Cruise ship cabins often come in four basic categories: Inside, outside, balcony cabins and suites. Within each category are multiple subcategories based on deck and location towards fore and aft. All of these come with different costs. Is a bigger cabin really necessary?
Sometimes the answer is yes. If you are celebrating your 25th wedding anniversary you want to “push the boat out.” (Not literally, of course.) if you are traveling with extended family members you might prefer a huge cabin that can serve as the family living room. Why? Because it’s private space.
In many cases, it’s easy to make the case why upgrading to a suite and paying the extra expense isn’t a priority. Let’s look at pros and cons:
The Case for the Standard Cabin:
- Sizing is similar. Back when Cunard’s QE2 was sailing, there were many, many cabin configurations. Our first cabin was 108 square feet! Today, ships are assembled like Lego blocks. A standard balcony cabin might be 240 or 260 square feet. We find that’s plenty of space.
- Location isn’t that critical. There are few if any bad cabin locations? Why? Because not all the Lego blocks are passenger cabins! Along your corridor you see signs reading “Crew Access Only.” You might see cabins without standard numbers. These are likely occupied by ship’s officers. If the line is going to assign cabins to paying and non-paying customers, it’s a safe bet paying customers get the better locations.
- Great mattresses everywhere. Your cabin will have a great mattress, regardless if it’s an inside, outside or balcony location. Ditto the bathroom amenities.
- The main dining room. Generally speaking, everyone is getting the same menu. The food is good. It’s also the same, since people with inside cabins and balcony cabins are seated at the same table.
- Buy your own alcohol. Let’s assume a worst case scenario: You can’t buy wine or liquor onshore for enjoyment in your own cabin. You really like champagne. Let’s assume the ship charges $75.00/bottle in the restaurant or bar. Although the suite might offer unlimited champagne, the fare is a couple of thousand dollars higher per person! You can just order champagne from room service and be ahead of the game.
- Holding a cabin party. Sure, your cabin is smaller than a suite. You can still hold a party! Canapes should be available through the Purser’s office. You make arrangements for wine or beer. Your cabin steward should know the procedures. We met people, veterans of the World Cruise, who host a cabin party featuring gin and tonics. They actually get the ship’s personnel to pull some of the furniture out of the room! The party spills out into the hallway!
- Embarking and disembarking. Getting on might involve standing in a long line. That’s no big deal. You are excited your trip is starting! We have found when it’s time to leave, you can often walk off early, if you can manage your luggage without assistance. If not, asking politely at the office where they keep the disembarkation luggage tags should get you into an earlier group.
The Case for the Suite Life:
- More space. The cabin is larger. It’s more like your life at home.
- Your own deck space. Your big cabin comes with a bigger personal deck and more furniture.
- Restricted public deck space. Competing for deck chairs can be a challenge in mass market cruising. If your grade of cabin is on a deck with segmented outdoor space and its own pool, you are away from the crowds.
- Butler service. There’s got to be a thrill to have someone unpack and pack for you. There’s a powerful appeal to having an intermediary who will book tours, etc.
- Preferential embarking and disembarking. The challenge with big ships is they need to get everyone on and off. It’s true for port stops too. Book a higher tier suite and you are likely treated as a separate group.
- Your own restaurants. Some lines like Cunard have dining rooms aligned to your category of cabin. Cocktail lounges too. One of the great advantages is you aren’t tied to first or second seating.
- The perks. Your favorite liquor might be freely stocked in your cabin. You get plusher robes. Canapes are delivered daily. Your butler can organize parties and deliver invitations.
Personally, we are fine with a standard cabin. You can make a case why the suites are a nice way to treat yourself to a special experience.
Cover photo: Queen Victoria stateroom, credit Bryce Sanders
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