Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival Destiny, Carnival Triumph, Carnival
"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
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
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
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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
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
Holland America Line
"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."
"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."
"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."
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
"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."
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."
"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
Radisson Seven Seas Cruises
"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."
"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."
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
Majesty of the Seas, Monarch of the Seas, Sovereign of
"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."
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."
"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
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."
"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
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.
•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
•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 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
•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
•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.
•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.
•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
Your stateroom assignment can make or break your voyage. Wendy
Perrin stacks the decks in your favor to help you land the perfect
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
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
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
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.