How to Select the Right Cabin on Your First Cruise

Deciding on the right cabin for your first cruise ship adventure can be intimidating. Knowing a bit of "cabin vocabulary" can help demystify things and and help you choose your ideal accommodation.

Inside, outside, balcony, suite: There are four basic cabin types. The single defining definition of an inside cabin is that it has no windows. The least expensive type, "insides" can be located on any of a number of decks. For travelers who see their cabin as little more than a place to store their stuff and fall asleep after an activity filled day, booking an inside cabin can be a great value. Outside cabins have windows or portholes but no balconies. For the view, you will pay extra. But know that while you will be able to look at the ocean, windows and portholes on most ships do not open. If you want sea breeze, you'll need to step up to a balcony cabin. Often these cabins are about the same size as regular outside cabins but will have a sliding door and balcony,  with at least enough room for a couple of chairs. This is a great choice for folks who like a bit privacy and relaxation on their vacation. Suites come in a variety of sizes and almost all come with special services such as a butler, a bathroom with a tub, and a premiere location/view. If you want pampering, a suite may be worth the price. Each ship also has a few specialty suites for super luxury; some with several rooms, expansive decks and very personalized service.

Mid, Forward or Aft: Many cruisers believe that a mid-ship cabin offers the smoothest ride. While some swear that this is true, most cruise ships have excellent stablizing systems and most travelers would likely notice little difference. Mid-ship cabins are closer to everything and on super-sized ships this can save a lot of walking. Forward cabins are simply that; cabins closer to the front of the ship. Because they are not in the middle of everything, you might find them a bit quieter. My personal favorite is an aft cabin with a balcony. Situated on the back of the ship, these cabins overlook the wake. I have experienced some lovely moonlit evenings enjoying an aft balcomy. On many ships, the aft balconies are deeper than the ones on the sides of the boat. Some have reported extra engine noise in aft cabins, but I have not personally found this to be a problem.

Obstructed Cabins: You may be offered a "deal" on a cabin listed as obstructed. This means that the view from your cabin is impaired, usually by a lifeboat or other ship equipment. The obstruction can be anywhere from 20% to nearly complete. Be sure to compare the "deal" and book these cabins at your own risk.

Guarantee: Often cruise lines will offer you a guarantee cabin, where you pay the lowest rate for a cabin type but you allow the cruise line to assign your cabin later. The advantage to the cruise line is that they can more easily control inventory. The advantage to you is that you are guaranteed at least the cabin you paid for, but may get assigned to a better one. If you aren't particular about cabin location, guarantees can be a worthwhile gamble.

With this basic info in mind, you're ready to really hone in on the best choice for you.  Once you have chosen a ship, looked at the deck plans and you have determined a few preferences, use one of a number of online tools to check out your tentative choice. The forums at www.cruisecritic.com are a great place to ask cabin advice and read recommendations from others.

There is no "best" cruise cabin, because it really depends on what you prefer. But whether you're looking for frugal, luxurious, private or party central, there is a best cabin for you. Bon Voyage!

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