A guide to choosing your stateroom
We know the feeling, you’ve spent weeks looking at the different cruises that you want to spend your hard earned cash on, trying to choose between the endless destinations and cruise lines on offer, you think you’ve found the perfect one and now they expect you to choose between the seemingly endless array of rooms available. With so many ships and options it can seem overwhelming so we thought we’d share some of the things we might think about when choosing a stateroom.
Guaranteed is no guarantee (of the best cruise)
Sometimes the cruiseline line will seem to help to make things easier by offering you a ‘guarantee’ room, where they choose the room for you, you simply select what type of room you’d like, be it inside, ocean view or balcony. These rooms are often cheaper than choosing for yourself and usually have the added incentive of potentially being offered a room upgrade. So what's the catch? Well, you really could end up anywhere on the ship, so you have to be happy to have that room right at the front, as far away from all the amenities as possible with the service corridor next door and the pool deck above! What’s wrong with that you might ask? Well nothing if you don’t suffer from seasickness and can sleep through anything. But it is worth bearing in mind that the position of the room on the ship can have a bearing on your trip. The further towards the back or the forward of the ship you are the more likely you are to feels it’s motion in heavier seas. When the sea is rough you can often hear the waves crashing onto the bow of the ship if you are positioned near the front of the ship and will feel vibrations and juddering from the movements if you are at the back of the ship. If you are positioned near the ship's funnel this can also cause vibrations, so if you are a light sleeper you need to bear this in mind as it may keep you awake at night.
The other thing to bear in mind with a guarantee room is that you won’t know which deck you are on. When we first started cruising someone shared the old adage with us, "the more you pay the more you sway" and this has stuck with us when choosing our room. Generally the higher deck rooms tend to be more costly than the lower decks, affording those expansive views out to sea. But, again remember that in high seas you are going to feel more movement than midships on the lower decks. If you suffer from seasickness, or are new to cruising so don’t know how you will react to the motion of the ship, you might be better off choosing a room on a lower deck in the middle of the ship.
Above and below
As well as the deck and position of the room it is also worth taking a look at the deck plans to see what is above and below the room you might end up in. If your room is below the pool deck and you like a lie-in in the morning you may find it a bit exacerbating when you get woken up by the sound of the sun beds being put out early in the morning. Again, if you aren’t a night owl and like to retire to bed early then you may not want a room under the dance venue where you’ll be kept awake by the live music and sound of people strutting their stuff on the dance floor.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for a guarantee room, we have done this a few times and have always been more than happy with the room we have been allocated, which was often a couple of categories above the one we paid for. But do your research to find out where the rooms are located on the ship for the category you are booking and above. Although in our experience we have never had a room type upgrade (eg.Inside to ocean view or ocean view to balcony), this can happen so it may be worth the gamble. Although, again, you have to be happy to take a room upgrade which may be in a different area of the ship to the one you booked. You may end up right at the front of the ship when the majority of the rooms in the category you booked were midships.
Choosing a specific room
So, it seems that even if you let the cruiseline choose your room for you, you still need to do your research and select a room type and grade! So what are the benefits of choosing your own room and how do you decide what room type to go for? There are often added incentives to selecting your own room (and usually paying a higher fare to do so) such as on board credit, drinks packages, free WiFi, free shuttle buses in port etc etc, so it’s worth adding up the cost and benefit of these ‘extras’ if choosing a guarantee room - you may end up with your room account at the end of your cruise costing as much as the difference you would have paid to select your own room in the first place.
If you do decide to select your own room you may still be eligible for a room upgrade if they are available. But, like a guarantee room you may end up in what you would consider a worse room, say, for example, if you got moved from a midships inside room to an ocean view porthole window room right at the front of the ship. Most cruiselines give you the option to decide when booking if you would like to be eligible for an upgrade and many passengers will decline the offer, being happy with the room they have chosen and thus avoiding the risk of ending up somewhere they would rather not be or being split up from friends and family if you make a group booking. This might especially be a consideration for people with limited mobility, especially on some of the larger ships, where walking from one end of the ship to the other can seem like a mammoth task. In this case it is worth thinking about where you might like to spend the majority of your time whilst on board and choosing a room which allows easy access to these areas.
Types and grades
So, if you do decide to select your own room how do you choose between the different types and grades of room available? Many times the choice will be largely influenced by the cost of the room, as well as your preferences. Inside rooms tend to be the cheapest option, though not always so do always check these against the next category up, usually an ocean view room. Some people also choose an inside room as their preferred room type because they do generally offer more quiet and can be conducive to getting sleep, with the opportunity to truly ‘blackout’ your room. Inside rooms are also allocated in the heart of the ship so when the ship is swaying side to side they will have the least movement. The lack of any windows also means you will avoid any rattling or wind noise that often accompanies balcony doors, and when the ship is refuelling you won’t have the smell of the fumes invading your room (as well as waking up with your curtains open and realising that your room is the focal point of the gangway of the port you have docked in that day - yes, I’ve done that before!). But if you are the sort of person that likes to retreat to your room and doesn’t want to always be out and about in the public areas of the ship then you may find an inside room quite claustrophobic. And on some of the smaller, high end cruise lines you may not have the option of having an inside room, as there simply may not be any.
Ocean view (or maybe not)
One of our favourite categories of room is an ocean view room that allows you to know what the weather and sea is doing without having to pay the extra for a balcony (which may go largely unused especially if you’re on a ‘coldweather’ cruise). These rooms are often positioned lower down in the ship and may or may not have an obstructed view. Again, you avoid the potential noise and rattling from the balcony doors and if you like to sit and watch the seas from almost sea level these rooms are great. However, if your window has a lifeboat hanging in front of it the view of the sea you get from these windows can be very limited, though it does allow you access to daylight and for those who find inside rooms too claustrophobic this can be a happy compromise.
However, some of the newer ships have done away with the ocean view category of rooms and simply offer inside or various categories of balcony rooms. Balcony rooms can vary greatly in size and layout with balconies being metal fronted, glass fronted, enclosed, or, in the case of the upcoming Celebrity Edge, in your room, with French balcony type doors where the top half of the window lowers down to create a balcony from within your room! So again make sure you do your research on the room layout and balcony size for the ship you are going on. Some of the balconies we have had would be better described as ‘ledges’ than balconies, but it will depend on how much time you like to spend on your balcony as to how important this is to you. If you like to spend time privately sunbathing on your balcony then you will probably want more than a ‘ledge’, but if you simply like taking in the view or checking out the port as you arrive/leave then a smaller balcony may be enough.
However, if you want a bigger balcony, you will usually have to pay for a bigger room too. Again, this will come down to personal preference and how much time you like to spend in your room. We tend to like to be out and about on the ship so don’t spend too much time in our room. We rarely use the TV in our room and would rather relax in one of the public areas. But, if you like to watch a movie or just chill in your room you will need to decide if you are happy to lay on your bed whilst doing this or would prefer a sofa to sit on. Some balcony rooms will offer a sitting area with a sofa and maybe a table (especially nice if you like eating in your room) but some balcony rooms may simply have a dressing table and chair.
Another deciding factor for some people may be the bathroom. Most balcony rooms will offer a bathroom with shower only, with full size baths only available in the higher category rooms.
If you are a person that likes to take a bath when in holiday, rather than always showering, then this may be a deciding factor in your room choice. Baths tend to be available only in the mini suite or suite categories of rooms, which have a larger square footage, offer more ‘luxuries’ and cost more! Whether or not these rooms are worth the extra cost or not will often come down to personal preference regarding both the room size and the other benefits on offer. We have only ever once sailed in a suite category room which offered a large bathroom with full-size bath and separate shower, a large balcony with full size cushioned loungers and table and chairs, a separate seating area with full size sofa and kitchen area and a personal Butler. I have to say that we did spend a lot more time in this room than we have ever done on previous cruises and really wished it had been a warmer cruise so we could have fully enjoyed the large balcony. But, I’m really not sure the large hike in price was worth it for us, we’d rather cruise more often in a smaller room than less in a suite. Size isn’t everything! But that’s just our personal preference and I’m sure if money was no object we’d go for a suite category every time.
So, basically, there really is no quick fix when choosing a room. Do your research and know what’s important to you so you can choose a room to best suit your needs. There are some great websites and forums out there to find out what other people have liked and disliked with particular rooms and categories on whichever ship you are sailing in. Some very helpful passengers have also posted pictures and videos of room categories so you can see, for example, how much that lifeboat really does obstructs your view. But if you’ve never cruised before we would suggest you try a lower category room on a low deck and midships which will cost you less, allow easy access to most public areas and afford the least amount of movement in case you hit rough seas. After your first cruise, you’ll know more about what ’floats your boat’ so will have better idea of what your preferences are when choosing your room, and hopefully you won’t be disappointed.
For more help and advice on cruising take a look at our Big Ship v Small Ship blog.