Everything You Need to Know to Choose Your Cruise Ship Cabin

When it comes to planning a cruise, you’ve got a lot of choices to make: where in the world to go, what to do on-deck and onshore, where to eat, which shows to see and more…one thing’s for sure, you’ll never feel restricted by lack of choice. And even after you book your cruise, this goes for choosing your room, too.

Your room on a cruise ship is called a cabin (or stateroom). Choosing your cruise room is just another part of the fun of customizing your vacation to suit your needs.

Cabins fall into different types, or “categories.” These categories are defined by the size of room, available amenities, location on the ship, price, and more. Some cruise lines offer as many as 20 or more categories per ship!

For many travelers, price is the main factor in deciding which stateroom to choose. But sometimes it’s hard to decide which upgrades or layouts are worth the price.

All cabins come with basic amenities: a daily cleaning and bed-making, soap and shampoo in the bathroom, individual thermostat, etc. But certain categories of stateroom, like suites, come with added perks that can make your stay even more memorable.

And beyond the layout and location, it’s important for you to know your travel style and preferences when choosing your state room. For example, if you’re planning a luxurious honeymoon, a top-deck balcony room or suite will offer the leisure and lavishness you’re looking for. Or if you’ve got a child who gets seasick easily, choosing a lower and more central room on the ship will help dampen any rolling or swaying.

Here’s your ultimate guide to choosing the best cruise cabin for you and your travel party.

The Basic Stateroom Categories

Almost all cabins on a cruise can fit into four categories: inside, outside, balcony, and suite. Below are details about these four categories of rooms and what you can expect from each type.

Inside Room

  • Inside cabins with no views to the outside are typically the smallest, cheapest cabins onboard.
  • These are great options for budget-minded travelers who don’t plan on spending a lot of time in their room, or who like to sleep during the day.
  • Some Royal Caribbean ships have inside-view cabins with windows looking out onto interior public areas.
  • Disney and Royal Caribbean have created “magical portholes” and “virtual balconies” by playing real-time videos of the sea and port onto high-definition display screens, simulating real cabin windows.

Outside Room

  • An outside room is a cabin with a window or porthole with a view to the outside. This may also be known as “ocean view” room.
  • Outside rooms are often the same size as inside rooms.
  • Take a look at your cruise itinerary before selecting your cabin to make sure you don’t miss any important sights — for example, on a round-trip Caribbean cruise, the side of the ship you’re on won’t matter. But if you’re sailing one-way (like a southbound Alaska cruise or a trip from Barcelona to Rome), you might want to choose a cabin on the side of the ship that faces the land.

Balcony Room

  • Just like it sounds, this room features a balcony that allows you to step outside without going up to a public deck.
  • Balcony cabins may be the same size as standard inside and outside rooms, with the addition of the outdoor space on the balcony.
  • If your idea of a vacation is finding peace and serenity by lounging and dining on your own private balcony may be a necessary perk.
  • Balconies range widely in size, so choose one that fits your travel style (inviting a group of friends over for dinner, private hot tub, etc.)


  • A suite is a larger cabin, often with separate living and sleeping areas and a wide variety of amenities and perks that can vary across cruise lines and ship types.
  • Some suites may feature dining areas, wet bars, deluxe bathrooms, walk-in closets, and more.
  • Most suites come with a variety of extras and privileges — everything from priority boarding to in-cabin bar setups.
  • Mini-suites are often just a bigger version of a standard balcony cabin.

Although the room types below may also fit into the categories above (for instance, there may be inside or outside solo cabins, or family cabins with balconies), below are two additional cabin types your cruise ship may offer.

Solo Cabins

  • Though few ships have solo cabins, these rooms are small and feature sleeping space for one.
  • The studio cabins on some Norwegian ships are great examples of solo rooms: The 100-square-foot staterooms each contain a full-size bed, lighting effects, and a large round window that looks out into the corridor.

Family Cabins

  • More new ships have built cabins to suit the needs of families.
  • Family cabins are often suites with a separate room for the kids that may be a small alcove with bunk beds or an adjoining cabin.
  • Families and groups can also take advantage of regular staterooms with pullout sofas or pull-down bunk beds.

Pay attention to the unique cabin setups on your ship, as they’re not all created equal. For example, cabins at the very front and back of a ship often have different layouts than the cabins that run the length of the ship.

Location on Ship

Depending on the location of your room, you can either be kept up by the noise of a theater or dining room above you, or lulled to quietly to sleep in the belly of the boat. Likewise, you could awaken to beautiful views of a mountain range on a passing continent, or look out to a vast expanse of sea.

From seasickness to views to access to amenities, below are factors to consider when picking your cabin’s location on the ship.


  • If you or your travel partner tend to get seasick, cabin location can make a big difference.
  • Higher decks and cabins at the very front or back of the ship will roll and sway the most.
  • The lower and more central your room is inside the ship, the more stable your room will feel.
  • If you find that your motion sickness subsides when you can focus your eyes on the distance, choose an ocean view or balcony cabin on a lower deck (kind of like how riding in the front seat can help with car sickness).
  • But If you choose a balconied stateroom, choose the lowest level and the most mid-ship one you can find.


  • Some cruise travelers prefer their cabins to be near to (or far away from) specific areas of the ship.
  • If you can’t get enough sun, you might prefer an upper-deck location close to the pools and sun decks.
  • If you’re a partier, you might want easy access to mid-ship theaters and dancefloors.
  • Meanwhile, travelers with mobility concerns may need a room close to the elevators.
  • Do your due diligence before picking a room location to find one that makes the most sense for your needs.


  • You’ll notice that many cruise lines host their most luxurious and expensive cabins on the highest decks. This provides magnificent views, but the pool deck nearby can cause noise problems.
  • If you don’t want to be awakened by (or kept up late by) swimmers and sunbathers, you may want to head down a level.
  • Other potentially noisy areas could include service areas, show lounges, bars, and self-service launderettes nearby.
  • If you go too low in the ship, you could encounter other noise problems by being so close to engine noise, vibration, anchor, or bow thrusters.
  • To ensure a quieter room, pick a cabin that is cushioned between floors.View
  • If what you see from your cabin is important to you, you might want to think about how your cabin’s location impacts your scenic vistas.
  • Consider both the direction in which your room faces, as well as how the ship’s structure might get in the way of your view out to sea.

Cabin Pricing

Only you know your vacation budget, but figuring out the best way to spend it can be tricky. Here’s our primer on the most important things to know about cruise pricing as related to choosing a cabin.

Price Drops

  • Cruise fares can change daily. You’re likely to find the lowest fares by booking early (around 8 months or more prior to sailing) or booking late (206 weeks before departure).
  • Fares often drop just after final payment is due (about 2 months before sailing).
  • But waiting for a higher-category cabin to come down in price to fit into your travel budget is risky; if the cabin category is selling well, fares will just go up.

Value Adds

  • When trying to determine how much cabin you can afford, don’t forget to factor in the cost of the rest of your trip.
  • If you have to spend a lot on airfare, pre-cruise hotels and activities in port, you might not be able to afford the fanciest suite; if you’re using frequent-flyer miles or don’t need to book a hotel, you’ll have more money for cruise fare; the money you save on airfare can be used to spring for a nice stateroom.
  • Or, look for value-added perks from cruise-line and travel-agent promotions.
  • Offers for complimentary onboard cash, prepaid tips or included airfare can free up some money to pay for other vacation expenses.


  • Before booking your room, look for special upgrades and promotions.
  • One common cruise line promotion is to offer outside cabins for the price of insides, or balconies for the price of outsides.
  • Be cautious of any offer promising a two-category upgrade (or similar) — the fine print usually indicates that the line will give you a “better” cabin within the same room category. You will then be stuck with whichever cabin they give you (whether you agree it’s better or not).

Guarantee Cabins

  • A “guarantee” cabin selection is one in which you pay a low rate for the cabin type you are willing to take, but you allow the cruise line to select the actual cabin for you.
  • You could potentially get assigned to a higher-category cabin, or could get a non-ideal cabin in the category you chose (one that’s slightly smaller or has a blocked view or is in a noisy corner of the ship).

Other Upgrade Considerations

Lastly, it’s important to consider other upgrades you can fit into your budget that can help make your trip extra special:

  • Do you have to have a whirlpool bathtub or a walk-in closet?
  • Will you be entertaining and thus in need of a dining table that can seat six or eight?
  • Do you want benefits like priority dinner reservations and being first in line to get on or off the ship?
  • Do you want to be pampered with extra-plush linens and bathrobes, fancy bath products, and in-suite coffee and booze? You can find those amenities and more in most of the upper-level suites.

Your cruise should be a fantastic, memorable experience. If a few upgrades (or at least a window in your room) will either make or break the type of incredible experience you crave, then it’s likely worth it to take the plunge.

When you work with your agent at CloudBlue, we’ll be sure to work with you to help you choose the perfect cabin for your budget and lifestyle. Ready to look at your options for your next cruise? Give us a call and we’ll help every step of the way »

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