First Cruise: Selecting Your Cruise Ship Cabin.

One of the most confusing parts of booking your cruise can be figuring out the various cabin types. What's really the difference between Interior, Oceanview, Balcony, and Suites? Walter and Rebecca are here to help you make sense of these cabins, great advice for the first-time cruiser.

In another chapter, we talked about picking your first cruise based on the type of vacationer you are, you know, being an active person, relaxation, food. But one of the most confusing things for a first-time cruiser is picking the cabin, because it kind of seems simple, right? There's an inside cabin. There's a cabin with the window, there's a balcony, there are suites. But even within each of those categories, there are subcategories. And some of the categories include things, they don't include things.

So what we thought we'd do is give you a good base overview of picking out a cabin based on the position within the ship and the type of cabin and some of the perks that you might get. So first of all, let's talk about the cabin positions.

Full Transcription. Apologies for any typos.


Walter

Hey, folks, I'm Walter.

Rebecca

I'm Rebecca.

Walter

And in this episode, we're planning your first cruise by picking the right cabin.


Walter

In another episode, we talked about picking your first cruise based on the type of vacationer you are, you know, being an active person, relaxation, food. But one of the most confusing things for a first-time cruiser is picking the cabin, because it kind of seems simple, right? There's an inside cabin. There's a cabin with the window, there's a balcony, there's suites. But even within each of those categories, there are subcategories. And some of the categories include things, they don't include things.


So what we thought we'd do is give you a good base overview of picking out a cabin based on the position within the ship and the type of cabin and some of the perks that you might get. So first of all, let's talk about the cabin positions.


So a ship is basically broken down into three parts. You have the forward, the bow, the midsection, and then the aft which is the rear section of the ship. Now generally in the front and the rear, you get the most rocking action because that's where the ship is really, you know, rocking back and forth.

The front of the ship will feel the waves the most, if you're if you're in any kind of swells or any kind of rough weather that's a part of the ship that's cutting through the water, so you'll feel the waves the most.

If you're in the aft of the ship, that's where you'll feel the vibrations of the engines the most. And you kind of get, especially if you're on the very rear of the ship, you kind of get a waterfall sound constantly because you're hearing the propwash going out the back.


And then if you're in the middle of the ship that's generally the quietest part of the ship and the smoothest in terms of the motion, because that that part of the ship is just kind of more or less staying steady.


Now with the height of the ship. That also affects your ride too, because the higher you are, you know the more the ship can sway side to side as well is going up and down.


So if you have any concerns at all about seasickness, or you know, maybe feeling a little queasy on a ship, your best bet is to stay low, and in the middle. That will be the absolute smoothest part of the ship in terms of the position.


Now it's not like the ships like really go crazy rocking all over the place. I mean, the modern ships have stabilizers, they have these wings that come out. But you know, it just depends on how sensitive you are. The worst that we've really ever had it was on a Panama Canal cruise on the way there and the ship was rocking enough that we couldn't walk straight in the in the hallway. We're actually kind of ping-ponging down the hallway. We actually thought it was kind of funny. That's the roughest we've ever had it.

Now generally the roughest weather you will ever have or the roughest ride you will ever have will be a transatlantic. So unless you're doing, if you're just doing the Caribbean, if you're just doing you know a little port to port, especially like Alaska is going to be very, very smooth. It's usually smooth as glass up in Alaska. You're not going to run into a lot of issues.


So while I'm talking about, you know, the top of the ships sways more, it does sway more, but it's not like doing this, it's just doing a little bit more.


Rebecca and I, we love to stay on the very aft of the ship, a balcony facing straight back, you kind of get a little vibration to the engine which is really nice at night when you're trying to get to sleep and then you just get that beautiful prop wash out the back like a continuous waterfall going out the back of the ship when you're at sea. That's one of our favorite things to do. And we'd like to stay up pretty high on the ship.


Now one of the things to be aware of the pool deck, whatever deck the pool deck is on your particular ship, generally don't want to stay on the deck right below it.


Rebecca

Yeah, generally you want other cabins above you.


Walter

Yes


Rebecca

Not. Not buffet, not pool, not outdoor space. Other cabins


Walter

Yeah, if they're if there's a if there's an activity deck right above you, especially a pool deck, so say about six in the morning, seven in the morning. The stewards are going to be up on deck, pulling out the chairs and getting the pool ready for the day. And you're going to hear that because it's literally like your ceiling is is right below where all that's going on.


If the buffet is right above you or any of the early morning restaurants or any of the dance clubs or anything like that, you're going to hear that. So general rule of thumb is you want at least one row of cabins between you and wherever that activity is.


So if the pool deck is on 11, then we would recommend no higher than nine for your cabin so that you've got deck 10 between you and where the pools are.


Rebecca

I have heard of some people getting noise if the gym is right above them.


Walter

So generally the gym is in the front of most ships. So if you're going to be getting a forward cabin, see if the gym is right above you, but generally anything that's an activity. It's always nice to be one deck away from that have one row of cabins between you and whatever is going on.

Now the basic types of cabins on any cruise ship are an interior, an ocean view, a balcony, a mini or a junior suite, and then a suite. Now all the cruise lines may call these different things, like balconies can be verandas, or they can be a sea terrace on Virgin Voyages. But those are the basics, interior, oceanview, balcony, a mini or junior suite and then a suite. And within that, all bets are off as to how many classes. Yes, there are different types of ocean view room, believe it or not. You would think they just have one. They have very many.


Now one of the things to note about these cabins is that you're going to see a price and that price is per person. It's not like booking a hotel, so it's not like you see $500 and that's how much it is for the cabin. It's $500 per person for the first two people. And then if that cabin can hold more people, yes cabins can hold three, four, even five people, but for the most part, it is one to four people in a cabin. Generally after those first two, the price drops off a little bit for those next, sometimes it's free for the next few people, but understand that most cabins in on a cruise ship can hold more than two people. And that's usually like a drop-down bunk bed or it's the sofa that flips open into a bed.


Now for you solo travelers out there understand that if you're going to book a standard cabin, you're going to have to pay for two people. That's just how it works on the cruise line. They're not going to give you a cabin, that that standard for two people and just let you pay for one. Now some cruise lines now have solo cabins which are great, not necessarily half the price of two people. So if they say a standard cabin goes for 500 per person, you might have to spend 700 per person kind of thing.

We think the best way to really explain the various types of cabins and what you can get for them is to just go ahead and walk through just exploring a cruise. And so for this, we've chosen Royal Caribbean. They are one of the largest out there, they have a lot of ships, a lot of different styles of ships.

And for this purpose, we've chosen the Independence of the Seas, which is a freedom class ship. She holds about 4300 people, and she has 15 decks and has lots and lots of stuff to do. And it really has a good we can really show you a lot of different types of cabins on that.


So I've chosen the Independence of the Seas and this one is a January of 2021 sailing. So you notice right away, here's the price and again that price is per person for the first two people in this cabin, and go ahead and select that date.

How many staterooms do we need?

How many adults are going in this one and then if you notice right now there they are running a special, so if I want to put any extra people in this cabin, they are running a special. I'll hit continue and then you finally get to see the cabin.

Now you can do this as often as you want with as many ships as you want, you're not booking anything, you're just checking out what's available.

Okay, so the first one we're going to look at is the interior, you see what the price is starting at. So I select in and you can see on this particular ship, there are three levels of interior cabins, there's the interior, the promenade view interior, and the spacious interior. This freedom class ship actually has a long promenade that runs down the center of the ship, and they have windows that look down onto the promenade. So while this is technically an interior, you do actually have a window that you can see out and see down into the middle of ship. It's kind of cool.


Rebecca

People can also see into your cabin, if you don't have your curtains closed.

Walter

Yeah, so just be aware of that. If you book on one of these ships, or any ship that has an interior window, anybody that's inside can just look right up and say hello, how are you? You might want to close your curtains.


You can see the price again here per person, you just simply click on details. And if you notice down here there are deck plan codes. So in this case, I'm seeing 6B, 4V and 2B. And those are the different levels of the interior cabin. And so you can see the state room is only 160 square feet. You see this lovely picture that shows the two beds, but the occupancy, it can hold up to four guests. So my guess is that the sofa is a bed, and then there's probably a drop down bed somewhere in the ceiling.

Now the spacious interior is huge. This basically looks to us like it would be a balcony cabin, just without the balcony. And if you notice the occupancy, it says up to six guests. There in that picture, it looks like we've got a couple of bunk beds, Pullman car style. This is one of the biggest interior cabins I think, I've ever seen on any ship.

So this is your cheapest and most cost effective cabin. If all you need is a place to lay your head down and you don't really care about anything else. This is the cabin for you. Then the only concern is to where would you pick it on the ship but we'll go through that later.


Now, let's take look at the ocean view. So the ocean view is just a window and lets you look out. And now in this option, you notice they're saying we pick your room or you pick your room. So if you let them pick it, basically, you're guaranteed, you will get a cabin that has a window that looks out, but you don't know where it is on the ship.

So if you're concerned, like we talked about earlier, you know, forward, middle, aft, if you're concerned about where you're going to be on the ship, and especially if you definitely want to be in the middle, you should pick your own room, we always do. We never let the cruise line pick our own cabin.


So here, we've got an ocean view and then we've got a spacious, spacious panoramic ocean view. Ooo, pretty and you can see the difference. The ocean view has this windows right above the bed, and then the spacious one essentially has what looks like a balcony that doesn't open. It's just a really, really big panoramic view window and the price differs, you know, you get the bigger window, you're going to pay a little bit more. My guess is they're probably a little bit higher on the ship as well. Generally as you go higher on the ship it cost a little bit more because your view is a little bit nicer looking out. So in this case, I'm just gonna look at the details on the ocean view.


And again, you see the size of it's right here, up to four guests. So while you only see a bed for two people, again, four people can fit in this cabin. And then here's the deck plan codes down here. We'll walk through that in a second.


Rebecca

Do be aware of that even if the cabin shows a picture of a single bed, those can be split apart if you don't want to sleep in the same bed as your traveling companion.


Walter

That's a good point. These are these are actually two twin beds. And any bed that you see on a cruise ship pretty much unless they're you know, the really, really nice suites,


Rebecca

Well, or Disney they tend to have beds that won't split.


Walter

Yeah. But for the most part, all of these beds split into two. So if you’re two independent travelers like friends traveling together, they can break the beds apart. And when you get to your cruise, if you want to be together, they'll push the beds together.


Now let's take a look at the balcony. These are the cabins that Rebecca and I love to book. We made the mistake of booking a cat balcony on our very first cruise. And it was hard not to book anything but a balcony.


So on this particular ship, they have an ocean view balcony. They have a spacious ocean view balcony. It's really the same cabin, but what you'll notice is that the size of it is, even though they call it spacious, this one is only 15 square feet larger than the other. So those are the two categories of balcony on this on this particular ship or the starting categories, you see that we've got deck plan codes, and so those codes will vary in price usually.


Alright, let's go take a quick look at the suites. Going in, so you've got a Junior Suite. You've got a grand suite one bedroom, you got an owner suite one bedroom, now this is where you start to get some perks. Now the Junior Suites vary so much we've been on ships where a Junior Suite is just a balcony suite, the exact same room same size, same balcony everything you just get some extra perks because you pay a little extra for it.

Rebecca

Generally not that many perks, I mean, mostly might get priority boarding, that'd be

Walter

Yeah, just a couple of perks. So let's take a look here on Caribbean, Royal Caribbean with this, they're really not giving you any perks at all the one thing that I see is the bathroom with a tub. So that's really the perk you're going to get for this. Now the junior suites that we have found on the older Royal Caribbean ships are actually quite large. We were on the...


Rebecca

Mariner of the Seas.


Walter

The Mariner of the Seas, and we got a Junior Suite. And it's the biggest cabin we've ever had.


Rebecca

Literally, the closet was as big as some interior rooms.


Walter

Yeah, the closet was huge. You could sleep in the closet easily. It was, it was amazing.

So in this case, you're paying extra for a larger, generally a larger balcony, you know, that picture that they showed there, that may not necessarily be the Junior Suite, you're getting. So always keep that in mind.

Now when you step down to the Grand suite with these bedrooms, actually, that's when you actually start to see some perks show up. So down here exclusive for suites, this says priority check in and departure lounge, you get concierge service, get priority tender tickets.


So what that means is in some ports, the ship can't dock. The ship actually anchors out in the bay. And then these smaller boats, usually a lot of times it's the life boats will just take you back and forth into your destination. And so what this is saying is that when that happens, you'll be one of the first ones off the ship. You won't have to wait.


Get complimentary luggage valet service, I'm not really sure what that means. And then luxury spa bathrobe. You'd be amazed how many people just oh, I get a bathrobe on a ship. They're so nice. And sometimes they're nice and sometimes actually they're really not all that great. So that's what the grand suite one bedroom gets you.


Rebecca

And there are other ships with far more suite categories that can get you a lot more perks. It just really varies.


Walter

Yeah, and here's the owner suite that's right below it. If you notice the perks are no difference in the perks at all. And the price is much higher. But it's the cabin is much larger. It's what it is, the owner suite is 596 square feet, whereas the regular is 432 square feet. Now, that may not sound like a lot, but that's huge when you're on a ship to get an extra hundred square feet.


So that's a quick look at the four basic types of cabins and some of the subcategories on the Independence of the Seas. Now let's go ahead and finish the process out, so we can show you really how to figure out, well what would the cruise cost us and what cabins are available so that you can know look, I definitely want a balcony. But if you really wanted to be in the middle of a ship, you want to make sure that you have cabins in the middle of a ship before you go ahead and pick.


So let's go ahead and pick a balcony because that's what Rebecca and I love to do. And since it's available, let's go ahead and pick a spacious ocean view balcony. Ooh, doesn't that sound luxurious? Let's do it.


Now what Royal Caribbean is showing me right here is a quick breakdown of the ship forward, middle and aft and sometimes there's an extra fee. So even though it showed us the price in the beginning, there may be an extra fee to move to a different part of the ship. So we like the aft, so I'm going to go ahead and select the aft. Now here's the decks where those cabins are available.

Over here you can see deck 6, 7, 9 and 10. Now as we talked about before, we like to have at least one set of cabins between us and the pool deck. So in this particular ship deck 11 is the pool deck. So for us, we're not going to pick deck 10. We would pick at least deck nine, so deck ten is between us.


Something Rebecca just mentioned off camera was if the ship has children's clubs, sometimes they're on the same deck as cabins or they're right above a cabin. So you may not want to be in a cabin that's right below the kids club could that could be really...


Rebecca

Unless of course you have kids.


Walter

So for us, we'll go ahead and pick deck nine that is probably as high as we will go on this particular ship. Click continue. And now it brings up deck plan and as you can see on the right I've got various choices of balconies, it looks like on deck nine, I've got this cluster of six cabins right here in the very back of the ship, you can see here's the very, very back of the ship. And then these six cabins in purple are the ones that I get to choose from right now.


And again, sometimes there will be additional fees because maybe the balcony slightly larger, or they consider it a better cabin so it'll be slightly more. So I'm going to go ahead and select this cabin.


And as of today, this is what the fee would be. Royal Caribbean happens to be running a double sale right now. So they're taking $800 off. They're taking $800 off Rebecca!


Rebecca

Well, that doesn't always mean anything, because sometimes they raise the price and then reduce it.


Walter

Yeah, but this looks good.


Rebecca

So you really have to keep track of the cabin prices if you're, if that's a big concern for you.


Walter

Yeah, but this is really, really good. So in this case, it's a balcony. This is six nights instead of this much. It's only that much right now. Cruise lines are always running sales.

You see right here, it shows you the total amount. And then here's the minimum deposit. So in order to book the cruise, you need to pay this amount, right now. That's what you have to pay up front. And then generally, how far out is it Rebecca, that final payment is due?


Rebecca

I would say usually somewhere between 90 and 120 days.


Walter Biscardi, Jr.

So about 90 to 120 days before your cruise actually starts, that's when you'll actually have to make that final payment. Now you have up until that time to cancel and make changes. Now sometimes the cruise line will work with you if you just simply want to make a change where you won't lose a deposit that's totally up to them whether they want to or not, they can keep that deposit and make you make a new deposit.

So that's kind of walking you through actually picking out a cabin. So what's included in that total amount, because you may have noticed that that subtotal before the sale was higher than the price of the cabin times two.

So here's what's included in your general what's called the general fare, your cabin obviously, the port fees. So every place that a ship stops, it has to pay fees to the local government for docking. So you're paying some of that. Your meals, your general meals. So every ship has included meals for going on the ship. Then they have specialty meals which you pay extra for, but you can generally in general you can go to a buffet and you can go to a main dining room and that's included in the fare. Water, hot tea, iced tea, and coffee in the buffet and in the main dining room.


Rebecca

And sometimes juice for breakfast only.


Walter

Sometimes juice for breakfast only. Those are included. Most, if not all of the entertainment. Sometimes there are certain shows and certain events that cost more. But like the general shows in the main theater, those are always included. All of the pools except sometimes spa, if there's a spa pool and that's only reserved for spa guests and not. But so you're, you're getting your cabin, the port fees, your meals, water, tea and coffee, generally entertainment and the use of the pools.


Walter

That's what you're paying for. Anything else beyond that you would pay extra, but that total amount is what you can sail away for.


And what is not included in that fee? Okay, generally tips. Tips and gratuities, now most of the cruise line when you order a drink, they will add that gratuity on top of it. And it's important to look at your bill to see the drink is $5. And then you might see 18% gratuity underneath there. And then it's your choice whether you want to add another tip to it. Gratuities to the room steward, generally not included, correct, Rebecca?


Rebecca

Although you can pre-pay them quite frequently, so you don't have to worry about that at your end of the cruise bill.


Walter

So yeah, so prepaying the gratuity for your cabin steward means they just go ahead and add that into your fare. And then when the cruise is over, you don't have to worry about tipping your cabin steward. They will just go ahead and give that to them based on your fare.


Specialty dining is not included. So most every ship has, like I said, a main dining room and a buffet that you can go to. Then most every ship has what they call specialty dining. You got your steak houses, you got your Italian restaurant, you have Asian restaurants, you have hibachis, things like that. And on most ships, they have certain restaurants that you have to pay extra for. And it may be as little as five or $10 per person up to, you know, 100 per person. And then some of them are actually going a'la carte now. So you just pay just like you would in a regular restaurant, that's not included in your fee.


Rebecca

And occasionally in the main dining room, there will be a few entrees that you can order for an up-charge, but that's entirely up to you.


Walter

Sure, that's actually kind of become a trend, where if you want to order a steak from the butcher's cut restaurant, but everybody else wants to eat in the main dining room. You can actually order that steak and they'll bring it to you from the butcher's cut restaurant.

So, your alcohol is not going to be included. The soft drinks won't be in included except..


Rebecca

Disney does include soft drinks.


Walter

So Disney because as you know, they're expecting a lot of kids. So they actually do include the soft drinks in their price.


Photos, you are going to see photographers all over the ship, they're going to stop you, it's free to take the picture. But then you're going to have to pay for them if you want to. And depending on the cruise line, some of the photographers will take pictures with your camera and we've actually had some refuse and say No, we won't do it.


Any excursion, is not going to be included.


And a big one, the internet is not going to be included. The first one to include it in a standard cruise line, now Virgin Voyages is actually going to include that in your fare, which is awesome.


The spa is not included. We will tell you that generally you get cheaper prices in the spa when the ship is in port, because everybody wants to get off the ship and go do things, so they generally run some specials. So if you want some spa treatments, look for special pricing in port.


But in general, those are the things that are not included in the fare.


So there's a look at picking your cabin for your very first cruise. Now since you've never done this before, we do highly recommend that you use a travel agent for your first cruise. When we did our first cruise, we knew nothing about this. And we spent two hours on the phone with our travel agent and she walked us through all the various various ships, various types of cabins, where to book and then she was able to locate some good deals for us, to help us out. So, we happen to use Costco. There are many good travel agents out there, but they can be very, very helpful, especially for your very first cruise.


So, we hope that information was helpful. If you like what you got there, please subscribe to the channel, I'm Walter.

Rebecca

I'm Rebecca.


Walter

We'll see you next time.


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I'm a lifelong storyteller and wanna-be chef. You've seen my work on Food Network and PBS to name a few.  My favorite stories revolve around travel and food.

 

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