of your travel agent, or might even preclude your having to ask them.

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