The journey is the destination on a cruise ship. And that means picking the right stateroom. “I ask people to think about what type of stateroom is going to give them the experience they’re looking for,” says Shelley Samycia of AMA Travel. It’s about figuring out if you’ll utilize that balcony you’re paying for. Itineraries make a difference too. “When sailing the Alaska Inside Passage, having a balcony is highly recommended – same with Antarctica,” says Samycia. And book early to choose from many stateroom categories and locations. Otherwise, you may end up above the thumping club or swaying at the bow of the ship. Be the master of your cruise-ship destiny – whether you like to party, lounge poolside or daydream on your own balcony.
Get spacious: Sometimes size does matter. And for those who want separate sitting and sleeping areas (or even multi rooms), as well as VIP-style perks (from extra amenities to private cabanas on the pool deck), the suite is the luxe end of the staterooms spectrum.
Good to know: There’s a wide range of styles, but typically a suite is much larger than a balcony stateroom and includes bonuses such as full bathrooms, more closet space, bigger balconies and TVs, as well as butler/concierge services.
Step outside If you want a breath of fresh air (without everyone else on board!), a balcony stateroom gives you outdoor access, usually via sliding doors, to your own private deck. The aft has the most coveted staterooms with balconies overlooking the ship’s wake.
Good to know: Balcony size and dividers vary greatly among cruise-ship lines. Your balcony will have a couple chairs and small table plus some may have a lounger.
Take it inside : If budget’s a concern, then an inside stateroom is the most affordable option with the least frills – and no windows. Located in the ship interior, there’s no view or natural light.
Good to know: A “partial view” (obstructed by a lifeboat or other obstacle on the promenade deck or inside promenade) provides some natural light, if not an actual ocean view. Some cruise lines also offer “virtual views” on a screen display.
Watch the waves : Covet natural light and surf watching? Go for a room with a view. Whether porthole or picture window, the outside or ocean view stateroom doesn’t offer more space or extras than an inside one, but you may see the sunrise from your bed. If you’re booking an itinerary that travels along a coastline, like an Alaska cruise, be mindful of what side your stateroom is on, starboard or port.
Good to know: Cruise ship windows don’t open – so don’t expect sea breezes. And there’s a hierarchy of window sizes, from small portholes to floor-to-ceiling windows.
What type of traveller are you?
When booking a stateroom, you also get to choose where your room is – unlike a hotel reservation.
Steady Eddie: Prone to motion sickness? Midship staterooms in the middle section of a deck cost more because this is where you’ll feel the least amount of ship sway. “It’s the midship balcony staterooms that tend to get booked first,” says Samycia.
Sleep Seeker: Stay away from staterooms above or below main activity decks and public areas – club/bar, theatre, casino and pools – or those located fore or aft, where anchors may drop in early morning hours. Stick to midship or surrounded by other staterooms.
Budget Conscious: Go low to save money or stay away from the crowds. You’ll have farther to go to the main decks. Be aware that lower-deck staterooms may be closer to the engine and closer to mechanical noises. But one bonus is that lower decks are less rocky.
Social Butterfly: If you want to have easy access to the public areas – the lido and main decks – pick a room on an upper deck that’s closer to the pools and buffet dining. Beware: higher-up staterooms are more affected by rough seas.