The Best Cabin For Your Dollar on 64 Ships

Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival Destiny, Carnival Triumph, Carnival Victory

"The midship balcony rooms on Deck 6 are only one floor above the main drag of bars, shops, clubs, and the casino, but you won't be bothered by noise from below. These are less expensive than identical rooms in less desirable fore and aft locations on higher decks." 

Celebrity Cruises
Constellation, Infinity, Millennium, Summit

"Of the least expensive veranda staterooms, 6048 and 6053 have the largest balconies, thanks to a widening in the hull. Cabins 8170, 8172, 8176, and 8185, running along the stern on the Panorama Deck, also have larger balconies than other cabins in their category and offer sweeping views off the back of the ship." 

Clipper Cruise Line
Nantucket Clipper, Yorktown Clipper

"I prefer category 2 Lounge Deck cabins that provide immediate access to an aft deck [L38 to L41 on the Nantucket Clipper, L43 to L48 on the Yorktown Clipper]. Few other passengers ever discover this public area, so it becomes your own semiprivate veranda." 

Cruise West
Spirit of Oceanus

"On a small expedition ship like this, it's important to have a balcony so you can get outside quickly to see marine life. For about an extra $100 per person per day, suites 505 to 512 on the Sports Deck give you a private balcony, a walk-in closet, and 27 extra square feet of space." 

Crystal Cruises
Crystal Harmony

"Cabins 7126 and 7127 offer whirlpool baths and 102 more square feet than other staterooms in the same category. There's no veranda, but the stairs just outside your door lead to a deck area which is so seldom used that it's practically private. Also, balconies off cabins 9106 to 9117, 8001 to 8015, 8124, and 8126 to 8137 measure 73 square feet rather than the usual 48." 

Crystal Serenity
"Cabins 10001 through 10017, and 10108 through 10125, give you the amenities (but not the spaciousness) of a penthouse room—a butler and a complimentary stocked bar—at a lower price. They also have larger balconies than others in the same category. By choosing these cabins, you can save about $3,000 per person on a two-week European cruise." 

Crystal Symphony
"Cabins 8076 and 8077 are midship gems. They're priced as 'limited view' cabins, since they're on the deck where the lifeboats hang, but they sit between lifeboats and offer unobstructed ocean vistas. They'll save you $1,280 to $2,380 on a 20-day South Pacific cruise." 

Cunard Line
Queen Elizabeth 2

"The P2 cabins on Three Deck are spacious and midship—both desirable on transoceanic voyages. P2 guests dine in the Princess and Britannia grills, which are smaller, quieter, and less ostentatious than the other dining options—perfect if you want to feel exclusive but don't want to spend big bucks. Cabins 3087 and 3090 are 21 square feet larger than the other P2 cabins

Queen Mary 2 (maiden voyage in January 2004)
"On the QM2, your dining room will be determined by your cabin category. If you're a food connoisseur and really enjoy time outdoors on a balcony, select a junior suite on Deck 10 with Princess Grill dining. If your wallet is a little thinner and the dining experience isn't a major issue, I'd recommend the standard oceanview cabins without balconies and with dining in the less intimate Britannia. There are balcony cabins with Britannia dining, but since those balconies are set back within the ship's hull, your view is narrowed."

Disney Cruise Line
Disney Magic, Disney Wonder

"The veranda staterooms on Deck 8 sleep a family of five, so you needn't pay for two adjoining cabins. These rooms have a queen or two twin beds, plus three pullout singles. There's a divider between the master bed area and the pullout beds for privacy, and the bathtub and toilet areas are separate, each with their own door." 

Holland America Line
Amsterdam, Rotterdam

"The verandas in suites 7032 to 7043 on the Amsterdam and 7030 to 7039 on the Rotterdam are shaded from the sun by an overhang (part of the Lido Restaurant above), making them a great choice if you prefer shade." 

Maasdam, Ryndam, Statendam, Veendam
"The category B suites on the Veranda Deck, set high and midship, cost only $35 more per person per day than the staterooms without balconies. Besides a sitting area, you get a whirlpool bath, usually available only in more expensive cabins on comparable cruise lines." 

Oosterdam, Zuiderdam
"The aft corner suites on the Veranda Deck (S5186 and S5187) have huge wraparound balconies—at least three times larger than those of comparably priced suites—and are great for entertaining. Cabins SS6052, SS6108, SS6117, SS8094, and SS8099 on the Navigation Deck also have larger balconies than other rooms in the same class." 

Prinsendam
"Cabins A196 and A197, located at the stern, are extra-large with oversized balconies—36 additional square feet inside and 24 outside—but cost the same as the others in their category. They also open onto a huge deck with a whirlpool that most other passengers don't even know exists."

Lindblad Expeditions
Sea Bird, Sea Lion

"Cabin 108 on the Bridge Deck is just around the corner from the Sun Deck—the best vantage point for spotting marine life—so you'll be well placed when the captain announces a breaching whale or a spawning ray in the Sea of Cortes. It's also 13 square feet larger than other cabins that cost the same." 

Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Star, Norwegian Sun

"The mini-suites are a great deal: For as little as $100 more per person over a seven-day Caribbean cruise, you'll get a sitting area, a bathtub, concierge service, and extra touches like fresh flowers and plusher bathrobes. If you're headed to Alaska on the Norwegian Sun, try to book rear-facing cabins 8079, 8279, 9078, 9278, 0067, or 0267, since sea life seems to congregate behind the ship."

Orient Lines
Marco Polo

"Cabins 504, 505, and 507 on the Main Deck have two windows; others at the same price have only one. Choose one of these cabins and you won't have to spend your voyage gazing at the view from over your roommate's shoulder." 

Princess Cruises
Dawn Princess, Ocean Princess, Sea Princess, Sun Princess

"Outside cabins 222 to 237, 311 to 314, and 712 to 749 on the Dolphin Deck have huge windows that are almost three times larger than those in comparable cabins. Another good choice, if you don't want to pay extra for a veranda, is the Baja Deck's foremost cabins (B206 to B225), which are a very short walk from a deck area that's almost always empty." 

Grand Princess
"Cabins 752 and 753 are corner balcony rooms at the stern—on a vessel this big, you needn't worry about motion. Their triple-exposure views are a photographer's dream, yet they cost thousands less per person than the larger premium suites next door."

Radisson Seven Seas Cruises
Paul Gauguin

"The least expensive cabins are on Deck 3, but it's worth spending the extra $450 per person on a weeklong Tahiti cruise to upgrade to Deck 4 so you can have a picture window instead of two tiny portholes. The rooms are the same size, but the additional light makes the Deck 4 cabins seem much bigger."

Seven Seas Mariner
"Every cabin has a balcony, and the least expensive rooms are extraordinarily large—301 square feet—so these entry-level cabins are actually a great value. Unlike some rooms that are the same size but cost more, they're midship and down low, so motion isn't an issue. They even have walk-in closets." 

Seven Seas Navigator
"Balcony suite 601 is 180 square feet larger than the same-priced cabins one deck above. Cabin 600 has no balcony and a limited view, but it's 160 square feet larger than same-priced cabins on that deck."

Seven Seas Voyager
"Book a suite along the stern, rather than the slightly larger ones toward the front. For several hundred dollars less, you lose only 14 square feet inside your cabin while more than doubling the size of your balcony. Since you'll be able to see what's happening off the sides of the ship as well as off the back, you'll have panoramic vistas." 

ResidenSea
The World

"The Studio Residences on Deck 6, except 667 and 668, are the best value: They are the least expensive cabins that have unobstructed views and balconies. Cabins in category SR4 are about 30 square feet larger than those in SR3, with walk-in closets and vanities, yet on certain sailings they cost the same." 

Royal Caribbean
Adventure of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas

"I like the least expensive of the balcony cabins midship on Deck 6. On a weeklong Caribbean cruise, it's worth the extra $60 per person to get that balcony. But don't pay the additional $200 to upgrade from there, since you'll get only another 20 square feet." 

Majesty of the Seas, Monarch of the Seas, Sovereign of the Seas
"The outside cabins on Decks 2 and 3 are the best bargain. But make sure you get a room away from the bow—where windows have a tunnel view—and ahead of the aft rooms on Deck 3, which are under the noisy atrium."

Rhapsody of the Seas, Vision of the Seas
"The cabins facing the stern on Decks 7 and 8 have balconies that are almost twice as large as the others on the same decks but cost no more. Try to book corner cabins 7152, 7652, 8088, and 8588, since their wraparound balconies have fabulous views." 

Seabourn Cruise Line
Seabourn Legend, Seabourn Pride, Seabourn Spirit

"Some cabins have minibalconies. They aren't wide enough for a chair, but you'll get floor-to-ceiling views, ocean breezes, and the sounds of the sea. Cabins 204 to 223 on Deck 5 are almost $1,000 less per suite for a seven-day Caribbean cruise than the identical rooms a deck above."

SeaDream Yacht Club
SeaDream I, SeaDream II

"Since you'll spend more time outdoors on these yachts than you might on larger ships, you should be perfectly comfortable in the smaller (and less expensive) of the two cabin categories. Cabins 201 and 202 are well-positioned—low and midship—which is important on a small vessel." 

Silversea Cruises
Silver Cloud, Silver Wind

"The Silver suites—527, 627, and 723—are the best buy: You get almost twice as much cabin and balcony space as in the cabins next door for only 50 percent more. These suites have separate sleeping, living, and dining areas." 

Silver Shadow, Silver Whisper
"If you choose Vista suites 521 through 537 (odd numbers only), you'll get a shared balcony without paying for it. On a weeklong cruise, this will save you about $1,400 per person off the cost of a cabin with a private veranda."

Society Expeditions
World Discoverer

"This is the only Antarctica-bound ship with private outdoor access. The French balconies outside the rooms on the Bridge Deck are the perfect place to relax with a glass of wine and scan the sea for marine life—and the long daylight hours down south mean that you'll have time to do this after a full day out on the ice." 

Windstar Cruises
Wind Spirit, Wind Star

"Adjoining cabins 132 and 134 work well for a large family or a group because they can each accommodate a third guest. With six passengers, you'll pay as little as $1,500 per person for a weeklong Mediterranean cruise." 

Wind Surf
"There's really no reason to spend about $100 more per person for a luxury category A cabin. In fact, if the sea gets rough, you're better off one deck lower in category B, where you'll feel less motion. If you want to splurge, the suites are a good value: They're two cabins put together, but the price is only 50 percent more per person." 

Anatomy of a Cruise Ship

Strategies for selecting the best cabin vary depending on the size, shape, and layout of the ship. To give you an idea of what to avoid when choosing a stateroom—and a few things to look for—we've highlighted the most important variables to keep in mind.

View

•Windows at the bow may be small and recessed. Unless you have a balcony, you won't see much.

•Near the bow, the hull may limit views from windows and verandas.

•Lifeboats can block views, so cabins on lifeboat decks cost less—but a "limited-view" cabin situated between lifeboats can be a great deal.

•Some balconies have a waist-high solid-metal barrier that obstructs the view when you're seated.

•Rear-facing balconies can afford panoramic vistas; a wraparound corner balcony is even better.

Balconies

•Balconies at the bow are for true sailors. They offer less protection from the elements.

•A bonus for families: balconies that connect.

•On some ships, verandas offer no privacy: Everyone else with a balcony can gawk at you. On other ships, they're so private that you can stand outside naked and no one will know.

Location

•If you're traveling with children, a cabin near the laundry room can be convenient.

•If you have trouble walking, a room near the elevator might be desirable.

•For warm-weather sailings on large ships, cabins near the pool and sundeck can save you lots of traipsing.

•On some ships, soot can settle on balconies. Ask your travel agent to steer you away from these trouble spots.

•Privacy may be sacrificed on a promenade deck: Passersby can peer inside, and views may be obstructed by winches, pillars, and other deck structures.

•Consider what's above your veranda: An outdoor café can mean noise, cigarette butts, and even mop water spoiling your space.

•Some cabins lack balconies but are located right off a seldom-used deck area—a good value because you get secluded outdoor space without paying extra for it.

Size

•Cabins with balconies located where the ship widens can provide more space, yet cost the same as other cabins in the same category.

•Larger balconies have space for lounge chairs, a table, perhaps even a private hot tub.

Noise

•Noisy cabins can include those under, above, or adjacent to the show lounge, restaurant, disco, stairwell, or other public areas.

•The ship's anchor can make a terrible racket when raised and lowered.

•Tenders can make noise when lowered and raised.

•On older ships, engine noise and vibration affect cabins in the stern. Newer propulsion systems eliminate those problems.

Cabin Cruising

Your stateroom assignment can make or break your voyage. Wendy Perrin stacks the decks in your favor to help you land the perfect cabin

To experience a destination fully, there's usually just one way to go: the Amalfi Coast by convertible, the Zambezi by raft, the Yukon by dogsled. The Greek Islands? By sea, of course. Short of skippering your own yacht, it's hard to find a better way to explore a chain of islands than from aboard a cruise ship. Greet Cephalonia at sunrise from the privacy of your own floating balcony. Bid farewell to Capri's Marina Grande from your deck chair as the ship steams into the open Mediterranean. How better to witness icebergs calving and crashing into the sea off southernmost Chile, or to view the volcanic fireworks display of Stromboli framed by the night-darkened sea and sky?

A cruise holds out the promise of a sublime experience, but before you abandon yourself to this ideal, a word of warning: All cabins are not created equal. At this very moment, on every cruise ship in the world, there is at least one poor couple trapped in a stateroom they hate, fighting over who's to blame and contemplating jumping overboard. In this year of unprecedented cruise deals, the temptation to snap up a cut-rate sailing without considering what kind of cabin you'll land in is especially risky.

I'm not a snob when it comes to accommodations, but I have cruised everywhere from the Galapagos Islands to the Yangtze River, and on everything from a 140-passenger sailboat to a 2,600-passenger megaship, and I am here to tell you that if you hate your cabin, you'll hate your cruise.

On a ship, your cabin is your only refuge. That's why the rule of thumb about choosing the cheapest room in the best hotel (since you won't be in the room much but can use the rest of the property) rarely holds true on cruises. If you're lucky, the least expensive cabin could be a 356-square-foot suite with a private balcony (as on the new Seven Seas Voyager), but more likely it's a windowless broom closet subjected to the ceaseless din and bone-rattling vibrations from the engine room next door. As for the priciest accommodations, they're usually extravagantly outfitted suites not really worth the premium you'll pay for them. The cabin category that represents the best value for your money usually falls somewhere between these two extremes.

But with dozens of ships to choose from, each with its individual architecture and some with as many as twenty-two different cabin categories, finding the right stateroom is a science akin to alchemy. When selecting a hotel room, most people consider the size, floor, view, noise level, and bed type. On a cruise ship, you also need to take into account the window size and any view obstructions, the ship's motion, balcony size and privacy, and even proximity to a deck area (in case you have no balcony). And then there's the itinerary. Will your ship be hugging a coastline? If so, you'll probably want a room facing land. On an ocean crossing, where winds are high, a balcony may not be as important as in calmer seas. On narrow waterways such as fjords, a cabin along the stern will allow you to take in both shores at once.

Most cruise novices assume that the best cabin location is up high and far forward. But on the newest ships—Radisson Seven Seas' Seven Seas Voyager, Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas, Cunard's Queen Mary 2 (maiden voyage scheduled for 2004)—some of the most desirable cabins are those at the back, relatively close to the water. A balcony up front can be much windier and wetter than one at the stern and, depending on the ship's structure, can yield less-sweeping views. And if the ship is massive and your cabin is too high, you'll miss out on the sound of the water and the salty tang of the sea air.

Even cruise line brochures don't provide adequate guidance: Claustrophobic staterooms are often photographed with a wide-angle lens to make them appear larger, and the term suite is used quite loosely. Views obstructed by railings, winches, and staircases may not be indicated, and cabins in the same price category can differ in size—but you'd never know it by looking at most brochure diagrams. And verandas are especially tricky: You could end up with a balcony too narrow for a chair, or one whose sight lines are limited by the hull, or one that is not quite as private as promised. I've had verandas on which I could eat breakfast in my pajamas and no one could see me, but I've also had a couple that allowed dozens of strangers to critique my peignoir.

But choosing the right cabin involves more than just avoiding various pitfalls: It also requires studying the ship's architecture to take advantage of hidden values. Some vessels, for instance, have wraparound balconies in the aft corner that offer sweeping views from bow to stern and beyond. Some hulls jut out or indent midship, resulting in verandas with extra square footage. Occasionally, you can even score a secluded semiprivate deck area or a shared veranda—at no extra cost.

So how do you avoid a cabin of horrors and possibly uncover buried treasure? Ask questions—lots of them—and start with these:

How much motion will there be?
The smaller the ship, the greater the rolling and pitching. You'll want to stay midship and low if seasickness is a concern.

What is the square footage?
Ask this not just about the cabin itself but about the bathroom and the balcony as well. Remember that cabin and balcony size can vary significantly within the same price category.

Will anything obstruct my view?
The hull, lifeboats, and equipment on the deck can limit your view. On the other hand, some "obstructed view" cabins are a great value because they are actually situated between two lifeboats and thus have clear sight lines.

How large are the windows?
They may be portholes, standard-size windows, large windows that extend nearly from floor to ceiling, or floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open onto a veranda.

Can other passengers see me on my balcony or in my room?
A cabin on a promenade deck could offer little privacy, since other passengers walk past your window. Newer ships tend to use reflective glass, which might keep curious eyes out during the daytime but not at night when your lights are on.

Is the room noisy?
If you're a light or late sleeper, avoid cabins near the anchor, the tenders, the engine, the disco, the galley, and the stairwell.

 

 

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