How Do I Choose the Best Cruise Cabin?

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How Do I Choose the Best Cruise Cabin?

cabin towel animal scaled
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There are a lot of things that impact how much you’ll enjoy your cruise: the ports of call, the food, the entertainment, and more.

But the single most influential factor that can make or break your cruise is your cabin.

There are a lot of things that can affect it including where the cabin is located and what type of cabin it is.

So, let’s get into it and break down the different types of cabins and what you need to consider when selecting your cabin.

Understanding Cruise Cabin Types

Aside from the price differences, there are a lot of differences between cruise cabins that you will need to consider.

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Let’s start with breaking down the different types of cruise cabins.

Cruise cabins can vary significantly in size, features, and location, impacting the overall cruise experience.

Here’s a breakdown of the primary differences between the main types of cruise cabins:

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mountains at cruise port viewed from deck of cruise ship

Interior Cabins

  • Location: Inside the ship, with no window to the outside.
  • Size: Generally the smallest cabins on the ship.
  • Cost: Usually the most economical option.
  • Best For: Budget-conscious travelers who prioritize cruise activities and destinations over cabin luxury.

Oceanview Cabins

  • Location: Located on the outer side of the ship, with a window or porthole.
  • Size: Similar in size to interior cabins but with a window.
  • Cost: Priced higher than interior cabins due to the view.
  • Best For: Travelers who desire natural light and a view of the ocean without the need for a balcony.

Balcony Cabins

  • Location: Outer side of the ship with private outdoor space.
  • Size: Varied sizes, generally larger than interior and oceanview cabins because of the added balcony space.
  • Cost: More expensive than interior and oceanview cabins, offering a good balance between luxury and cost.
  • Best For: Those who enjoy private outdoor space to relax or dine with a view of the sea.


  • Location: Various locations across the ship, often in more desirable positions.
  • Size: Significantly larger than other cabin types, with separate living and sleeping areas in many cases.
  • Cost: The most expensive option, with prices reflecting the additional space and luxury.
  • Best For: Travelers seeking the highest level of comfort and luxury, often with additional perks like priority boarding, concierge services, and exclusive access to certain areas of the ship.

Special Considerations

  • Family and Accessible Cabins: Some ships offer cabins designed specifically for families or those with mobility issues, featuring additional space, multiple rooms, or necessary accommodations.
  • Virtual Balconies: Some interior cabins on newer ships offer virtual balconies—high-resolution screens that display real-time views outside the ship.
  • Amenities and Perks: Higher categories, especially suites, often come with added amenities like better linens, larger TVs, more storage, and exclusive access to certain ship areas or dining venues.

Each type of cabin offers a different experience and value, depending on your budget, preferences, and the nature of the cruise itself.

Guaranteed Cabins

Now that we understand the different cabin types, it would be good to discuss the subject of “guaranteed cabins”.

A “guaranteed cabin” is a cruise cabin that the cruise line selects for you.

A guaranteed cabin can be from any of the cabin types.

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Why would you want a guaranteed cabin?

You might consider one of these cabins because the cost will be cheaper than a cabin you selected.

Let’s give you an example to make clear how guaranteed cabins work.

Assume you want a balcony cabin.

By letting the cruise line select this balcony cabin, you might save as much as 50% on the cost of the same cabin.

Sounds good so far, right?

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front of large cruise ship in port

What’s the catch?

When you agree to a guaranteed cabin – regardless of the stateroom category – you will be put wherever the cruise line wants to place you.

Sometimes you’ll get a cabin your fellow cruisers would envy.

More than likely though, it will be in an undesirable area of the ship.

Why is that?

Most of the desirable cabins will be sucked up by cruisers selecting their cabins.

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From what’s left, the cruise line will assign you a cabin.

Is there a way to ensure that you get a better-than-expected stateroom?

Actually, there is.

If the sailing isn’t full, there is a good possibility that a desirable cabin will be available.

But there’s no way for you to know how booked a ship will be.

To increase your odds of being placed in a better cabin, book a sailing that is not during peak cruising season.

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Booking during this time will increase your odds of getting a guaranteed stateroom in an area of the ship that will please you.

Just remember, with a “guaranteed stateroom” there is no guarantee that you’ll like it.

ravioli on a blue dish

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Upgrading Your Cabin

Would you be surprised to know that even after you book your cabin, you can get upgraded to a better cabin?

The funny thing is, the way the process works is just like a guaranteed cabin, but in reverse.

So, after you select your cabin, you can “bid” to upgrade your cabin.

Let’s say you booked an inside cabin and you put in a bid for a balcony stateroom.

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If your bid is accepted, you will be upgraded to the cabin category you put your bid in for.

Here’s where things get interesting.

Just like the cruise line assigns the cabin for a guaranteed stateroom, the cruise line will assign the cabin for your upgraded cabin.

That means that you could still be in an area of the ship that you don’t like.

“Why would it be in a bad location if I paid for an upgrade?”

Because what you paid for was to go from an inside cabin to a balcony. Not the option to decide where that upgrade will be.

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Which way you decide to go has everything to do with how much you want to spend for your cruise ship cabin.

It also comes down to how much of a value you feel it would be to upgrade your cabin.

You put your price in and see if the cruise line accepts it.

How much others bid for those cabins, you will never know.

The good news is if your bid isn’t accepted, you are not out of any money.

You simply keep the room you originally booked.

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What Makes a Cabin Location Good or Bad?

We’ve talked a lot about whether the cruise line will give you a cabin in a good location or a bad one if you select a guaranteed cabin or you bid for an upgraded cabin.

But what determines if the cabin will be good or bad?

After all, if you have a balcony, you can sit out and enjoy the ocean, right?

Yes, but it’s not that simple.

Let’s start with oceanview staterooms.

What Makes a Bad Oceanview Stateroom?

An oceanview stateroom is basically a cabin with a window allowing you to see outside.

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Depending on the ship, it could be a simple circle or a floor-to-ceiling window such as you’ll find on Holland America New Amsterdam.

Here is the first thing that can make an oceanview stateroom a bad option for you.

You may be assigned to an “obstructed view” stateroom.

This means that your window will not allow you to look out onto the ocean without something blocking your view.

There could be a beam, machinery, lifeboats, or some other object that will obstruct your view outside the window.

You can use this to your advantage.

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Pro Tip: Book an obstructed view stateroom to save money on your cruise.

Save Money with an Obstructed View Stateroom

While some view this as a problem, you can use it to save money on your stateroom.

These rooms will cost less than an oceanview stateroom with no obstruction.

What Makes a Bad Balcony Stateroom?

There are a number of things that can make a balcony stateroom a bad option.

But that will vary from ship to ship.

As a general rule, a bad balcony stateroom might be situated in a position that creates an awkwardly shaped balcony.

There could also be a beam that intrudes onto your balcony.

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Whatever the case, this type of balcony is usually overlooked by those selecting their cabins.

Hence, it’s available for the cruise line to offer it to you as a guaranteed room.

Other Factors That Can Make Any Stateroom a Bad Option

Even if you select your stateroom and you avoid obstructed views and oddly shaped balconies, you can still choose a bad stateroom.

Here are some things to watch out for:

  • Below the Pool Deck: If you book a room below the pool deck, there is a strong possibility that you will hear the crew dragging deck chairs early in the morning. You might also hear music from the DJ if you want to take a nap in the afternoon.
  • Close to the Elevator: Booking a cabin close to the elevator is almost a guarantee that you will hear people who are drunk late at night getting off the elevator. They are sure to be loud. Children will also make their presence known even during waking hours. That makes cabins close to the elevator an unpopular location for a stateroom.
  • Near Crew Service Areas: Some staterooms are near areas where the crew works. You might hear the crew talking or moving equipment around. And since the crew works around the clock, there’s a possibility it could impact your sleep.
  • Forward and Aft Cabins: On smooth days at sea, you might not notice a problem with forward or aft cabins. However, if the seas are rough, the rocking of the ship may feel more pronounced if you are located in the front (forward) or aft (rear) of the ship.
  • Under or Over Event Venues: If your stateroom is below or above one of the theaters or other event venues, you may hear the sound bleed into your room.

I have a story to tell you about this entry.

We booked a guaranteed inside stateroom on the NCL Escape.

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This was the first sailing post-COVID. No children were allowed to sail at that time per the CDC.

Hence, the ship was sailing at half capacity.

Our stateroom was directly under the dinner theater. And we could hear the performers above us.

We contacted guest services over the phone and let them know our situation.

The next day, we were moved to a new stateroom.

A balcony stateroom!

Do you realize what that meant?

We paid less money because it was an interior stateroom.

On top of that, it was a guaranteed room. So we paid even less than someone who booked a regular interior stateroom.

So we spent the rest of the cruise in a great balcony stateroom for the price of a guaranteed interior stateroom!

Remember, the ship was only half full. So there were a lot of rooms available.

Moral of the story?

If you have a problem with your room for any reason, talk to guest services.

They might be able to move you to another room in the same category.

There’s also a chance that you can be moved up one category if the room is available.

But this only happens if the sailing is not full.

Pro Tip: If you are concerned about excessive rocking of the ship, it’s generally recommended to get a cabin as close to the center of the ship as possible on the lowest deck. This will be the lowest center of gravity on the ship. Personally, if the ship is rocking really bad, it won’t matter where on the ship you are. You will still feel it.

Choose Cabin Near Middle of Ship

Choosing Based on Ship Amenities and Activities

We’ve reviewed what things make a cruise cabin a bad option.

Now we’re going to discuss what things you should consider when selecting your stateroom.

More specifically, we’re going to talk about picking your stateroom around the things you want to do on the ship.

This is something you’ll really want to consider if you sail the very large ships on the ocean from Royal Caribbean and Carnival.

Even if you book on smaller ships, using these recommendations can make your sailing easier and more enjoyable.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Food Venues: This is one that I use the most when deciding upon a stateroom. I like to book a cabin that makes it easy to get to the main dining room. The cabin doesn’t have to be right above or below the MDR. As long as I have easy access to the elevators leading to the MDR, that’s good enough. If you have a food venue that you want to visit frequently or when you won’t want to do a lot of walking, book your cabin.
  • Pools and Spa: Spending time at the pool is a staple with many cruisers. On some ships on certain cruise lines, people get up early in the morning to claim chairs. Even if you aren’t one of these, there may be times you want to get to the pool but don’t desire to walk the length of the ship to do it. If being near the pool is important to you, plan to pick a cabin that is an easy walk to the pool.
  • Entertainment Venues: Some ships have popular entertainment venues that are popular with passengers. For example, on Oasis class ships on Royal Caribbean (Wonder of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, etc) there is a spectacular water show in the aft or rear of the ship that fills up quickly. It’s also where movies are shown. If you want a short walk back to your stateroom after the show or you want to enjoy a movie without taking a journey to the other side of the ship, you might want to book a cabin closer to these venues.
  • Quieter Areas: On the other hand, you might want to be as far away from these areas as humanly possible. If this is true for you, consider booking your cabin away from elevators, away from entertainment venues, and away from the pool area. A good recommendation is to book a cabin that has a cabin above, below, and on either side of you. In other words, you want to be surrounded by cabins. This will ensure that you won’t have any ship-related sounds intruding into your cabin. You’ll also want to be as far away from elevators as possible.

Pro Tip: To book the quietest area of the ship, book a cabin with cabins on the decks above and below yours, as well as to the left, right, and in front of your cabin door. Book your cabin farther down the hallway from the elevators.

How to Pick Quieter Cabins
Water Show on Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas

Cost Considerations

Finally, the biggest consideration of all when booking your cabin is cost.

We talked about this earlier when we addressed cabin types.

Keep in mind that choosing the best cabin based on venues or activities might mean that you will have to pay more.

For example, the same category cabin right above or below one or two decks higher or lower can be different in price.

So check the map to see available cabins when you book your cruise.

Once you’ve found the ideal cabin, check to see what is on the floor below and above your selection to make sure that you won’t have noise or other distractions ruin your booking.

Book the Right Cabin for You

If you’re ready to book a cruise, we’ve got links for cruise specials and sailings from specific ports and to select destinations.

Once you’ve selected your itinerary, now you have to pick your cabin.

Remember the things we said to be on the lookout for:

  • Proximity to various venues on the ship
  • Cabin type (inside, oceanview, balcony, suite)
  • Somewhere near the middle and lower decks of the ship to minimize seasickness
  • Costs of cabins can vary by floor and location

If you keep these things in mind, you can expect to have an awesome vacation that you’ll want to repeat every year!