“My mom’s room smells! I think its next to an engine room or something.” This was one of the first things my friend said to me on our recent Caribbean cruise. This was followed by “I feel like we are staying in the dungeon of this boat.” and “I hate not having a window”. Meanwhile, I guiltily thought about my oversized cruise ship room on one of the top floors of the ship. I had large windows, a sliding door and a private deck overlooking the ocean. I didn’t realize it before, but understanding how to book the best cruise ship room for you and your budget is not something someone would intuitively know even if you are a sophisticated traveller like my friend.
Choosing the right cruise ship room for you or your family is fundamental to enjoying your cruise ship experience. Unlike other vacations, most of your experience and thus, your enjoyment centres on the cruise ship, its amenities and the comfort and location of your cruise ship room. If you hate your cruise ship room, then the overall enjoyment of your holiday is in serious jeopardy.
In this article, I provide seven guidelines for booking the best cruise ship room that you can. If you are still wondering whether a cruise ship holiday is the right kind of holiday for you and your family, then I recommend reading two more of my articles – Cruise Ship Holidays: 7 Reasons To Cruise and Cruise Holidays: Six Reasons To Avoid Them.
1. We Want “That” Room!
When you book a room in a hotel, you choose the type of room that you would like. When you arrive at the hotel, they then assign you a room based upon what you booked and the pool of rooms that are available. This is not the case on a cruise ship holiday. When you book a holiday on a cruise ship, you actually choose the cruise ship room in which you will be staying. This is why it is important to understand the type of rooms offered; the location of the cruise ship room, and the layout of the boat before you book.
2. How to Decide Which Cruise Ship Room
Each cruise line provides a lot of online information about their cruises, the ports of call, and the layout of the decks. Initially, you should review that information so that you can determine whether the cruise’s itinerary and its amenities are right for you. After, you need to decide which type of cruise ship room you would prefer to book.
There are three important factors to consider.
Inside or Outside Cabin
Most cruise ship lines have inside and outside cabins. Inside cabins are the cheapest as they do not have a window or a deck. Outside cabins may have a window only, or glass sliding doors to a private deck. These are generally more expensive. Before choosing an inside cabin, you need to ask yourself whether you can cope without a window. These rooms can feel claustrophobic and would not be the best room choice for some people regardless of the price.
Cruise ship rooms are notoriously small. They are efficiently laid out with lots of hidden nooks and crannies to store items. However, for most North Americans who are used to spreading out in their home or hotel room, the size of a cruise ship room can come as a surprise. Accordingly, you need to be aware of the square footage of the room. Is it large enough for your needs?
Do not assume that because more people can be accommodated in a cruise ship room that the room will be larger than a standard size. For example, some cruise ship lines have family rooms that may offer accommodation for 6 people. They might provide a little bit more square footage than a standard room. However, they could also accommodate more people by simply stacking the beds on top of each other like a modified bunk bed. This might work at night but with limited space during the day, it could be frustrating.
Cabins that are on the lower decks are generally less expensive than the ones on the upper decks. Most amenities on a cruise ship are found on the upper deck, whereas most of the infrastructure of the boat (laundry, kitchens, mechanical room, employee accommodations) are on the lower decks. If you choose a cruise ship cabin on the lower decks, be prepared to walk up several storeys of stairs to reach the amenities, or for long wait times for elevators.
3. Understand The Layout Of The Boat
In order to choose the best cruise ship room, you need to understand the layout of the boat. On a large scale, you should know where the important amenities are located and how you will access them. On a smaller scale, you should appreciate where elevators and stairs are in relation to your room; what or who would be next to or across the hall from you; and what is over top of your cruise ship room.
For example, on one cruise, our cruise ship room was directly underneath the door that connected an inside dining room to the pool deck. I was miserable on our whole trip. We could hear the door slamming and carts being pushed along the floor at all hours of the day and night. On another cruise, we were across from a large family room. It was noisy and busy in the hallway when we wanted peace and quiet.
4. Do You Get Seasick?
If you get seasick or you think you might get seasick, it is important to book a cruise ship room close to the centre of the boat and on a middle to lower level. These locations will be the most stable during a storm. Cabins at either ends of the boat or on upper decks will be susceptible to more swaying in large waves.
5. Book Early
Booking early gives you more choice. Not only can you choose the best type of cruise ship room that suits your needs, but you may also be able to have that room in a location that better serves you. Beyond that, you are often rewarded with extra perks, cheaper deposits and lower rates.
Most cruises ships allow you to cancel cruises with a full refund up to 60 or 90 days before the cruise. Accordingly, there usually is no risk to booking early.
If the cost of a cruise ship holiday is reduced or a new perk is offered after you have booked, you should request that same reduction or that perk. If you are still within the time frame that you are able to cancel the cruise and receive a full refund, then the cruise ships normally grant these requests.
Suffice it say, every cruise liner has different terms and conditions related to cancellation, return of deposits and reducing the price of a cruise after booking. You should review those terms and conditions before finalizing your booking.
6. Do Not Expect Offers of Upgrades
Cruise ships do not normally follow up with offers to upgrade your cruise ship room. If you think that you may want a different cruise ship room but are not 100% sure, then you may consider putting deposits on two rooms. Just make sure that you are able to cancel with a full refund. In addition, do not count on arriving on the day of the cruise expecting to change your cruise ship room. You may be lucky and there are empty rooms available. However, I have only been on fully booked cruises with no opportunity to upgrade or change rooms.
Accordingly, make sure you have thought out what cruise ship room is best for you at the time of booking. If you change your mind, or wish to upgrade, you need to try and make that change as soon as possible.
7. Use a Cruise Ship Specialist to Book a Cruise Ship Room
Most of us believe that we can book anything these days. Grab a computer, hook up some wifi, and we can find the cheapest flights or the best hotels. Who needs a travel agent? I completely agree for most instances, but not here. As you can see, booking a cruise is a little more complicated. For that reason, I highly recommend booking your cruise ship room with a cruise ship specialist.
A good cruise ship specialist should understand the different types of rooms and the layout of the boat. If you have any specific issues, like mobility or seasickness, they should know how to address them. A lot of the time, they or someone in their office have already had personal experience with the cruise in question. Consequently, they should be able to make appropriate recommendations for you.
You can contact the cruise liners directly and speak to one of their representatives. You can also contact a cruise ship specialist in a local or national travel agency.
If you choose to work with a cruise ship specialist in a travel agency, I would recommend finding one that specializes or only works in the cruise ship industry. I would also suggest working with a large travel agency, preferably one that specializes in cruises and has a national or international presence. The bigger the better! If they are large enough, they normally offer additional perks and incentives, and sometimes lower prices than what even the cruise ship is prepared to offer directly to the consumer. It is worth exploring!
Your decision to take a particular cruise is just one significant decision. After that, you need to spend time figuring out which cruise ship room you should book. If you can, try and book as early as possible to secure the best deals and the best room available. Although it is tempting to book everything yourself online, I would find a large national or internationally recognized agency that specializes in booking cruise ship holidays, and ask for their assistance. Your holiday on a cruise ship is basically all about that cruise ship. You want to make sure that it has everything that you need and be warned about anything that will negatively impact your experience.
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