photo: Crystal Cruises

Your choice of cabin, or stateroom, is likely to be a major factor in how well you enjoy your cruise.


    Cruise ship cabins come with variations in four basic categories (inside, outside, balcony, or suite), which vary in size and quality by cruise line and ship. If you view your cabin as your sanctuary, you may find that moving up a few categories may cost less than you imagine because pricing is as much about location as any physical differences in the cabins themselves. Both factors help determine cruise lines’ myriad pricing tiers.


      Inside Cabins

      An inside cabin is just that: a stateroom that’s located near the inside, or interior, of the ship, with no window or porthole. These least expensive cabins are ideal for passengers who would rather spend their vacation funds on shore excursions or other incidentals than on upgraded accommodations. Inside cabins can sometimes run snug, but are often just as spacious as outside cabins. Cruise lines are also introducing technical innovations (“virtual” windows and the like) to make these cabins more desirable.

      INSIDER TIPParents sometimes book an inside cabin for their older children and teens, while their own cabin is an outside across the hall with a window or balcony.

        • Usually the cheapest option
        • Often smaller than outside cabins
        • Surprisingly good for sleeping
        • Can be pretty basic
        • Beds can’t always be pushed together
        • Lines sometimes waive single supplements for these


      Outside Cabins

      An outside (or “ocean-view”) cabin has either a picture window or porthole, but furnishings and decor may be identical to that of inside cabins. On most ships, however, they are usually larger than an inside cabin and almost always allow beds to be pushed together to create a king from two twins. Obstructed-view outside cabins can also be particularly good deals, but there might be a lifeboat outside your window instead of a view of the sea. Outside cabins are a great choice for those who like to wake up to ocean views but still want to keep their vacation on budget.

        • Good for those who prefer to be on deck than on a small balcony
        • A bit more space than an inside cabin (not to mention a window)
        • Sometimes a separate seating area
        • May still have basic decor
        • Beds can usually be pushed together
        • Obstructed-view cabins can be as cheap as an inside cabin


      Balcony Cabins

      A balcony—or veranda—cabin is an outside cabin with floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open onto a private deck. These units are priced at a premium, given the coveted outdoor space, which is usually big enough to sit outside for a drink or to have room-service breakfast. The furnishings and amenities of balcony cabins may be no different from those of regular inside and outside cabins, but some balcony cabins (typically called “minisuites”) may offer upgraded decor and amenities.

      INSIDER TIPBalcony cabins are best for travelers who choose a cruise because of their love of the open water.

        • Usually come at a premium price
        • Sometimes the balcony space is carved from the cabin
        • May have a shower or shower-tub combination
        • May or may not have upgraded decor
        • Usually have a seating area with a pullout sofa
        • Balconies may not always be completely private



      Spacious suites are the most lavish accommodations afloat, and although they are always larger than standard cabins, they do not always have separate rooms for sleeping. This is the priciest option for any cruise, though suites typically come with extras thrown in. At the least, you should expect priority boarding and disembarkation, concierge service during the cruise, and top consideration when making restaurant and spa reservations. Some suites come with butler service, too.

      INSIDER TIPTravelers who like the VIP treatment will appreciate not only the additional space but also the extra level of services many ships offer to suite guests.

        • Always the largest accommodations
        • Comes with additional amenities or privileges
        • May still only accommodate two people
        • Can still be one large room
        • Always has a balcony or outdoor space
        • “Minisuites” are usually just larger balcony cabins


      Cabin Locations

      Cabin locations might be on a higher or lower deck, forward or aft, inside or outside—and the location of your cabin can affect your cruise fare as much as the type of cabin you choose. Staterooms high on the ship with a commanding view fetch higher fares, while those on lower decks are usually the cheapest. On lower decks, you’ll pay less, but find more stability, particularly in the middle of the ship. Forward cabins have a tendency to be oddly shaped, as they follow the contour of the bow, and they may have portholes instead of picture windows—and they can also be noisy when the ship’s anchor drops. In the aft of the ship, you’re more likely to hear engine and machinery noise, but many passengers feel the view of the ship’s wake is worth any noise or vibration they might encounter there.

      INSIDER TIPA category guarantee can save you money: you know you’ll get a specific type of cabin but give up the choice of location.

        • Cabins on the top decks are usually the most expensive.
        • Cabins near the elevator banks offer convenience but more noise.
        • Late risers should avoid forward cabins and those under the pool deck.
        • Cabins on the lowest decks may be near busy boarding areas.
        • Passengers prone to seasickness should stay mid-ship.
        • Early risers should avoid cabins under nightclubs and restaurants.